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Main Dictionary B


Bureaucracy is a special form of human activity, which transforms the function of social systems management in evident or hidden power of individuals or social groups as self-sufficient, self-secured social forces (subjects) in social interactions. Bureaucracy is a specific form of arrangements of social organizations in society, the nature of which is the separation of executive power structures from the will of the majority of organization members, in the subordination of the rules and the tasks of the organization functioning to the aims of its preservation and strengthening.

How Bureaucracy works

The process of bureaucracy is criticized and is associated with redundancy, arbitrariness, and inefficiency. People often associate bureaucrat, bureaucratic, and bureaucracy in a negative way. For example, a bureaucrat refers to a government official and a bureaucracy following, which is more important than efficiency or the ability to make an impossible thing real.

From a neutral point of view, bureaucracy comes from the will to manage organizations within a rigid boundary of formality to maintain order. The most important thing in bureaucracy is simplification or replacement of individual decisions through hierarchical procedures.

The bureaucrat makes assumptions about the organization and its processes. For example, an organization can't rely on an open system of operations, which is too complex, so a closed and rational system is used. The most important thing in bureaucracy is the correctness of procedures.

Examples of Bureaucracy

Any organization (governments, workspaces, schools) with a hierarchical structure where people take positions based on skills and accomplishments is an example of a bureaucracy.

An article in the Harvard Business Review presents a government or private business bureaucracy as an organization WITH the decision-making POWER, but not the decision-making. James L. Heskett says that bureaucracies are not designed to deliberate or think. The article's statements claim that bureaucracies are too often focused on themselves and on expanding the power and influence of the people who head them.

Some of the article's authors defend the bureaucracy's role because they have experienced working in government institutions. At the same time, they agree that bureaucracy reform can increase the decision makers' autonomy. Others refer to the effectiveness of the U.S. government bureaucracy during the recovery from the Great Depression, when a provision for the separation of commercial and investment banks and social programs were created in 1933. This is the Glass-Steagall provision created as part of the New Deal (an idea of President Franklin D. Roosevelt).

The origins of Bureaucracy

The idea of bureaucracy came from the Han dynasty in China, but the modern understanding of the idea goes back to 18th century France.

The word "bureaucracy" was first used officially after the French Revolution. From France, the concept and the word itself spread around the world. The word "bureaucracy" is mixed, coming from the French word “bureau” (desk or office) and the Greek word “kratein” (to rule). Freely translated, it means to manage through a desk or from an office.

Max Weber, the German Sociologist, was one of the first to use the term and to expand its influence in the 19th century. He saw bureaucracy as the basis of capitalism, because it allowed organizations to continue operating even when individuals came and left. His description of bureaucracy had a positive (idealized) sense. His ideal bureaucracy should clearly define the roles of involved individuals and help to focus on administrative goals, to be efficient and rational.

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