The knowledge-building process of public administration research: a comparative perspective between Brazil and North American contexts

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2017-03
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Assessments of public administration research in the Global South are relatively scarce, although they are relevant in moving beyond a North-South dichotomy in understanding the knowledge-building process of public administration. In this article, we apply a content analysis to 592 Brazilian publications in order to assess the subjects of the studies, their cognitive orientations, their methodological strategies, and their institutional aspects, and compare these results with previous evaluations of North American publications. Our findings indicate that a 'North American way of doing research'' is gaining ground as the legitimate way of doing public administration research in Brazil, despite a research agenda that reflects subjects of practical relevance to the Brazilian public sector. Such intellectual mimesis, associated with the existence of a weak and unequal institutional network for academic research, may influence the 'parochialism'' of public administration research. Points for practitioners The research reveals that the subjects of public administration publications also reflect the dynamics of public administration as a field of practice, reflected in topics of empirical interest to the Brazilian public sector that are cognitively and, partly, methodologically discussed from a North American perspective. The similar trends in the cognitive dimensions that both regions share may also recursively reflect the diffusion of public sector reforms from developed to developing countries, particularly as a consequence of New Public Management, which has also taken place in countries like Brazil.


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