Exorcising Our Demons: Comments on a New Direction for Public Administration Theory


  • Bruce D. McDonald, III North Carolina State University




Bureau of Municipal Research, Discipline, Profession, Public Administration Theory


The field of public administration has grown accustomed to the presence of an identity crisis. In his opus, Dubnick (2018) addresses the existence of this crisis, noting where we are as a field and highlighting some of the debate that got us there. In response to Dubnick, I argue that our position as a profession rather than a discipline relates to the failure of the field to pay attention to our history. Giving consideration to our history, we find that public administration as a discipline contains those who study public administration, and a profession or practice of those who are public administrators. As a field, the conversation should move beyond the study or the practice and accept the duality that is a sign a mature subject area.

Author Biography

Bruce D. McDonald, III, North Carolina State University

Bruce D. McDonald, III is an associate professor of public budgeting and finance and the director of the Masters of Public Administration program at North Carolina State University. He currently serves as the co-editor-in -chief of both the Journal of Public Affairs Education and the Journal of Public and Nonprofit Affairs. His research has appeared in a number of outlets, including the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory and Public Administration Review. Bruce sits on several boards of nonprofit organizations, including Midwest Public Affairs Conference, Research Triangle Chapter of the American Society for Public Administration, and Regions Beyond International.






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