Democracy and Bureaucrary Are Incompatible, Discuss Using Illustrative Examples.

Topics: Democracy, Government, Organization Pages: 6 (1870 words) Published: September 21, 2010

The relationship between democracy and bureaucracy has generated much debate amongst scholars. Democracy is defined as a political system which supplies regular constitutional opportunities for changing the governing officials and the social mechanism which permits the largest possible part of the population to influence major decisions by choosing among political contenders for political office. Abraham Lincoln as cited in Haralambos and Holborn (1995) defines democracy as the government of the people by the people and for the people. Bureaucracy is defined by Schaefer (2003) as a component of formal organisation in which rules and hierarchal ranking are used to achieve efficiency. The focus of this discussion is to reflect to a greater extent the incompatibility that exist between democracy and bureaucracy

Democracy emanated from western countries as a movement that clamoured for equality, freedom of speech and expression. It came into being mainly after Second World War where many peoples' rights were stripped off. Democracy came to restore individual dignity and popular participation. Decision making under the banner of democracy would mean that all involved parties should have informed consent on issues that directly affected them.

Bureaucracy is a brain child of Weber who asserts that it’s an organised way of running an organisation. An organisation contains structures which should be followed in their order of importance. This means that, in decision making, relevant authorities should make decisions and in the event that they feel incapacitated to do that, they approach a higher office. There is chain of command and top down approach in communication which represents a hierarchy of authority. Haralambos and Holborn(1995), People in this hierarchy are paid and are full time officials who form a chain of command. A bureaucracy is concerned with business of administration with controlling, managing and coordinating a complex series of tasks. Bureaucracy represents oligarchy, rationality and separation of ownership from control.

Democracy and bureaucracy coexist in society but their compatibility is questionable, they seem to be two conflicting views which exist in one society. The conflict perspective theorists are of the view that bureaucracy and democracy are much incompatible. Bureaucracy is inevitably a representative of the interest of the minority which is a direct opposition of democracy, which focus on majority rule and freedom of all. Bureaucracy state apparatus can be viewed as a specific creation of capitalist society with the roles of manipulating and turning the majority into proletariats. Lenin, as cited by Haralambos and Holborn (1995), clearly puts that western parliaments where “mere talking shops” while the real work of government was conducted behind closed doors by the state governing bureaucracy therefore the state is an organ of class rule, an organ for the oppression of one class by another and hence cannot operate hand in glove with democracy.

Hopes for truly democratic organisations in a communist society can be dismissed as mere illusions. According to Robert Michels 1876-1936 as cited in Haralambos and Holborn(1995), in his study of European socialist parties and trade unions, the organisations which had the aim to overthrow the capitalist state and create a socialist society based on democratic principles was not the resemblance of what actual happened. It was a mere duplication of the capitalist bureaucracy which is not very compatible with democracy. As supported by Jonson (1989) socialist states like the former Soviet Union, the state power was used to maintain wealth, power of government and military leaders at the expense of the wishes of the people, there was basic conflict between government and the people thereby compromising on democracy. Just like in the authoritarian capitalists...

Bibliography: 1. Haralambos, M and Holborn, M (1995), Sociology: Themes and Perspectives. 4th edition. Harper Collins Publishers. London.
2. Hurd g et al (1991) Human Societies. An introduction to Sociology, Routledge and Kegan Paul .New York.
3. Jonson A, G (1981) Human Arrangements. An introduction to Sociology, Harcourt Braces Jovanovich. New York.
4. Macionis, J.J (1989) Sociology, Prentice Hall, New Jersey.
5. Schaefer, R.T (2003) Sociology, McGraw Hill, New York.
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