| Sample Exams |
Paper Guidelines | Sample Papers|
professional corps of officials organized in a pyramidal hierarchy and
functioning under impersonal, uniform rules and procedures. In the social
sciences, the term usually does not carry the pejorative associations
of popular usage.
characteristics of bureaucracy were first formulated in a systematic manner
by the German sociologist Max Weber (1864-1920), whose definition and
theories set the foundations for all subsequent work on the subject. They
refer to (1) the division of labour in the organization, (2) its authority
structure, (3) the position and role of the individual member, and (4)
the type of rules that regulate the relations between organizational members.
highly developed division of labour and specialization of tasks is one
of the most fundamental features of bureaucracy. This is achieved by a
precise and detailed definition of the duties and responsibilities of
each position or office. The allocation of a limited number of tasks to
each office operates according to the principle of fixed jurisdictional
areas that are determined by administrative regulations.
bureaucratic organization is characterized by a "rational" and impersonal
regulation of inferior-superior relationships. In traditional types of
administration (feudal, patrimonial), the inferior-superior relationship
is personal, and the legitimation of authority is based on a belief in
the sacredness of tradition. In a bureaucracy, on the other hand, authority
is legitimized by a belief in the correctness of the process by which
administrative rules were enacted; and the loyalty of the bureaucrat is
oriented to an impersonal order, to a superior position, not to the specific
person who holds it.
one shifts the focus of attention from the organization as a whole to
the role and status of the individual member, the following features characterize
the bureaucrat's position. Starting with the mode of recruitment, the
bureaucrat is not selected on the basis of such considerations as family
position or political loyalties. His recruitment is based on formal qualifications
(diplomas, university degrees) that testify that the applicant has the
necessary knowledge to accomplish effectively his specialized duties.
Once a candidate enters the bureaucratic organization, his office is his
sole--or at least his primary--occupation. It constitutes a "career."
That is to say, it is not accepted on an honorary or short term basis;
it implies stability and continuity, a "life's work." Moreover, there
is usually an elaborate system of promotion based on the principles of
both seniority and achievement.
as the mode of remuneration is concerned, the bureaucrat usually receives
a salary based not so much on his productivity performance as on the status
of his position. Contrary to some forms of traditional administration,
in the bureaucratic case the civil servant cannot sell his position or
pass it on to his sons. There is a clear-cut separation between the private
and the public sphere of the bureaucrat's life. His private property is
sharply distinguished from the "means of administration" that do not belong
most important and pervasive characteristic of bureaucracy (one that to
some extent explains all the others) is the existence of a system of control
based on rational rules--that is, rules meant to design and regulate the
whole organization on the basis of technical knowledge and with the aim
of achieving maximum efficiency. According to Max Weber, "Bureaucratic
administration means fundamentally the exercise of control on the basis
of knowledge. This is the feature of it which makes it specifically rational"
(The Theory of Social and Economic Organization, 1947, p. 339).
are briefly the major features of Weber's ideal type of bureaucracy. The
type is "ideal" in the sense that the characteristics included in it are
not to be found, in their extreme form, in all concrete bureaucracies.
Real organizations can be more or less bureaucratic according to their
degree of proximity to their ideal formulation.
for Weber bureaucracy was an efficient tool in the hands of whoever knows
how to control it, subsequent writers, impressed by the increasing bureaucratization
of modern society and by the rise of totalitarian regimes in the East
and the West, have often seen bureaucracy as an oligarchic system of political
domination: bureaucracy ceases to be a tool; it becomes the master, the
politically dominant group in a new type of society that is neither capitalist
nor socialist. If for Weber the political domination of bureaucracy was
problematic, for the German sociologist Robert Michels (1876-1936) and
other writers having a similar orientation it became an inevitable outcome,
inherent in the internal dynamics of bureaucracy.
