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Guido Koller & Sebastian Schüpbach

The History of Modern Administration

ISBN: 978-3-906817-07-1
DOI: 10.13098/infoclio.ch-lb-0003


This anthology outlines the history of modern (federal) administration using primarily selected sources of the Swiss Federal Archives. This assemblage sheds light onto several important stages of building a central public administration in the 19th and 20th century. The anthology illuminates measures of professionalization of government activity on the federal level, the discussion about extension, rationalization and efficiency enhancement of federal administration, as well as the debate on the privatization of areas of public administration on a federal level.


Public administration assists a government, the executive, in its function, which means in the execution of decisions made by the parliament (the legislature). This assistance includes the preparation, implementation, and execution of laws and regulations. In this process the administration produces “binding decisions” (Niklas Luhmann) that not only set the framework conditions for society, but also increasingly entail a controlling function.


The selected sources and texts represent breaches in the administration’s continuity. This documentarian description starts with important executive actors and their respective logic of action. In order to maintain a capacity for resolving problems in light of increasing government spending the Federal Administration was continually reorganized: this included the expansion of the principle of departments, the delegation of tasks within the administration, and the outsourcing of tasks to third parties. Administrative reforms largely replaced government reforms that were constantly being debated since the foundation of the modern federal state.


In Switzerland, administration is rarely discussed outside of constitutional law and political science. Administrative history in particular is a desideratum. With its presentation of twelve different Swiss and two international sources, this anthology points out the relevance of the development of a Swiss administrative history following a transnational comparative research approach.