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Jack H. Knott & Thomas H. Hammond

In: Handbook of Public Administration

Chapter 11: Formal Theory and Public Administration

Edited by: B. Guy Peters & Jon Pierre


Subject: Public Administration (general)

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Formal Theory and Public Administration
Formal theory and public administration

Formal theory involves the use of formal, mathematical logic to develop theories of individuals, groups, organizations and public institutions, and this chapter reviews the application of formal theory to public administration. Formalization can help us in a variety of ways to develop, explore and test theories of public administration (Hammond, 1996). First, formalization forces us to be as explicit as possible about the basic assumptions of our theories. Second, with our initial assumptions made explicit and expressed in some kind of symbolic notation, the rules of mathematics, such as calculus, geometry, or probability theory, can then be used to rigorously deduce the consequences of the assumptions. Third, formalization of a theory can help improve the quality ...

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