The Ideas of Classical Theorists

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The ideas of the classical theorists, particularly those of bureaucracy and scientific management, are generally considered as rather old fashioned and out of date, and of little relevance to work and organisation today.

Is this really the case? Consider the above statement through a critical examination of practices which can be identified in work today. In your analysis, you should draw upon appropriate academic material, and also other sources which can help in identifying current practices. These can include your own experiences from work, those of family relatives and friends, weblogs, working life diaries, newspaper articles and other media reports.

Jean-Luc Adamson
110105367
Word Count- 1879

It is a valid and reasonable claim that the ideas of the classical theorists are outdated. Many argue that ideas of Bureaucracy by Weber and Scientific Management by Taylor do not have any relevance in modern day working practices. However these ideas have evolved as the business world has developed, and it is clear that they form the basis of many new working practices that exist in modern day organisations. By looking at the reality of these modern practices, we can see that many businesses still favour a rational approach. This approach draws elements from the ideas of bureaucracy and scientific management, and shows there relevance in current working practices. The use of a Fordist approach, as well as the “McDonaldization” of companies further demonstrates the validity of the classical theories, as a basis for new approaches. It is also important to evaluate the claim that in more recent times there has been a shift to a Post-Fordist and Post-Bureaucratic society. This proposed shift demands that a different approach to management and organisation is required, yet we have to ask the question, will the removal of bureaucratic and scientific elements in business ever be beneficial? When examining organisations the reality is often very different to the rhetoric. The rhetoric takes a more theoretical approach and tries to explain what should happen. However, in order to evaluate the relevance of the classical approaches in modern day practices, we must look at what does happen. The orthodox rhetoric executes a modern approach, where employees are a major asset, and have been empowered. Management is more “hands off” and a flexible environment suits employees. While certain businesses may adopt this theory, and it is clear that in modern business, even the more rational approaches are influenced by it, the reality is different. Since the introduction of the Fordist model, production has been dominated by this rational idea. It was designed to increase efficiency in productivity by using assembly lines and the division of labour into smaller parts increased control (Pugh D S & Hickson D J, 1989), thus dehumanizing the production process. McDonaldization is a metaphor used to describe the integral part of rational processes; similar to those explained by Weber and Taylor, in modern day organisations. McDonaldization is described by John Ritzer as “the process by which the principles of the fast-food restaurant are coming to dominate more and more sectors of American society as well as the rest of the world.” (‘The Case of McDonalds’ from Wilson F, 2004). It uses the example of the fast food restaurant to explain the reality of how businesses operate; in particular those concerned with mass production. The dimensions of Mcdonaldization encompass the efficiency, calculability and predictability that it produces. Close rules and regulations, dictated by a central command, look to improve efficiency and have very strong connotations with Weber’s theory of bureaucracy. The emphasis on quantative aspects of the product and the interest in quantity over quality again convey the de-humanisation of the workforce, which portrays the parallels with Taylor’s theory of Scientific management. The predictability is...
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