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Edited by: B. Guy Peters & Jon Pierre

In: Handbook of Public Administration

Section 6: Law and Administration

Edited by: B. Guy Peters & Jon Pierre

Subject: Public Administration (general)

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Law and Administration
Law and administration

Law lies at the heart of both the theory and the practice of public administration. Max Weber (himself a lawyer by his early training, as Jacques Ziller reminds us in Chapter 20) associated the pervasiveness of his bureaucratic model of organization in advanced societies with the rational-legal authority that underpins such societies. Woodrow Wilson's famous essay on ‘The Study of Administration’ first published in 1887 propounded a working definition of public administration as ‘detailed and systematic execution of public law’.1 Even if this is perhaps a bit of an oversimplification, it is certainly the case that knowledge of the legal framework of administrative systems is crucial to an understanding of the nature and rationale of those systems.

Public law is often ...

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