Date of Award

Summer 1995

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Urban Services - Management

Committee Director

Wolfgang Pindur

Committee Member

William Leavitt

Committee Member

Christopher B. Colburn


The purpose of this study is to formulate a behavioral theory of public organization development and administration that replaces positivism with constructivism as its underlying paradigm. This study contends that the level of maturity with respect to quality is a function of the degree to which an organization's latent thinking and conceptualization has advanced toward constructivism. The underlying thesis is that public administration and organization behavior stems from multiple realities not possible under positivism. Efficiency is not an appropriate criterion for analysis under the tenants of constructivism and should be replaced with quality as a criterion.

The use of quality necessitates the adoption of a new paradigm of thought. Constructivism gives utility to quality by integrating systems and behavior theory to produce a special systems theory for public administration. The arguments presented in the dissertation are embedded throughout using a hermeneutic framework.

Hermeneutics attempts to systematically clarify the meaning of texts or any human construct that can be conceived as texts such as written, verbal, non-verbal, and symbolic actions. The limits of human cognition and the influences of social and historical conditions on understanding are recognized and incorporated into the research framework. Hermeneutics disavows the positivist claims of objectivity, as well as the total subjectivity of criticalists.

Positivism and the resultant contention that efficiency is the most rational criterion for analyzing public decisions form the basis for the logical null hypotheses. Relevant details in the literature are researched in the current social and historical context, leading to confirmation or reinterpretation and revision.

Results indicate that public organizations are complex systems. Behaviors represent energy within the system, and patterns of energy exchange between systems are nonlinear. Multiple realities imply more sophistication in methodological approaches than is currently taught and practiced if public organizations are to become truly effective and equitable.