August 02, 2007

Theres nothing 'Public' about 'Public Administration'

I am presently studying "Public Administration" (pubAd) for my Civil Service Examinations. The subject is very interesting for those who have an inclination towards management and administration (not the excel sheet variety of management ofcourse).

I figured out that the macro level theories of PubAd fit perfectly at micro level too - that is at the family administration level. Consider the spirit of Public Administration, it reads

"Authority without responsibility leads to authoritarianism; while
responsibility without authority leads to anarchy(lack of order)".

How profound is that. I tried applying this to families and found it to fit perfectly. The Indian families of yesteryears could be termed as Authoritarian to say the least. The head honcho of the family (the father) decided all important decisions and it was his nod that enabled us to go ahead with our decisions. In many cases the father even decided his offspring's career! The mother's job was confined to the kitchen and even here her authority was checked in terms of the approval for buying groceries by the head of the family. Clearly in many ways we find that fathers enjoyed real authority without much responsibility (he never actually got the groceries himself). Certainly that was an authoritarian setup with no room for equality.

The families of today, on the other hand, can be seen to tread in an entirely new route which quite untested. These families generally constitute a husband and wife of similar qualification and income. They have certainly broken all barriers of the conventional authoritarian regime that is characteristic of a typical Indian household by espousing the 'virtue' of Anarchy – a complete lack of order in the house.

It is not uncommon to hear of stories about the husband and wife having a 50-50 'work sharing agreement' back at home – the wife cooks breakfast while the husband cooks the lunch. Other 'deals' could be that each of them make breakfast every alternate day. - it follows the paradigm “I toast a slice of bread and you toast another”. I wonder whether the binding force in this relationship could be love, i would bet it is more a case of practical room sharing agreement due to space and money constraints that one has with his/her room mate.

The relationship is built on the false premise that in a family there is no need for a person to act as the final deciding authority. However the truth is that no organization can survive without a leader. Even the most flat hierarchic of the organizations such as a startup software development company needs a department head. An headless creature and a two headed demon are both expected not to survive long.

In this type of relationship there is no one in the family who calls the shots. This indecisiveness could soon eat away the air of 'equality' that once formed the basis of the relationship 'deals' or prenuptial Agreements(soon expected to arrive at the Indian Matriominal scene).

The authoritarian family setup is indeed bad. But anarchy is not the answer to authoritarianism. We have to find an alternate middle path.