Dwight Waldo

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Clifford Dwight Waldo (September 28, 1913 – October 27, 2000) was an American political scientist and a defining figure in modern public administration Waldo's career was often directed against a scientific/technical portrayal of bureaucracy and government that now suggests the term public management as opposed to public administration.


  • Among organization theorists general, if not universal agreement obtains that it is proper to view the development of organization theory as divided into three periods. Conventionally, this "history" is regarded as beginning early in this century; and the three periods are customarily are designed by the terms classic, neo-classic and modern... The classical period has its beginning, in the conventional view, with Frederick W. Taylor and Henri Fayol... [and] reaches its high point in the thirties with the work of James Mooney and of the editors and authors of the Paper in the Science of Administration. The neo-classical wave is seen as beginning with the Hawthorne experiments in the late twenties. These experiments challenge the formality and rationality of classical theory with the "discovery"of human relations.
    • Dwight Waldo (1978), "Organization Theory: Revisiting the Elephant," Public Administration Review, 38 (November/December): p. 589
  • The modern period in organization theory is characterized by vogues, heterogeneity, claims and counter-claims.
    • Dwight Waldo (1978), "Organization Theory: Revisiting the Elephant," Public Administration Review, 38 (November/December): p. 597.

"Government by Procedure", 1946[edit]

Dwight Waldo (1946), "Government by Procedure." in: Elements of Public Administration, Fritz Morstein Marx, ed. Prentice-Hall, Inc.

  • It is procedure that governs the routine internal and external relationships - between one individual and another; between one organizational unit and another; between one process and another; between one skill or technique and another; between one function and another; between one place and another; between the organization and the public; and between all combinations and permutations of these. It is by means of procedure that the day-to-day work of government is done-mail sorted, routed and delivered; deeds recorded; accounts audited; cases prosecuted; protests heard; food inspected; budgets reviewed; tax returns verified; data collected; supplies purchased; property assessed; inquiries answered; orders issued; investigations made; and so forth endlessly.
  • Procedure, properly applied, allows specialization to be carried to its optimum degree and effects the most efficient division of labor. Procedure not only divides labor; it also divides-and fixes-responsibility. Procedure thus is a means of maintaining order and of achieving regularity, continuity, predictability, control, and accountability. It is a means of maximizing control of the subjective drives of an organization's members, of assuring that their official actions contribute-and, if possible, that their private loyalties conform-to the organization's objectives. From a general political angle, procedure ensures equality of treatment-a value of great significance to the citizen.
  • Procedure is not a unique feature of public administration. It is a concomitant of all organized activity, and many procedures are equally usable by private administration or public administration. Private as well as public "red tape" can be time-consuming and annoying to those affected, as anyone can testify who has tried to exchange a purchase without a sales slip or to cash a check without "proper identification.

The Administrative State, 1948[edit]

Dwight Waldo. The Administrative State, 1948

  • This is a study of the public administration movement from the viewpoint of political theory and the history of ideas. It seeks to review and analyze the theoretical element in administrative writings and to present the development of the public administration movement as a chapter in the history of American political thought.
    • Preview; lead paragraph
  • The Gospel of Efficiency. Every era, as Carl Becker has reminded us in his Heavenly City of the Eighteenth Century Philosophers, has a few words that epitomize its world-view and that are fixed points by which all else can be measured. In the Middle Ages they were such words as faith, grace, and God; in the eighteenth century they were such words as reason, nature, and rights ; during the past fifty years in America they have been such words as cause, reaction, scientific, expert, progress and efficient. Efficiency is a natural ideal for a relatively immature and extrovert culture, but presumably its high development and wide acceptance are due to the fact that ours has been, par excellence, a machine civilization. At any event, efficiency grew to be a national catchword in the Progressive era as mechanization became the rule in American life, and it frequently appears in the literature of the period entangled in mechanical metaphor.
    • p. 19
  • Historically, "public administration" has grown in large part out of the wider field of inquiry, "political science." The history of American political science during the past fifty years is a story much too lengthy to be told here, but some important general characteristics and tendencies it has communicated to or shared with public administration must be noted.
The Secular Spirit Despite: the fact that "political science" in such forms as moral philosophy and political economy had been taught in America long before the Civil War, the present curriculum, practically in its entirety, is the product of the secular, practical, empirical, and "scientific" tendencies of the past sixty or seventy years. American students dismayed at the inadequacies of the ethical approach in the Gilded Age, stimulated by their pilgrimage to German universities, and led by such figures as J. W. Burgess, E. J. James, A. B. Hart, A. L. Lowell, and F. J. Goodnow have sought to recreate political science as a true science. To this end they set about observing and analyzing "actual government." At various times and according to circumstances, they have turned to public law, foreign institutions, rural, municipal, state, and federal institutions, political parties, public opinion and pressures, and to the administrative process, in the search for the "stuff" of government. They have borrowed both ideas and examples from the natural sciences and the other social disciplines. Frequently they have been inspired by a belief that a Science of Politics will emerge when enough facts of the proper kinds are accumulated and put in the proper juxtaposition, a Science that will enable man to "predict and control" his political life. So far did they advance from the old belief that the problem of good government is the problem of moral men that they arrived at the opposite position: that morality is irrelevant, that proper institutions and expert personnel are determining.
  • p. 22-23
  • [Messianic tendencies of management thought, especially scientific management had the tendency] to extend the objective, positivist approach to an ever-enlarging complex of phenomena.
    • p. 57 as cited in: Robert B. Denhardt, ‎Thomas J. Catlaw (2014), Theories of Public Organization, p. 72
  • From Taylor and his associates, on the one hand, and Allen, Bruere, and Cleveland, on the other, there extends a firm resolve to enlarge the domain of measurement, an unbroken missionary endeavor to extend the suzerainty of "the facts." The pioneers began with inquiries into the proper speed of cutting tools and the optimum height for garbage trucks; their followers seek to place large segments of social life or even the whole of it upon a scientific basis.
    • p. 182
  • We hold that efficiency cannot itself be a "value." Rather, it operates in the interstices of a value system; it prescribes relationships (ratios or proportions) among parts of the value system; it receives its "moral content" by syntax, by absorption. Things are not simply "efficient" or "inefficient." They are efficient or inefficient for given purposes, and efficiency for one purpose may mean inefficiency for another.
    • p. 202
  • Students of administration, writes J. M. Gaus, have become "more uncertain in recent years as to the ends, aims and methods which they should advocate/' It is difficult to view in their entirety and in perspective the writings on public administration that now pour from the presses. But this is hardly necessary to confirm the truth of Gaus' statement.
    • p. 206
  • Perhaps most important of the theoretical movements now influencing American administrative study is scientific management. At the level of technique or procedure, borrowing from and liaison with scientific management will undoubtedly continue. Although some doctrines, such as "pure theory of organization," have already affected public administration, how influential other theoretical aspects of scientific management will be remains to be seen. In its "democratic" or "anarchistic" doctrines, conceivably, there is enough force to reconstruct present patterns of administrative thought, at least if conditions become favorable.
    • p. 209

Quotes about Dwight Waldo[edit]

  • By the mid-1950s, Dwight Waldo was recognized as a leading scholars in his field—and no longer as a radical outsider. As he quipped, it was a very short distance from being the young radical to fame as an old conservative. In reality, he was never a conservative. Until the end of his life, many viewed him as "the youngest, creative mind" in our field. He always asked the toughest and best questions.

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