Sample Material of Public Administration Study Kit
CHAPTER – Bureaucratic Theory (Paper I)
- Origin of the Term
- Bureaucracy: Meaning
- Forms of Bureaucracy
- Type of Bureaucracy
- Max Weber and the Concept of Bureaucracy
- Origin of Bureaucracy
- Theory of Domination
- Ideal Type
- Rational type of bureaucracy -main characteristic features
- A Critical review of Webrian Concept of Bureaucracy
- Post-Weberian Development
Origin of the Term
The term bureaucracy is derived from the Latin term ‘bureau’.
Bureau means writing table of desk. In French “la Bure’ means a cloth used on
tables of public authorities. From table cloth, the table covered by cloth got
the name ‘bureau’. Later ‘bureau’ began to be used for the office room where
table is kept. Thus by 18th century the term began to be used to refer to a
place where officials work. The suffix ‘cratic’ is derived from the Greek word
which means ‘rule’. Thus ‘bureaucracy’, refers to rule of officials.
It was a Frenchman de Gournay, who first coined the term
‘Bureaucracy’ in the middle of the 18th century. He wrote, “We have an illness
in France which bids fair to play have with us; this illness is called
bureaumania.” It seems that do Gournay used the term in a criticizing tone. This
is evident when he said that “officials are not appointed to perform public
interests, but public interest is established so that offices might exist.” The
important conceptual innovation by de Gournay’s was identification of a group of
rulers and methods of governing.
In Germany the word ‘bureaucracy’ was called ‘burokratic’: In
Germany it was defined as “The authority or power which various government
departments and their branches arrogate to themselves over fellow citizens.” In
Italy the dictionary meaning was “neologism’, signifying the power of officials
in Public Administration.
J. S. Mill used the term bureaucracy to denote the
professional governors of the government in a society. To Laski bureaucracy is
rule of the officials in a system of government. Herman Finer also described
bureaucracy as rule by officials. Mosca described bureaucracy as one class of
ruling elites whose rule is absolute. Michels has expanded the concept of
bureaucracy to include salaried professionals in government and non-government
and non-governmental agencies such as political parties. Marshall E. Dimock
identified bureaucracy with institutions and large scale organizations in
society. John A. Vieg says that its means ‘desk government’ or management by
bureaus’. For Prof. Chales Hyneman, bureaucracy is big organisation. Another
definition of bureaucracy is that it is “a hierarchical organisation of
officials appointed to carry out certain public objectives.”
Martin Albrow made a good study of bureaucracy and traced the coinage of the
term since 18th century and noted that its definition falls under seven
1. rational organisation;
2. organizational inefficiency;
3. rule of officials;
4. public administration;
5. administration by officials;
6. an organisation form characterized by such qualities as hierarchy and rules
7. an essential quality of modern society.
Forms of Bureaucracy
The term ‘bureaucracy’ is being used with different meanings
to signify different things. Bureaucracy, however, was originally conceived as a
negative or perverse concept. It was Max Weber, a German Sociologist, who gave
it a respectable and positive implication. The term bureaucracy is used in the
following different terms:
1. Bureaucracy as a Form of Government: Aristotle when
considering his three type of constitution-Kingship, Aristocracy and Policy
suggested that each had its deviation or corrupted forms, among which he
included Tyranny, Oligarchy and Democracy. No dubt bureaucracy as a system of
government would in such a scheme be included Tyranny, Oligarchy and Democracy.
No doubt bureaucracy as a system of government would in such a scheme be
included as a corruption of aristocracy.
2. Bureaucracy as Form of Organisation: The scholars like Pfiffner, E.
N. Gladden and Max Weber used the term in this sense.
3. Bureaucracy as a Big Government: Where large scale enterprises
exists, there bureaucracy will be found. Chales Hyneman observes that
bureaucracy is a big organisation.
