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Bureaucracy

From Academic Kids

Bureaucracy is a sociological concept of government and its institutions as an organizational structure characterized by regularized procedure, division of responsibility, hierarchy, and impersonal relationships.

In modern usage, bureaucracy often equates with inefficiency, laziness, and waste. It is oftentimes characterized in the popular imagination as existing solely for itself and only achieving results which end up in enlarging the size of the bureaucracy. It is thus generally used as a pejorative word. A stereotypical red tape bureaucracy would consist of many levels of management which require many signature approvals to make any decision, no matter how trivial.

Examples of everyday bureaucracies include governments, armed forces, corporations, hospitals, courts, ministries, or schools.



Ancient


Although the term "bureaucracy" first originated in the mid-18th century, organized and consistent administrative systems existed much earlier. The development of writing (c. 3500 BC) and the use of documents was critical to the administration of this[which?] system, and the first definitive emergence of bureaucracy occurred in ancient Sumer, where an emergent class of scribes used[when?] clay tablets to administer the harvest and to allocate its spoils. Ancient Egypt also had a hereditary class of scribes that administered the civil-service bureaucracy.

A hierarchy of regional proconsuls and their deputies administered the Roman Empire.[citation needed] The reforms of Diocletian (Emperor from 284 to 305) doubled the number of administrative districts and led to a large-scale expansion of Roman bureaucracy.[22] The early Christian author Lactantius (c. 250 c. 325) claimed that Diocletian's reforms led to widespread economic stagnation, since "the provinces were divided into minute portions, and many presidents and a multitude of inferior officers lay heavy on each territory."[23] After the Empire split, the Byzantine Empire developed a notoriously complicated administrative hierarchy, and in the 20th century the term "Byzantine" came to refer to any complex bureaucratic structure.

In China, the Han dynasty (202 BC - 220 AD) established a complicated bureaucracy based on the teachings of Confucius, who emphasized the importance of ritual in a family, in relationships, and in politics.[26] With each subsequent dynasty, the bureaucracy evolved. When the Qin dynasty (221206 BC) unified China under the Legalist system, the emperor assigned administration to dedicated officials rather than nobility, ending feudalism in China, replacing it with a centralized, bureaucratic government. The form of government created by the first emperor and his advisors was used by later dynasties to structure their own government.[27][28] Under this system, the government thrived, as talented individuals could be more easily identified in the transformed society. In 165 BC, Emperor Wen introduced the first method of recruitment to civil service through examinations, while Emperor Wu (r. 14187 BC), cemented the ideology of Confucius into mainstream governance installed a system of recommendation and nomination in government service known as xiaolian, and a national academy whereby officials would select candidates to take part in an examination of the Confucian classics, from which Emperor Wu would select officials.[32] In the Sui dynasty (581618) and the subsequent Tang dynasty (618907) the shi class would begin to present itself by means of the fully standardized civil service examination system, of partial recruitment of those who passed standard exams and earned an official degree. Yet recruitment by recommendations to office was still prominent in both dynasties. It was not until the Song dynasty (9601279) that the recruitment of those who passed the exams and earned degrees was given greater emphasis and significantly expanded.[33] During the Song dynasty (9601279) the bureaucracy became meritocratic. Following the Song reforms, competitive examinations took place to determine which candidates qualified to hold given positions.[34] The imperial examination system lasted until 1905, six years before the Qing dynasty collapsed, marking the end of China's traditional bureaucratic system.

Max Weber on bureaucracy

Max Weber has probably been one of the most influential users of the word in its social science sense. He is well-known for his study of bureaucratization of society; many aspects of modern public administration go back to him; a classic, hierarchically organized civil service of the continental type is—if basically mistakenly—called "Weberian civil service".

However, contrary to popular belief, "bureaucracy" was an English word before Weber; the Oxford English Dictionary cites usage in several different years between 1818 and 1860, prior to Weber's birth in 1864. The term can characterize either governmental or nongovernmental organizations and comes from the French word bureaucratie, from bureau "office, desk" and the greek suffix -kratia "power". It was first used by 18th century French economist Jean Claude Marie Vincent de Gournay (1712-1759).

Weber described the ideal type bureaucracy in positive terms, considering it to be a more rational and efficient form of organization than the alternatives that preceded it, which he characterized as charismatic domination and traditional domination. According to his terminology, bureaucracy is part of legal domination. However, he also emphasized that bureaucracy becomes inefficient when a decision must be adopted to an individual case.

According to Weber, the attributes of modern bureaucracy include its impersonality, concentration of the means of administration, a leveling effect on social and economic differences and implementation of a system of authority that is practically indestructible.

Weber's analysis of bureaucracy concerns:

A bureaucratic organization is governed by the following seven principles:

  1. official business is conducted on a continuous basis
  2. official business is conducted with strict accordance to the following rules:
    1. the duty of each official to do certain types of work is delimited in terms of impersonal criteria
    2. the official is given the authority necessary to carry out his assigned functions
    3. the means of coercion at his disposal are strictly limited and conditions of their use strictly defined
  3. every official's responsibilities and authority are part of a vertical hierarchy of authority, with respective rights of supervision and appeal
  4. officials do not own the resources necessary for the performance of their assigned functions but are accountable for their use of these resources
  5. official and private business and income are strictly separated
  6. offices cannot be appropriated by their incumbents (inherited, sold, etc.).
  7. official business is conducted on the basis of written documents

A bureaucratic official:

  • is personally free and appointed to his position on the basis of conduct
  • he exercises the authority delegated to him in accordance with impersonal rules, and his loyalty is enlisted on behalf of the faithful execution of his official duties
  • his appointment and job placement are dependent upon his technical qualifications
  • his administrative work is a full-time occupation
  • his work is rewarded by a regular salary and prospects of advancement in a lifetime career

An official must exercise his judgment and his skills, but his duty is to place these at the service of a higher authority; ultimately he is responsible only for the impartial execution of assigned tasks and must sacrifice his personal judgment if it runs counter to his official duties.

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