was one of the first theorists who tried systematically to link increasing
bureaucratization with the oligarchic tendencies in modern society. He
focussed his attention primarily on the internal political structure of
large-scale organizations. His main thesis, the famous "iron law of oligarchy,"
postulates that with the increasing complexity and bureaucratization of
modern organizations all power is concentrated at the top, in the hands
of an organizational elite that rules in a dictatorial manner. This is
so even if oligarchy, as in the German Socialist party, which he extensively
studied, runs against the ideals and intentions of both rulers and ruled.
fact, the increasing size of modern organizations and the increasing complexity
of the problems with which they have to deal makes technically impossible
the participation of the rank and file in the making of decisions. Moreover,
given the ensuing apathy of the members and the increasing concentration
of the means of communication at the top, the power position of the leader
becomes impregnable. Not only can the leader manipulate information and
use the communication network against any potential rival but also, by
the exercise of his functions, he acquires specialized knowledge and political
skills that make him almost irreplaceable to the organization. In this
way both the structural position of the rulers and the ruled lead to a
political system that perpetuates the leadership of the person in power
and alienates the rank and file from the political process.
in control, according to Michels, the organizational oligarchy always
has as its primary aim the consolidation of its own power position. Whenever
this aim clashes with the more general aims of the rank and file, the
elite will sacrifice the latter rather than jeopardize its own privileges.
It is in this way that Michels explains the decline in radicalism of the
established Socialist parties whose bureaucratic conservatism serves more
the interests of the leaders and less the masses whose interests they
are supposed to represent.
for Michels, organizational oligarchy brings societal oligarchy. If the
political systems of such voluntary organizations as trade unions and
political parties cannot work democratically, then the democratic institutions
of the whole society are undermined at their very roots. Indeed, a society
dominated by large-scale oligarchic organizations eventually develops
an oligarchic political regime. Organizational elites, together with other
social elites, having a common interest in the maintenance of the status
quo, form a strong power group determined to oppose any demand for change
coming from the masses.
theory focussed mainly on the bureaucratization of "voluntary" organizations,
such as political parties. Other theorists, sharing his pessimism about
the future of democracy, point more to the increasing size and bureaucratization
of the state administration or of the capitalist enterprise as the main
threats to the parliamentary institutions of Western societies.
the one hand, such liberal German economists as Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich
von Hayek have been alarmed at the proportions of the state bureaucracy
and its increasing intervention in the economic sphere. For them, it is
the government's "levelling" tendencies, its insatiable appetite for expansion
that gradually destroys free enterprise and undermines democratic institutions.
Lenin and other Soviet writers could not admit that bureaucracy had a
permanent and "organic" position in the Soviet system, other Marxists
thought that it was at its centre and that it defined more than anything
else the very nature of the regime. From their point of view, bureaucracy
was not only a privileged oppressive group but a new exploiting class,
a class characterized by a new type of oligarchic regime that was neither
socialist nor capitalist and that was rapidly spreading both in the East
and in the West.
first systematic elaboration of this position was attempted by the Italian
Marxist Bruno Rizzi in The Bureaucratisation of the World (1939).
For Rizzi the Soviet bureaucracy constituted a new ruling class that exploited
the proletariat as much as the capitalists had in the past. It differed
from capitalism only in that the new type of domination was based not
on individual but on group ownership of the means of production. In fact,
in the Soviet system the means of production represented not "socialism"
but "stateism." They did not belong to the whole collectivity but to the
state and to the bureaucrats who control it. In the last analysis, it
was these bureaucrats--the technicians, directors, and specialists holding
key positions in the party and state administration--who exploited the
proletarians and stole the surplus value of work. According to Rizzi this
new type of regime, which he called bureaucratic collectivism, was not
limited to the Soviet Union. Similar tendencies could be discerned in
fascist countries and even in the "welfare state" type of capitalist democracies.