4. Bureaucracy as an Ideal Construct: Max Weber regarded bureaucracy
as a universal social phenomenon and the means of carrying ‘community action’
over into rationally ordered ‘social action’. He outlined the characteristics of
the ‘ideal type’ from functional point of view.
5. Bureaucracy as a Rational System of Working: In administration
rationality means cost-effectiveness, productivity and efficiency. Peter Blau,
believes that bureaucracy as an organisation maximizes efficiency in
6. Bureaucracy as an Ailment of Organisation: According to Harold J.
Laski, Bureaucracy is the term usually applied to a system of government the
control of which is so completely in the hands of officials that their power
jeopardizes the liberties of ordinary citizens.
Bureaucracy would mean bureau rule, much as autocrat means
the rule by the despot and democracy the rule of the people. According to Garl
J. Friederick, “Bureaucracy is a form of organisation marked by hierarchy,
specialization of roles and a high level of competence displayed by incumbents
trained to feel these roles.” F. Morstein Marx defines as “the type of
organisation called bureaucratic in this widely used sense has several
unmistakable characteristics. They included as principal factors hierarchy,
jurisdiction, specialization, professional training, fixed compensation n and
Type of Bureaucracy
Broadly, the bureaucracy is categorized into four types of Morstein Marx,
1. The Guardian Bureaucracy;
2. The Caste Bureaucracy;
3. The Patronage Bureaucracy; and
4. Merit Bureaucracy.
1. The Guardian Bureaucracy: Plato’s concept of the
philosopher king is an example of the guardian bureaucracy. They were considered
the custodians of justice and welfare of the community. This type may be defined
as “a scholastic officialdom trained in right conduct according to the
classics.” These guardians were expected to develop a moral fortitude and they
can exert influence upon the exercise of power subject to righteousness. Such in
Prussia between 1640 and 1740 A.D.
2. Caste Bureaucracy: Caste bureaucracy is generally
found in oligarchical political systems. Under such system only persons
belonging to higher castes can become public officials. For example, in ancient
India, only Brahmins and Kshatriyas could become higher officials. In England,
for example, aristocratic classes were preferred to the civil service position.
The civil services during the early Roman Empire, Japanese civil services in
1950’s are a few example of the caste bureaucracy.
3. Patronage Bureaucracy: This type of bureaucracy is
also called ‘spoils system’. Under this system, the protégés of the politicians
are nominated to the civil services. The public jobs are distributed as personal
or political favours to their supporters. The U.S.A. has been the traditional
home of the spoils system, though patronage had full sway even in the U.K. till
the middle of the 19th Century. Under the spoils system in the U.S.A. each
administration has a fee to hire and fire virtually all federal workers: “To the
victor, the spoils.”
4. Merit Bureaucracy: The object of merit bureaucracy
is to recruit the best man for the public service, his merit being judged by
objective standards. In this bureaucracy recruitment is based on qualifications
and governed by competitive examination.
Historically, it has been observed that bureaucracy antedates
development administration and does not fit in with the requirements of
modernization. Conservatism rather than change is the essence of bureaucracy.
Culturally also, as the critics have maintained, the bureaucratic from of
organisation does not suit the needs of the traditional societies that are
currently going through a process of change. Bureaucracy has also been critised
as urban oriented and elitist in nature and unrelated to the needs of rural
areas where most of the people of the developing countries live.
In brief, it is argued that bureaucracy is an ailment of
organisation. It is unresponsive to popular demands and desires; undue
formalism, self aggrandizement, empire building et. Are some of its negative
features. Red tape, delay, buck-passing, pigeon holding, indecision, etc. are
forms of administrative inefficiency and identified as bureaucratic
Max Weber and the Concept of Bureaucracy
Origin of Bureaucracy: Weber has examined the reasons for the
rise of bureaucracy in the modern state. According to him, the system of free
enterprise and money economy, the essence of capitalism, fostered bureaucracy.
