Policy Design and Practice (Jul 2022)

Making Public Administration great again

  • Mark van Ostaijen,
  • Shivant Jhagroe

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 5, no. 3
pp. 261 – 275


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Recently a new discourse emerged in policy sciences and public administration under the label of “Positive Public Administration” (PPA), emphasizing a focus on “positive” governmental and policy successes. It positions itself as a renewed attempt to move away from an overemphasis on criticism, declinist discourse, and negative language, presenting itself as vital for reviving the field. Deconstructing PPA allows us to engage with a growing debate about “positivity” both inside and outside academia, and to discuss its novelty in public administration and policymaking. This commentary discusses this scholarly ambition by critically reviewing its historical traces, current ambitions, and strategic claims of PPA as discourse. This contribution shows that if PPA is a renewed attempt, it is a renewed attempt to reinforce “traditional” arguments and instrumental knowledge production. Moreover, PPA will not create a way out, but only a new way into traditional problems that have haunted PA as a field for decades.