Criticism of Weberian Bureaucratic Theory
One critique was Weber's claim that bureacratic organizations were based
on rational-legal authority. Parsons (1947) and Gouldner (1954) note that
Weber said authority rests both in the "legal incumbancy of office"
and on "technical competence". This works if superiors have more
knowledge and skill, but often this is not the case.
Thompson notes that in modern organizations authority is centralized but
ability is decentralized (Thompson 1961). In fact staff-line distictions
seem to be a structural resolution of this authority-ability quandary that
Weber also doesn't distinguish between definitions and propositions in his
model. His list of distinguishing characteristics are linked between each
Udy (1959) found in examining 150 organizations and found no correlation
between the bureaucratic attributes of the organization and it's rational
More recent theorists think that earlier theorists misread Weber and distorted
his views. Weber was defining a formal rationality that was not necessarily
optimal for efficiency. He realized that formalization could degenerate
into formalism, and that bureaucratic forms concentrated power at the top
and could cause an "iron cage" to imprison the low-level worker
in obscurity and monotonous detail.