In the face of fierce economic competition, capitalist enterprises needed a
highly efficient organizational form. Capitalism requires and encourages strong
and orderly governments in its own interest. The bureaucratic principles gave
the enterprises the capacity to accomplish economic planning to maintain a
stable market for goods and services. It was on the demand of the capitalist
enterprises that corporate principles of administration were soon transferred to
public agencies. Weber observes, “The capitalistic system has undeniably played
a major role in the development of bureaucracy. Indeed, without it capitalistic
production could not continue…. Its development, largely under capitalistic
auspices, has created and urgent need for stable, strict, intensive and
calculative administration. It is this need which gives bureaucracy a crucial
role in our society as the central element in any kind for large-scale
administration.” Weber further observes, “Capitalism is the most rational
economic basic for bureaucratic administration and enables it to develop in the
most rational form, especially because, from a fiscal point of view, it supplies
the necessary money resources.”
Theory of Domination: Weber’s theory of bureaucracy is a part
of his theory of domination. Domination means the authoritarian power of
command. In other words, he raised the question as to how one person exercises
power over others. His answer was that the exercise of power becomes acceptable
if it is justified or legitimized. Legitimation in one way leads to one type of
domination; legitimation is another way leads to one type. He thus laid down
three types of detonation: (i) traditional, (ii) charismatic domination, and
(iii) legal nomination. The conformity with customs and personal arbitrariness
are two characteristics of traditional domination. Charism and its acceptance
forms of basis of charismatic domination. In a legal rational domination,
obedience is owed to the legally established impersonal rules. Legal domination
is based upon belief in the desirability of rational principles. Legal
domination is best exemplified by bureaucracy. The position of the bureaucrat,
his relations with the ruler, the ruled and his colleagues are regulated by
Drawing on studies of ancient bureaucracies in Egypt, Rome,
China and the Byzantine empire as well as on the more modern ones emerging in
Europe during the 19th and early part of the 20th centuries, Max Weber
formulated an ‘ideal type’ model of a bureaucratic form of organisation. Weber
wanted to construct an ‘ideal type’ or a mental map of a fully developed
bureaucracy. The ‘ideal type’ is a metal construct that cannot be found in
reality. It is an abstraction, an idea or a mode. He constructed an ‘ideal’ type
of bureaucracy that he felt ought to be followed in modern state system.
Thus, in Weberian analysis, bureaucracy is not to be confused with the civil
services. It refers to the sociological concept of rationalization of collective
activities. It describes a form or design of organisation which assures
predictability of the behaviour of employees.
According to Weber, “Bureaucracy is by far the most efficient
instrument of large scale administration which has ever been developed and the
modern social order has become over-whelming dependent on it.” He maintained
that a purely bureaucratic type of administrative organisation was capable of
attaining the highest level of efficiency. He further writes, “This type of
organisation is in principle applicable with equal facility to a wide variety of
different fields. It may be applied in profit making business or in charitable
organisations, or in any number of other types of private enterprises services
ideal or material ends. It is equally applicable to political and to religious
organisations. With varying degrees of approximation to a pure type, its
historical existence can be demonstrated in all these fields.”
Thus Weber contributed a rational type of bureaucracy having the following
main characteristic features:
1. Division of Labour: The total task of the organisation is broken down into
a number of specialized functions.
2. Well Defined Authority: Hierarchy: Hierarchy is the second
fundamental characteristic which is found in a pure bureaucracy. There is a
separation between superior and subordinate offices, i.e., each lower office is
under the control and supervision of a higher one. Weber attaches greater
importance to the principle of hierarchy and observes, “the organisation of
offices follows the principle of hierarchy, that is, each lower office is under
the control and supervision of a higher one.
3. Abstract Rules: Bureaucracy operates in accordance with
the rules. These rules operate only in relation to the official job of an office
holder. The role of rules has been stressed by Weber so that personal favours,
arbitrariness, grace or gratitude may not hinder the working of an organisation.
4. Impersonality: A bureaucratic from of organisation does not entertain
irrational sentiments. Officials are expected to carryout their duties without
allowing themselves to be influenced by their personal likes and dislikes.
