(Sample Material) Gist of Important Articles from IIPA
Topic: Sociological Theory and Concepts in Public
Administration A.P. Barnadas
The three approaches’ to the study of society in Sociology are- structure;
function, interaction and conflict “Functionalism” is referred as an
“integration theory”. It regards society as a structure of mutually interrelated
parts which are sustained by mechanisms and which provide for, equilibrium:
Various’ parts of the society are understood primarily in terms of relationship
to the whole. Social order social stability, inter-dependence division of labour
are same aspects of structure functionalist approach. It also maintains, that
social institutions’ serve functions, which are essential for the survival of
existing systems. Smelser suggest that the following aspects are central ideas
of the theory.
- Institutions serve purpose as the on-going society effort to guarantee
that its main goals are realised.
- Institutions manifest a strain towards consistency, e.g. the contours of
a higher education shaped by the functional needs or higher technology
service based economy.
- Strains and contradictions in institutional life set up by equilibrating
g process that change these institutions in adaptive direction.
- A principal from of change in developing societies is structural
differentiation. Van Dev Berghe feels that the following elements are
involved in the structure function approach:
- Societies must be looked at holistically as systems of inter- related
Parts, Hence the causation’ is multiple and reciprocal. Social. Systems are
in state of dynamic equilibrium, the dominant tendency is towards
stabilizing and inertia.
- Change generally occurs’ in a gradual adjusticive factor-not in a sudden
- Changes tome from basically three sources: adjustment of the system,
exogenous growth through structural functional growth and inventions or
innovations by members and group within society.
- The most important and basic factor making for social integration is
Some Sociologists believe that conflict is pervasive in all societies. It is
considered intrinsic to any social organisation in which there are accepted
differences in authority between groups. There is reference to exogenous and
endogenous conflicts the former refers to conflict brought-in by an outside
force which may integrate the society inflicted upon (e.g. invasion or war may
get the whole society together). The latter refers to conflicts within society.
Most conflict theories derive from a Marxian perceptive which involves the
analysis of the infrastructure, There is a basic contradiction between forces
and relations of production. Exploitation and oppression by the ruling class,
which will lead to disintegration of society:
Though Marx view still dominates the conflict theory there are some other
views-too. There is a suggestion that main agency of domination is post-
industrial capitalism, not as in classical Marxian sense but rather as technical
administrative state based on instrumental rationalities. Thus the state is the
oppressor. There is also reference to new movements-environmental, antinuclear
antiwar, women, social, ethnic. Their movements are not class based but often
arise out of social policies and-bureaucratic intervention:
Some refer to the dependency theory, which suggests that not only is their
conflict between the donor and the recipient, but also between those who can
manipulate the receipts from the donors to the disadvantage of others in
While the two theories briefly stated tend to be universal the interaction
theory is to be seen more in terms of middle range theories. Symbolic
interaction refers to the peculiar distinctive character as takes place between
human beings. Interactions is to examine how individuals direct their action at
each other. The assumption being that action is meaningful to individuals who
are in interaction. The need is to provide an interpretation of the meaning that
individuals attach to their activities. Blumer says that actors do not simply
react to each other’s action but define each other’s action. An action is not
immediate but rather based on an assessment of the meaning of the act.
Public administration, to prove a meaningful approach to administration and
governance, needs to look at the analysis of society. If equilibrium is the main
factor in social relations, how does public administration suggest- that changes
and innovations can be part of the administrative process. Part of the
difficulty is that the administrative system ‘is a part of the social system.
The need for reforms in the administrative set up is to rise above itself. The
society in India is fall of conflicts caste, class, region, language, religion
There exists a conflict between citizens and the administrators. Research
studies have indicated alienation between the two.
For good governance, there is a need to analyse factors causing conflict-so
as to formulate policies which can provide stability. Dependency theory has
implications for public administration. The interact ion theory provides insight
into human behaviour which administration needs to understand.