What does John M. Gaus mean when he states, “The study of public administration must include its ecology”? Are there elements of Gaus’ ecology that are missing when you consider today’s environment? (Gaus, 1947) Explain your answer and remember to provide an example.
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Ecology entered the lexicon of social science and public administration literature long be- fore it became popular in the media and on college campuses in the 1970s as a word syn- onymous with protecting the natural beauty of the landscape. Originally, the term was derived from the ancient Greek word oikos, meaning living place, and was used exten- sively by nineteenth-century Darwinian botanists and zoologists to describe how organ- isms live and adapt to their environments. Sociologists during the 1920s borrowed the ideas of plant and animal ecology and applied the concept to human life; they emphasized the interdependence of human life within an increasingly complex organic system and the ten- dency of living systems to move toward an equilibrium, or stabilization of life forms in re- lation to the surrounding environment.
Ecology was introduced into the public administration vocabulary primarily through the writings of the late Harvard Professor John M. Gaus (18941969), one of the early pioneers of public administration; he elaborated on ecology in a series of famous lectures at the Uni- versity of Alabama in 1945, later published as Reflections on Public Administration.
In this work, as well as in his other writings, Gaus was particularly adept at weaving the patterns and ideas of public administration into the total fabric of the issues and events of mod- ern American society. Better than most observers, he showed how public administration, its development, and its activities were influenced by its setting, or its ecology. In his words, ecol- ogy deals with all interrelationships of living organisms and their environment. Thus, an ecological approach to public administration builds . . . quite literally from the ground up; from the elements of a placesoils, climate, location, for exampleto the people who live there their numbers and ages and knowledge, and the ways of physical and social technology by which from the place and in relationships with one another, they get their living