5. Monthly Salary and Pension Right: Officials hold office by
appointment and on the basis of a contractual relationship between themselves
and the organisation. Then there are fixed salaries which are given in
accordance with the nature of the job and responsibility as well as the social
status. In addition, there are chances of promotion and career advancement on
the basis of seniority and merit.
6. Official Records: One important feature of Weberian bureaucracy is that
“the administrative acts, decision and rules are formulated and recorded in
writing even in cases where oral discussion is the rule or is even mandatory.
These above mentioned features constitute Max Weber’s ideal,
pure or rational type of bureaucracy. At the hands of Weber, bureaucracy emerged
as neutral, hierarchical, organized, efficient and inevitable in contemporary
society. This was ‘idea type’ bureaucracy. In fact the ideal type is never
actualized. The characteristics of bureaucracy were precision, continuity,
discipline, strictness and reliability. These characteristics made it
technically the most efficient form of organisation. Max Weber had defined
bureaucracy in terms of its structural characteristics.
A Critical review of Webrian Concept of Bureaucracy
1. Ideal Type is a mental model: Weber wanted to construct
and ‘ideal type or a mental picture of a ‘fully well developed’ bureaucracy. The
ideal type of a mental model that cannot be found in reality. It is a concept
conveying an image or an Idea.
2. Authoritarian norms have been embodied: According to Car
J. Friederich highly authoritarian ‘norms’ have been embodied in Weberian
terminology. It seems to the author that Weber’s fully developed bureaucracy is
most nearly represented by three modern organisation: (1) an army, (2) a
business concern without any sort of employee or labour participation in
management, (3) totalitarian party and its bureaucratic administration.
3. Dysfunctional aspects of bureaucracy: Bureaucracy has also
been viewed from the perspective of the ‘pathological’ or ‘dysfunctional’
aspects of its behaviour including show-news, ponderousness, routine and
complication so procedures, causing frustrations to the member, clients or
subjects of administrative organisation.
4. Alienation of individual: Weberian bureaucracy has been
labeled as impersonal, based on rules and procedures. According to Meyers,
“Employees participation in these organisation are characterized as feeling
alienated an personally unfulfilled because of the limitations which the
organisation’s efficiency place on their tree and creative participation in the
5. Anti-democratic: Weberian model of bureaucracy is opposed
to democracy. Weber recognized that bureaucracy concentrates power in the hands
of those who are in charge of bureaucratic machinery and that such a
concentration of power is against the basic premises of democracy.
6. Ignores informal relationships: Weber’s model is confined to the stuffy of
formal bureaucratic structure only. It fails to take notice of the informal
relationships, informal norms values in the organisations.
7. Misfit for transformation of societies: The bureaucratic form of
organisation has been quite useful at a certain point of time in history. But
its capacity for adaptation to change is, however, rather low.
Simon and March observe that Weberian ideal type would not
attain maximum efficiency as it emphasizes more on the structure of the
bureaucracy than on the human beings who personify it. La Palombara points out
that, “a bureaucracy heavily encumbered by Weberian derived norms may be a less
efficacious instrument of economic change.” Robert Merton and other sociologists
have questioned the rationality of the legal rational model of Weber for it also
produces certain dysfunctional consequences. Phillip Selznick, pointing to the
division of functions in an organisation, shows how sub-units set up goals of
their own which may conflict with the purpose of the organisation as a whole.
In the light of these criticisms in the early 1960’s the
demise of bureaucratic types of organisations was predicted. Warren G. Bennis
had observed, “This form of organisation (bureaucracy) is becoming less and less
effective, it is hopelessly out of joint with contemporary realities, and …. New
shapes, patterns and models—currently recessive are emerging which promise
drastic changes in the conduct of the corporation and managerial.” The vacuum
created by the eclipse of bureaucracy, according to Bennis, will be filled up by
temporary work system which will be more adaptive to rapid social changes.
For Full Material Purchase