Bureaucracy

Topics: Bureaucracy, Max Weber, Sociology Pages: 15 (4329 words) Published: January 20, 2009
Bureaucracy is the structure and set of regulations in place to control activity, usually in large organizations and government. As opposed to adhocracy, it is represented by standardized procedure (rule-following) that dictates the execution of most or all processes within the body, formal division of powers, hierarchy, and relationships. In practice the interpretation and execution of policy can lead to informal influence. Contents

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* 1 Definition
* 2 Origins
* 3 Development
* 4 Views on the concept
o 4.1 Karl Marx
o 4.2 Max Weber
o 4.3 Michel Crozier
* 5 American Usage
* 6 Austrian School Analysis
* 7 Current academic debates
* 8 See also
* 9 References & notes
* 10 External links

Definition

Bureaucracy is a concept in sociology and political science referring to the way that the administrative execution and enforcement of legal rules are socially organized. Four structural concepts are central to any definition of bureaucracy:

1. a well-defined division of administrative labor among persons and offices, 2. a personnel system with consistent patterns of recruitment and stable linear careers, 3. a hierarchy among offices, such that the authority and status are differentially distributed among actors, and 4. formal and informal networks that connect organizational actors to one another through flows of information and patterns of cooperation.

Examples of everyday bureaucracies include governments, armed forces, corporations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), hospitals, courts, ministries and schools.

Origins

While the concept as such existed at least from the early forms of nationhood in ancient times, the word "bureaucracy" itself stems from the word "bureau", used from the early 18th century in Western Europe not just to refer to a writing desk, but to an office, i.e., a workplace, where officials worked. The original French meaning of the word bureau was the baize used to cover desks. The term bureaucracy came into use shortly before the French Revolution of 1789, and from there rapidly spread to other countries. The Greek suffix - kratia or kratos - means "power" or "rule".

In a letter of July 1, 1790, the German Baron von Grimm declared: "We are obsessed by the idea of regulation, and our Masters of Requests refuse to understand that there is an infinity of things in a great state with which a government should not concern itself." Jean Claude Marie Vincent de Gournay sometimes used to say, "We have an illness in France which bids fair to play havoc with us; this illness is called bureaumania." Sometimes he used to refer to a fourth or fifth form of government under the heading of "bureaucracy".

In another letter of July 15, 1765 Baron Grimm wrote also, "The real spirit of the laws in France is that bureaucracy of which the late Monsieur de Gournay used to complain so greatly; here the offices, clerks, secretaries, inspectors and intendants are not appointed to benefit the public interest, indeed the public interest appears to have been established so that offices might exist."[1]

This quote refers to a traditional controversy about bureaucracy, namely the perversion of means and ends so that means become ends in themselves, and the greater good is lost sight of; as a corollary, the substitution of sectional interests for the general interest. The suggestion here is that, left uncontrolled, the bureaucracy will become increasingly self-serving and corrupt, rather than serving society.

Development

Perhaps the early example of a bureaucrat is the scribe, who first arose as a professional on the early cities of Sumer. The Sumerian script was so complicated that it required specialists who had trained for their entire lives in the discipline of writing to manipulate it. These scribes could wield significant power, as they had a total monopoly on the keeping of records and creation...

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