The Origin of the Science of Administration

By Gianfranco Miglio

A meta-reflection on the science of administration can explore objects,
boundaries, methods and “main problems” of the discipline. In European
absolute monarchies, the passage from administration to Verwaltung identified
certain autonomous public functions performed by professionals, both jurisconsults
and accountants, who supported the Crown and limited its arbitrary
power. The officium sought to reach the eudemonistic commune bonum. The
“Administrative science of the State”, rooted in German Protestantism,
became the art of governing States in search of happiness. After consolidation
of the laicization and secularization of law and political economy, the science
of administration became fragmented: it was subjected to the exclusive will of
“class” representatives. Today, as between the 19th and the 20th centuries, the
“privatistic conception of law”, with its particular attention for certain private
interests, keeps the administration in check. Consensus and autonomy of the
administration must be, once again, rebalanced. A unitary, autonomous and
truly “historicist” science of administration can be functional to this aim.