The Yugoslav Communist Milovan Djilas in The New Class (1957),
a later criticism of the Yugoslav Socialist regime, used arguments similar
American philosopher and critic James Burnham proposed a theory of the
"managerial revolution" that was more or less an elaboration of Rizzi's
ideas. According to his theory, technological progress and the growth
of large-scale economic as well as political bureaucracies deprived the
old capitalist class of the control of the means of production. The effective
control of the economy and of political power had passed to the managers--that
is, to the production executives and to the administrators of the state
bureaucracy. He predicted that at a later stage of development, private
ownership would be abolished and the bureaucrats would appropriate collectively,
through the state, the means of production. Thus, according to Burnham,
both in the East and the West the managers would impose a new type of
Dysfunctional aspects of bureaucracy.
American Robert K. Merton was among the first sociologists to emphasize
systematically the now-familiar side of the bureaucratic picture--its
red tape and inefficiency. According to Merton, if, as Weber thought,
the predominance of rational rules and their close control of all actions
favours the reliability and predictability of the bureaucrat's behaviour,
it also accounts for his lack of flexibility and his tendency to turn
means into ends. Indeed, the emphasis on conformity and strict observance
of the rules induces the individual to internalize them. Instead of simply
means, procedural rules become ends in themselves. Thus a kind of "goal
displacement" occurs. The instrumental and formalistic aspect of the bureaucratic
role becomes more important than the substantive one, the achievement
of the main organizational goals. According to Merton, when one leaves
the sphere of the ideal and studies a real organization, one can see that
a certain bureaucratic characteristic (such as strict control by rules)
can both promote and hinder organizational efficiency; it can have both
functional effects (predictability, precision) and dysfunctional effects
group of theorists have rejected the functional approach and contended
that organizations must be seen as configurations of antagonistic groups
that aim, through various strategies, to promote their conflicting interests.
Although these theorists do view the organization "as a whole," they see
that the parts of the whole are not institutional norms but instead are
groups that, according to their power position, can influence policies.
the American sociologist Melville Dalton, in a book based on his long
experience as a participant and observer in six business firms (Men
Who Manage, 1959), offered a revealing picture of organizational structure
in terms of conflicting cliques and their interminable struggles for gaining
more power and ensuring a greater share of organizational rewards. Even
if sometimes exaggerated, this analysis showed in a striking way to what
extent organizational members and groups can be primarily interested in
the pursuit of their narrow interests and the consolidation and improvement
of their own power position, even at the expense of wider organizational
interests. Moreover, it showed the pervasiveness of the ensuing struggles
and their impact on every aspect of organizational life. It showed, too,
how this intense political activity can be scrupulously and skillfully
camouflaged so that the resulting policies appear to be in harmony with
the official ideology.
French sociologist Michel Crozier's study of two French government agencies
(The Bureaucratic Phenomenon, 1963) was another important step
in the analysis of organizational power and conflict. In Crozier's analysis,
the social structure consists of highly cohesive occupational groups,
each presenting a unified and rather hostile front toward the others.
(Contrary to Dalton, Crozier ignores the existence of cliques within and
across these occupational groupings.) Each group's strategy consists in
manipulating the rules in order to enhance its own prerogatives and secure
its independence from every direct and arbitrary interference by those
higher up. Because rules obviously can never cover everything, "areas
of uncertainty" always emerge that constitute the focal points around
which collective conflicts become acute and instances of direct dominance
and subordination develop. The group that, by its position in the occupational
structure, can control the "unregulated" area, has a great strategic advantage
that it naturally uses in order to improve its power position and to ensure
a greater share of organizational rewards.
studies, as illustrated by the work of Dalton and Crozier, point to the
central importance of an organization's political structure and thus open
a new perspective in the analysis of bureaucracy. To the image of the
organization man as a person of sentiments seeking friendship and emotional
security and to the image of the problem solver and decision maker is
added the new image of a "political man" primarily interested in the collective
and individual pursuit of power for the promotion of his own interests.
So long as it is not followed single mindedly, this new dimension should
contribute to a more inclusive and realistic approach to the study of
| Sample Exams |
Paper Guidelines | Sample Papers|