Meaning of Bureaucracy - Max Weber on the Rise of Bureaucracy for UPSC Mains Exam

What is Bureaucracy? Features of Max Weber's Ideal Type Bureaucracy for UPSC IAS Mains

Hello, aspirants are you preparing for UPSC Mains or APSC Mains? If yes, then you must be aware of the most important topics of Public Administration for the upcoming mains exam preparation. Therefore every aspirants of UPSC & APSC need to know which topics of Public Administration is more important than the other.

In this regard "World_Polity" decides to provide you the most important Public Administration important questions & answers for the upcoming mains exam.

This article concentrates on briefly helping you to understand the Meaning of Bureaucracy special reference to Max Weber on the Rise of Bureaucracy and the Features of Max Weber's Ideal Type Bureaucracy for the upcoming UPSC Mains as well as APSC Mains exam. The meaning of Bureaucracy and Max Weber's view on Bureaucracy are extremely important and should be a part of your preparation.

Meaning of Bureaucracy - Max Weber on the Rise of Bureaucracy for UPSC Mains Exam

Meaning of Bureaucracy

Bureaucracy has emerged as a dominant feature of the contemporary world. Virtually everywhere in public or large private organisations, developed or developing nations bureaucratic structures are a universal phenomenon. Economic, social and political life are extensively influenced by bureaucratic organisations. Indeed, even the transmission of knowledge and culture has often become bureaucratised and to the extent that the world itself is organised, its organisation is largely bureaucratic.

"Bureaucracy” is a perplexing term and has been subjected to many different definitions. It is used variously to identify an institution or a caste, a mode of operation, an ideology, a view of viewing and organising society, a way of life, a social category etc. The term bureaucracy appears to have begun its career to describe a government by officials.

The use of bureaucracy is most important as a forerunner of the widespread 20th century habit of applying the terms 'bureaucracies' or 'bureaucratic'to institutions rather than to the officials employed in them; these latter are thus called bureaucrats as much because they work in the institutions as because they are members of a social group.

It was Max Weber, a German sociologist, who gave the modern concept of bureaucracy. He never defined bureaucracy in the explicit way in which he defined “class” or 'status group'. He regarded bureaucracy as a universal social phenomenon, and the means of carrying "community action" over into rationally ordered "societal action He outlined the characteristics of the ideal type (see tater the characteristics of bureaucracy) from functional point of view. He used the word bureaucracy not to refer disparagingly to rule by officials, but to designate a quite specific kind of administrative organisation.

Max Weber on the Rise of Bureaucracy

There were bureaucracies in the past e.g. in the ancient Egyptian Roman and Chinese administrations; and in the Roman Catholic Churc since the end of the 13th century, but they where less bureacucrat limited in numbers and confined to the state and church only. With th rise of absolutism in Europe and modernization bureaucracies becam more purely bureaucratic, proliferated and penetrated much wider sphere of social life. Besides the state administrations, armies, churches, univer sities, economic enterprises and political parties also became bureaucratised Weber regards it as the result of the following causes --

1. The Creation of Money Economy :

This process occured when Europe emerged from the Middle Ages Weber does not regard it as an absolute pre-requisite because bureaucracie had existed in countries like Egypt, Rome and China even when compen sation was paid in kind. But that could not ensure dependable revenue for bureaucrats. The system of rewarding bureaucrats by grants of land and/or the collection of tax revenues from given territories in turn tende to lead to the disintegration of bureaucracies into feudal and semi-feuda domains. On the contrary, a money economy permits payment of secure regular salaries which in turn creates dependable organisations.

2. The Emergence of Capitalist Economy :

The system of free enterprise, the essence of capitalism, fostere bureaucracy. It created the needs which only bureaucratic organisation could staisfy. Capitalism requires and encourages strong and orderly governments in its own interests. This is another way of saying that capi talism requires and encourage government based on bureaucratic organisa tions. Not only governments but also capitalist enterprises themselve began to follow bureaucratic principles of organisation because of the requirements of rationality and calculability-the prime features o capitalism.

