Bureaucracy (20TH CENTURY)

Theory of organization in modern society, developed in particular by the German sociologist Max Weber (1864-1920).

Bureaucracy is the characteristic form of organization in modern society, not only in its government but in commerce and social institutions. Responsibility is vested in full-time officials whose livelihood is derived from their salaries and who are appointed on merit.

Bureaucracy works with written records, regular procedures, and accumulated precedent. It involves clear hierarchies of responsibility and command which enable the resources of an institution to be applied with maximum effect.

Also see: theory of the firm, theory of the growth of the firm, organization theory

The term bureaucracy (/bjʊəˈrɒkrəsi/) may refer both to a body of non-elected governing officials and to an administrative policy-making group.[1] Historically,[when?] a bureaucracy was a government administration managed by departments staffed with non-elected officials.[2] Today, bureaucracy is the administrative system governing any large institution, whether publicly owned or privately owned.[3][4][5][6][7][8][9] The public administration in many jurisdictions and sub-jurisdictions exemplifies bureaucracy, but so does the centralized hierarchical structure of a business firm.

Bureaucracy in a political theory is mainly[quantify] a centralized form of management and tends to be differentiated[by whom?] from adhocracy, in which management tends more to decentralization.

Various commentators have noted the necessity of bureaucracies in modern society. The German sociologist Max Weber (1864-1920) argued that bureaucracy constitutes the most efficient and rational way in which human activity can be organized and that systematic processes and organized hierarchies are necessary to maintain order, to maximize efficiency, and to eliminate favoritism. On the other hand, Weber also saw unfettered bureaucracy as a threat to individual freedom, with the potential of trapping individuals in an impersonal “iron cage” of rule-based, rational control.[10][11]

Modern bureaucracy has been defined[by whom?] as comprising four features:[12]

  • hierarchy (clearly defined spheres of competence and divisions of labor)
  • continuity (a structure where administrators have a full-time salary and advance within the structure)
  • impersonality (prescribed rules and operating rules rather than arbitrary actions)
  • expertise (officials are chosen according to merit, have been trained, and hold access to knowledge)

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