Administrative Culture in Public Administration: Five Essays on Bangladesh
LOS-Senteret, Rapport 9801
Norwegian Research Center in Organization and Management (LOS-Senteret), Bergen and
Institute of Administration and Organization Theory, University of Bergen, Norway. February 1998. ISSN 0801-9045
The Normative Roots of Administrative Culture in Bangladesh
Administrative Culture: A Mode of Understanding Public Administration across Cultures
"Good Governance": Tensions between Tradition and Modernity in Bangladeshi Public Administration
Transactional Friction between NGOs and Public Agencies in a Developing Country: Culture or Dependency?
Administrative Culture in Bangladesh: a Tiger in Disguise?
THE NORMATIVE ROOTS OF ADMINISTRATIVE CULTURE IN BANGLADESH
Public administration in Bangladesh today is characterized by a series of internal tensions as well as strained relations to parts of the environment. This paper is an attempt to understand these tensions and their possible development by examining the roots or traditions on which Bangladeshi public administration draws. In order to understand these tensions, the paper, first, focuses on the characteristics of cultural traditions that have a bearing on contemporary patterns of bureaucratic behavior in Bangladesh; and second, highlights the points of conflict between these various traditions.
The bureaucratic culture in Bangladesh may be understood along two dimensions. The first dimension may be classified into traditional values versus modern administrative norms and practices; and the second dimension classifies the social bases of these administrative norms, i.e. whether these norms are initiated or originated from the central level or from the local level. A cross-classification of these two dimensions produces four ways of organizing and behaving. These are: a) samaj, b) British colonial administrative system, c) administrative reform measures, and d) community change programs. While samaj and British colonial administrative system emphasize traditional norms of stability and balance, administrative reform measures and community change programs emphasize norms of modernization and change.
ADMINISTRATIVE CULTURE: A MODE OF UNDERSTANDING PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION ACROSS CULTURES
This paper argues that the question of politics has not been paid sufficient attention by the theories of organizational culture. Politics and political cultures are central in understanding public organizations, which shape administrators' relationship to politics and society. These also influence internal source of motivation and control in public organizations.
The paper presents three dimensions of administrative culture: political control, cohesion and citizenship. These are supplementary to the theories of organizational culture and may provide us with an understanding of public administration across cultures. Political control highlights the relationship between politics and public administrators, cohesion concentrates on internal sources of motivation and control within public administration, and citizenship deals with the relationship between the citizens in general and the administrators.
"GOOD GOVERNANCE": TENSIONS BETWEEN TRADITION AND MODERNITY IN BANGLADESHI PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION
The bureaucracy in Bangladesh is often accused of inefficiency, corruption, nepotism, lack of accountability, and an assortment of other ailments. It is sometimes portrayed as standing in the way of development rather than stimulating it. The claim is often made that the bureaucratic ills are related to attitudes and mentalities among the bureaucrats The study focuses mainly on describing the administrative norms (culture) that characterize Bangladeshi bureaucracy. The paper's main argument is that Bangladeshi bureaucracy has a long history and has been subjected to influences from highly disparate sources, indigenous as well as foreign. The country's checkered history may have left imprints on the bureaucracy in the form of conflicting norms and cultural tensions that may be difficult for administrative leaders to handle.
The norms of governance were dichotomized into traditional and modem norms and were assumed to reflect four normative sources that the administrative system in Bangladesh draws on. The results revealed that the bureaucracy in Bangladesh is characterized somewhat more by traditional than by modern norms. The second stage of the analysis was concerned with finding variations in norms of governance across groups. It was found that administrative culture is somewhat differentiated resulting from an interplay of processes of learning and socialization. This variation is more the result of learning than socialization. However, neither socialization nor learning variables consistently distinguish the modernists from traditionalists.
TRANSACTIONAL FRICTION BETWEEN NG0s AND PUBLIC AGENCIES IN A DEVELOPING COUNTRY: CULTURE OR DEPENDENCY?
The study analyzes the relationships between public administration and non-governmental organizations (NG0s). The central questions addressed in this article are: What are the characteristic features of govemment-NGO relationships in Bangladesh? To what extent is the relationship a conflictual or a cooperative one? And what are the factors that may account for the character of the relationship? With regard to the latter question, it is of particular interest to investigate the impact of cultural factors since a sizable proportion of NG0s working in Bangladesh is of foreign origin. In an effort to describe the extent to which NG0s reflect their national cultural norms, it is found that cultural differences are insignificant among NG0s. According to traditional cultural theory that Anglo-Saxon and Nordic-Dutch NG0s would be significantly less rule-oriented than the Bangladeshi NG0s is not found to be true. Bangladeshi NG0s are culturally closer to foreign NG0s than to Bangladeshi bureaucracy. NG0s in general are significantly more democratic and result-oriented compared to the Bangladeshi bureaucracy. This suggests that NG0s share an international community development culture more than reflecting their own nafional cultural norms.
Certain organizational cultural norms matter for transactional friction but these do not closely follow the national cultural patterns expected from previous organizational cultural research. The study found strong support for the impact of dependency relations on the transactional friction. The interpretation is that foreign NG0s who have more social status and economic and technical leverage capacity than many Bangladeshi NG0s, experience fewer problems in interacting with government agencies. The foreign NG0s are more positive towards Bangladeshi bureaucracy compared to their local counterparts. The study also found that the opposition from local institutions such as local bureaucracy and local government bodies as well as resistance of local politicians increases NG0s' transactional friction with the government.
ADMINISTRATIVE CULTURE IN BANGLADESH: A TIGER IN DISGUISE?
What are the salient features of the bureaucracy in the developmental states? To what extent does administrative culture in Bangladesh resemble bureaucracies in the developmental states? May the administrative culture in Bangladesh allow her to emerge as an economic tiger? If there exists certain common administrative factors among the developmental states, and if these factors can also be identified in Bangladeshi administration, then Bangladesh may one day grow into an C4economic tiger". It is in this context the administrative culture in Bangladesh is put in a comparative perspective with administrative cultures of the East Asian developmental states. The assumption is that the performance of the administrative apparatus of a country is strongly influenced by the cultural setting of the bureaucracy and the cultural norms shared by the bureaucrats. It is found that Bangladesh shares as well as differs with the developmental states as regards administrative norms. The developmental states too vary in terms of cultural norms which suggests that developmental states are not a homogenous group. Therefore, cultural norms do not account for differences in economic performances between Bangladesh and the developmental states. What differs is inconsistent and unstable policies, and lack of organizational commitment in Bangladesh in contrast to the developmental states. However, these are political and institutional design problems, not cultural ones. In cultural terms, Bangladesh is a tiger in disguise.
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