3. More Encompassing Trend Towards Rationality in Western Society :

Modern Western society experienced the growth of rationalism in many spheres. For instance it was evident in the development of Protestant ethic which encouraged hard work and self discipline. This ethic was the basis of the spirit of capitalism which called for the rational investment of time and efforts so as to maximise profits and achievements. This spirit, in turn, was one of the preconditions for the development of rational capitalism. The general trend towards rationality was also evident in other spheres like developments of science and governance. Thus Protestantism, capitalism, science and bureaucracy are all part of one cluster of developments-the process of rationalisation.

4. Democracy :

The other side of the growth of democratic institutions was opposing and helping to eliminate the traditional rule of nobles and feudal elements, and encouraging education and appointment to office on the basis of knowledge.

5. Growth of the European Population :

Population growth multiplies administrative tasks which must be coped with through larger organisations. Larger organisations on their part tend to assume bureaucratic forms.

6. Emergence of Complex Administrative Problems :

Complexity of tasks to be performed by governments gives rise to large-scale bureaucratic organisation. This is what happened in ancient Egypt, a country which had first large-scale bureaucracy in history, when it faced the complex task of constructing and regulating waterways. The newly emerged centralised states in Europe in recent times had to cope with administrative tasks unknown in the past. Not only did they have to control larger territories and populations but also they had to provide social services of a nature that no previous state had to procure before. The complexity of these tasks required expertise and effectiveness in organisation i.e. bureaucracy.

7. Modern Forms of Communication :

Modern means of communication both required and facilitated a more complex and effective type of administration, that is bureaucratic.

Weber observed that bureaucracy developed because its rationality and technical superiority made it the most appropriate tool for dealing with the tasks and problems of complex, modern society. Because of this superiority bureaucracy had to become more pervasive and it is bound to become even more so in the future.

Features of Max Weber's Ideal Type Bureaucracy

Drawing on studies of ancient bureaucracies in Egypt, Rome, China and the Byzantine Empire as well as on the more modern ones emerging in Europe during the 19th and early part of the 20th centuries, Max Weber used an ideal type' approach to extract from the empirical world the central core of features that would characterise the most fully developed bureaucratic form of organisation.

The Features of Max Weber's Ideal Type Bureaucracy are mentioned below :

(1) Each office has a well defined sphere of competence with duties clearly marked off from those of other offices.

(2) Offices are ordered in a hierarchy ; each lower office is under the supervision and responsibility of a higher one.

(3) Authority is restricted to official duties ; beyond these, subordinates are not subject to their superiors ; there is a complete segregation of official activity from private life.

(4) Officials hold office by appointment (rather than by election), and on the basis of a contractual relationship between themselves and the organisation.

(5) Officials are selected on the basis of objective qualifications these are acquired by training, established by examinations, diplomas or both.

(6) Officials are set for a career : they are protected from arbitrary dismissal and can expect to maintain office permanently ; promotion is by seniority, achievement or both.

(7) Officials are entirely separated from the means of administration, hence they cannot appropriate their positions.

(8) Activities are regulated by general, consistent, abstract rules, the generality of these rules requires the categorisation of individual cases on the basis of objective criteria.

(9) Official duties are conducted in a spirit of impersonality without hatred but also without affection.

(10) A bureaucracy frequently has a non-bureaucratic head. While bureaucrats follow rules, he sets them. While bureaucrats are appointed. he usually inherits his position, appropriates it or is elected to it.

Weber claimed that purely from a technical point of view, bureaucracy is capable of attaining the highest degree of rationality and effectiveness because of these features. It is also superior to any other type of organisation. Division of labour minimises duplication of tasks and friction. Hierarchy facilitates central planning, coordination, control and discipline. Employment on the basis of qualifications makes for a higher level of knowledge and more competent work. Rules not only save effort by standardization but also they eliminate need to find a new solution for every individual problem. They also spell calculability of results. Imperand prevents irrational action, favouritism and discrimination.

* Relevant Articles You May Like :

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* Critical Evaluation of Marxian Perspective of State 

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