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Max Weber and Bureaucracy

Max Weber is one of the foremost social historians and political economists of the 20th century and is considered to be one of the main architects of modern social science. [Stanford,2012] He was born in Refuter ,Prussia (now Germany) and lived from 1864 to In late sass companies and organizations were getting larger and more complex everyday and they were devising large specialized units within them thus managing these organizations was hard.

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Weber suggested that they would need to adopt a new way of administration and also a more efficient ay of hiring people in order to allocate them to specific roles according to their expertise and knowledge. Thus he devised a new theory based on bureaucracy. Bureaucracy simply states that people should be expected to follow certain rules and procedures rather than their personal preferences in order to bring order to managerial systems and to simplify the task of managing large corporations.

It also explains that the best way to choose people for certain roles is based on their knowledge, as mentioned by Weber in his book Economy and Society : “bureaucratic administration means fundamentally domination through knowledge. ” [Seedbeds, 2005] Weeper’s theory of bureaucracy is one of the most famous parts of his ideology.

He believed that bureaucracy is the most efficient way of organizing human activity and is essential to the modern world : “Experience tends to show that the purely bureaucratic type of administration is, from a purely technical point of view, capable of attaining the highest degree of efficiency and is the most rational known means of carrying out imperative control over human beings. ” [Denary,2010] A bureaucratic yester has some defined features: 1- Certain Rules: It has certain rules and regulations and people in the system are expected to follow in order to have stability. – Hierarchical Structure: It is organized as a hierarchy with people having different levels of authority. 3- Documentation: Undertaking actions should be based on written documents and all the documents should be kept for further use or reference. 4- Rationality: Officials and managers within the system should devote their logic and scientific knowledge to the decisions they make so that all the objectives can be achieved at the end. – Defined Roles: There are specialized and defined roles in the system so that division of labor is in place. – Specialization: Special training is required for individuals in order to allocate them to appropriate roles which suit their abilities and expertise. This theory is essentially based on ratification of tasks and a hierarchy that will consequently result in more stability and control as people within a bureaucratic system will become committed to the system. The reason behind it is that they can see a predictable way to higher levels of the hierarchy over time. It also requires rigorous documentation.

Therefore, we can conclude it is an internal process model in the Quinn Competing Values framework which sets consolidation and continuity as final targets for the managerial system which adopts it. Although Weber suggested the theory of bureaucracy as the most efficient way of organizing people for achieving set goals, but he also warned that bureaucracy can impose a threat to practitioners and politicians. There has since been a long discussion regarding the efficiency and downsides of bureaucracy theory.

Some people argue that reassurance comes in the way of creativity, hinders motivation and results in people being dissatisfied with their roles. Others, on the other hand, say that it brings fairness and certainty to the workplace, makes work more effective and gives people motivation to work harder. Adler and Boors (1996) studied workflow formalization of bureaucracy in companies such as Ford, Toyota and Xerox in order to find a fair answer to the effectiveness of bureaucracy theory.

They concluded that there can be 2 types of bureaucracy depending on how it is maintained: 1- Enabling: it is signed by the help of employees and is set to enable employees to master their tasks thus it can be positive and motivating for people 2- Coercive: it is forced onto employees by their managers in order to make them work harder and more efficiently but it results in people being unhappy with what they do and has negative effects [Body,2012] Nowadays many businesses (such as retail banks, airlines, etc. , government departments and healthcare organizations are structured on the basis of bureaucracy to some extent, although there are differences between what we see in reactive today and what Weber had in mind. It is interesting to see how Weber addressed a usual ‘office’ as we are familiar with today: “The combination of written documents and a continuous operation by officials constitutes the ‘office’ (Bureau) which is the central focus of all the types of modern organized action. [Seedbeds, 2005] Overall bureaucracy has both advantages and disadvantages and is not a perfect model for managing people but if it is used in an appropriate way it can be of great help to bring order and consolidation to the managerial system.


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