Fred W. Riggs

Fred W. Riggs and Comparative
Public Administration
G.D.R.U.U. Abeyrathne,
Dept. of Economics,
University of Ruhuna,
Specificity of Riggs
• Has concerned with developing grand theory
of public administration.
• His approach has been characterized with
Structural Functionalism
• His theory is macro, systematic, ecological and
structural functional.
• It has opened new vista for cross cultural
administrative study.
• He has emphasized the importance of administrative
system with which it interact and operate in.
• This perspective has provided him to view
administration as a subsystem of the broader social
• He was interested in analyzing the interaction of
administrative sub system and political ,social,
economic and cultural subsystems.
• He adopted this approach because he believed that
nature of public administration of any country cannot
be grasped without understanding the social setting in
which administration operates.
Five Functional requisites of any
• According to him, there are five functional
requisites for any society
1. Economic, 2. Social 3. Communicational
4. Symbolic and 5. Political.
He has been of the opinion that the same set of
functional requisites applies to an
administrative subsystem.
Early typology of Societies
• He has constructed two models of societies.
One is to represent modern industrial society
and the other for agricultural societies. First
one is called Industria. The Next is agraria.
• These are two polar types one representing
contemporary America and imperial China is
agraria respectively.
• He also identified a third category called
Characteristics Agraria
1. Predominance of ascriptive norms,
particularistic and diffuse patterns.
2. Stable local groups and limited spatial
3. Relatively simple and stable occupational
4. A deferential stratification system of diffuse
1. Predominance of universalistic, specific and
achievement norms
2. High Degree of social mobility.
3. Well developed occupational system.
4. Open class system based on occupational
5. Prevalence of voluntary association
performing specific functions.
• It is the one which has got a social system
that co-exists both characteristics of agraria as
well as industria.
Prismatic Model
• Later he developed the prismatic model to explain the
administrative systems of Developing World.
• He categorized societies into three
1. Fused 2. Prismatic 3. Diffracted.
He used Fused model to explain the ecology of
traditional societies.
Prismatic society to explain the developing world.
Diffracted society to explain the developed societies.
• According to him no societies is neither totally
fused nor diffracted. Everyone share some
features of the other.
Key terms used in his explanations
• Structure: A basic pattern of activity which is
repeated over and over again in a society. The
result of such pattern of activity is called function.
• A society that performed all the functions
necessary for its survival by a single structure is
called fused .
• A society which has got different specialized
structures is diffracted.
• A society in which there is a mixture of traditional
and modern structures is called prismatic.
Fused Society
• Main Features
• Archaic political structures: Indistinct and nonformal power. The elite would be an clect,
(holders of all type of power) rather than
• The conscious establishment of policies is
• There is no distinct political or administrative
• The main function is to maintain order.
• Administrative functions are arbitrary. Not
Restricted by law.
• Their acts are non effective in the sense they
have minimal direct impact on the population.
• The political system is neither democratic, nor
• The rulers are not subject popular control.
Diffracted Society
• Highly differentiated
• Highly developed specialized structures of
• Functions of the society are very specific.
• Level of integration is high.
• Pattern of behaviour is characterized by norms
of universalism and achievements.
Prismatic Society
• In a prismatic Society, there exists
characteristics of Fused and diffracted
Societies side by side.
• No real structural differentiation
• Every system is composed of sub-sytems.
I.e. Economic, Administrative and Cultural.
He names the administrative subsystem of
Fused society as chamber.
Sala is the administrative subsystem in
prismatic society.
Office is the administrative subsystem in
diffracted society.
Sala in Prismatic Society
• It is the administrative subsystem.
It has got three characterics
1. Heterogeneity 2. Formalism 3. Overlapping.
• There exists modern features of society side
by side with traditional features.
• The people are not integrated but divided on
line of religion etc.
• Un equal level of development.
• Highly westernized and modern urban sector
co-exists with rural irrational sector.
• Formalism = the amount of discrepancy or
incongruence between the norms and practices
• Formalism = the deference between the
prescribed and the practiced
• Level of formalism is dependent on the nature of
pressure for development. If the pressure comes
outside Level of formalism increases.
• In Formalistic situation, values and norms may
receive lip service but ignored in real practice.
• Riggs discusses dimensions of culture,
economy, political, communicational and
symbolic developing world.
• The coexistence of modern and traditional
structures in these societies.
• In urban areas modern technology is used
while traditional methods are employed in
rural areas.
• Rural areas, clergy, elders and other traditional
leadership groups are very important in politicoadministrative as well as other sphere of life.
The rural areas lack modern facilities.
• You can observe the existence of modern
structures as well as traditional structures side by
• Both traditional and Modern structures are
important in discharging the assigned functions.
However, importance attached to traditional
structures is high.
Characteristic of Overlapping Situation
Bazaar Canteen Model
Authority V Control
Diverse religio-ethnic groups live side by side.
Still they are not friendly to one another.
Lack proper motivation for social work
This situation affect society as well as
• High ranking officers in the bureaucracy favors
members of his community.
• This behaviour affects social relations.
• Different communities pull the society in
different directions.
• There is no consensus on what is to be done.
• People subscribe to different values and norms
• In Prismatic societies, there two different sets of
• 1. One for public appearance.
• 2. One for use in real practice.
• Traditional and modern ideas are in conflict.
• The cumulative impact is the difficulty in decision
• Relatives (Kith and kin) are given favarable
treatment in recruitment to government jobs.
• They enjoy privileges because of link to the
Bazaar Canteen
• This is the economic subsystem of prismatic
• Prices are not decided on the basis of demands
and supply.
• Prices are not fixed.
• Bargaining is an important feature.
• Prices change from one customer to the other
• Goods are sold at lower prices for some
customers. This is a feature of a canteen.
Authority v Contol
• Authority is highly centralized while control is
• Authority and control lie in different
Impact on Administration
• The unequal distribution of services raises the
administrative cost.
• Family connections leads to sinecures.
• People without pull find them assigned low
• Fringe benefits are abound.
• Corruption is institutionalized.
• Application of rule is suspended or selectively
• Citizens have to offer bribes.
• There will be prismatic budgeting. Budget
allocation would be based not on the
requirements of bureaus, but on the power
relations with the political authorities. Some
departments may have extra money. Some
will lack resources to implement public
Implications of Prismatic Society on
• The formalism and separation of authority
will lead to unduly heavyweight bureaucracy.
• Riggs has developed new terms to describe
the administrative process of developing
• Rigggs also helps to understand the lingering
importance of rank difficulties of personnel
reform, the problem of planning .
• He has been able to developed a theoretical
framework that could be used to explain large
number of variables, otherwise forgotten as
un-important. This is one of the strengths of
his theory.
• This is a valuable contribution to the
administrative thought as well as science.
• However, there are some problems associated
with it.
• He Says “ Things are seldom what they
seems”. It implies that the latten function
quite differs from the manifest function.
• There are problem of un-observable things in social
world. The un-observable nature of social reality has
be used to prove certain social theories. This is not
acceptable to scientific study.
• He has nothing to offer to the understanding of
administrative process except building new jargons.
• He has not gone beyond the comparative political
scientists in analyzing the socio-economic factors that
affect politico-administrative process.
• He has been totally silent over the impact of ecological
factors on different combinations of elite. (Rural and

similar documents