Max Weber and His Theory of Bureaucratic Management

Organization, Bureaucracy, Authority

Max Weber (1864-1920), who was a German sociologist, proposed different characteristics found in effective bureaucracies that would effectively conduct decision-making, control resources, protect workers and accomplish organizational goals. Max Weber's model of Bureaucracy is oftentimes described through a simple set of characteristics, which will be described in this article.

Max Weber's work was translated into English in the mid-forties of the twentieth century, and was oftentimes interpreted as a caricature of modern bureaucracies with all of their shortcomings. However, Weber's work was indented to supplant old organizational structures that existed in the earlier periods of industrialization. To fully appreciate and understand the work of Max Weber, one therefore has to keep the historic context in mind, and not "just" see his work as a caricature of bureaucratic models.

Below, some characteristics of the bureaucratic model are presented. Each characteristic is described in relation to which traditional features of administrative systems they were intended to succeed.

Fixed division of labor
The jurisdictional areas are clearly specified, and each area has a specific set of official duties and rights that cannot be changed at the whim of the leader. This division of labor should minimize arbitrary assignments of duties found in more traditional structures, in which the division of labor was not firm and regular, and in which the leader could change duties at any time.

Hierarchy of offices
Each office should be controlled and supervised by a higher ranking office. However, lower offices should maintain a right to appeal decisions made higher in the hierarchy. This should replace a more traditional system, in which power and authority relations are more diffuse, and not based on a clear hierarchical order.

Rational-legal authority
A bureaucracy is founded on rational-legal authority. This type of authority rests on the belief in the "legality" of...
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