Weber, Max., "Bureauacracy", In From Max Weber, eds. Hans Gerth and C. Wright Mills, 196-244. New York: Oxford University Press, 1946.


Characteristics of Bureaucracy

1. Fixed jurisdictional areas, ordered by rules and regulations

2. Regular activities required for the purposes of bureaucracy are distributed as official duties

3. Authority to give commands required for discharge of these duties is distributed in a stable way

4. Procedure is present for the regular and continuous fulfillment of these duities (i.e., a replacement plan for each position), and only persons qualified are employed.

There is supervision of lower offices by higher ones. The management of the office is based upon written documents, "files". The office property is not private property.

Office management presupposes training. And the official duties of the office take up all the person's time (private time is not part of work time). The office operates on rules that can be learned. Office holding is not a reason to extort monies from others (as was in past history). "Entrance into an office...is considered an acceptance of a specific obligation of faithful management in return for a secure existence".

The bureaucrat is paid a salary plus a pension based on his position in the hierarchy. His career is normally from lower to higher positions.

 

History of Bureaucracies

The development of a money economy is a presupposition for a bureacracy. There have been many great bureaucracies in history (from Egypt to the Catholic Church). Over time the compensation practices for officials developed from various payment-in-kind schemes to a fixed salary paid in currency.

In the governmental world steady income can only be assured with a money economy.

Administrative tasks grew from the political organizations created throughout history. The development of cohesive "states" in the Middle Ages coincide with the development of sophisitcated bureaucracies.

In the past, the "bureaucratic tendency has chiefly been invludenced by needs arisng from the cration of standing armies as determined by power politics and by the development of public finance connected with the military establishment."

 

Technical advantages to the Bureaucratic Organization

The bureaucratic organization is technically superior to all other forms of organization. It is like a machine compared to non-mechanical modes of production. The bureucracies of modern capitalist firms are the best models of bureaucracies.

Leveling of Social Differences

"Bureaucratic organization has usually come into power on the basis of a leveling of economic and social differences", especially with democracy.

Permanent Character of the Bureaucratic Machine

"Once it is fully established, bureaucracy is among those social structures which are the hardest to destroy. " More and more the material fate of the masses depends upon the steady and correct functioning of the increasingly bureaucratic organizations of private companies".

Economic and Social Consequences of Bureaucracy

"...the bureaucratic organization is technically the most highly developed means of power in the hands of the man who controls it..."

Bureucracies seem to try to keep the superiority of professionally informed by keeping their knowledge secret. "The concept of the "official secret" is the specific invention of bureaucracy"

Finally, Weber said that "bureaucracy has a "rational" character: rules, means, ends, and matter-of-factness dominate its bearing".