We explain what bureaucracy is and its main characteristics. In addition, its objectives, disadvantages, and what is a bureaucratic state.
What is bureaucracy?
Bureaucracy is a mode of organization whose function is to establish order, through the division of labor and a strict chain of command in which hierarchical control is exercised.
The bureaucratic order responds to a system of laws or norms that govern its performance in an impersonal and rational way, that is, with the same logical criteria in all processes and for all individuals. It allows administering and managing both the public institutions of a nation and private organizations .
The word bureaucracy comes from the French bureau which means “desk” and cratie which means “power” or “government”. It alludes to the absolute power exercised by the king from his desk during the monarchies of the 18th century. Today, the term refers to a broader mode of administration and management.
The German economist and sociologist Max Weber designated the term bureaucracy to define the mode of rational organization that allows managing the means and resources of every company , institution and State .
Weber also recognizes that bureaucracy as a type of government can present problems due to the rigid formality and the number of instances that each task or process requires, which is why creative strategies are needed as a complement.
Weber’s theory proposes that, to achieve the maximum efficiency of the company or entity, the bureaucratic organization must aim to satisfy or solve a social problem and, by extension, also satisfy those of the company or entity.
Characteristics of the bureaucracy
Bureaucracy is a mode of organization characterized by:
- The hierarchy of authority , in which one only makes the decisions that the rest of the ranks of authority obey and enforce.
- Relationships between individuals are impersonal in which everyone receives the same treatment and in which the same rights and norms fall.
- Formal channels are used for internal communication of the organization.
- The formality of the rules and regulations , which can be in writing, and which are strictly respected in each process of the organization.
- Work processes are routine and standardized , that is, they are carried out according to certain work patterns and always in the same way.
- The organization’s performance forecast , due to standardized processes and the division of work of the personnel.
- The concentration of administrative means in government processes. A bureaucratically organized state allows political domination.
Objectives of the bureaucracy
The bureaucracy seeks, through routine and standardized processes, to optimize resources.
The bureaucratic organization system has as main objectives:
- Forecast the performance of the organization. Through the rational division of the workers’ tasks, the productive capacity can be projected, in addition to thinking about proposals to optimize or expand it.
- Achieve greater efficiency . Through routine and standardized processes, human and material resources can be optimized . It is a way to obtain maximum performance, superior to any other mode of stability or discipline.
The bureaucratic state can become authoritarian in the face of abuse of political control.
A bureaucratic state can function in two ways:
- As an instrument of public administration . It favors society through rational and standardized management through interrelated departments and specialized areas.
- As a form of political domination. It can allow perpetuating control of a ruling party . In that case it is considered an authoritarian bureaucratic state.
Disadvantages of bureaucracy
Today there is no single model of bureaucracy as Weber put it, in which people work at the pace of robots: predictably and systematically.
Among the general disadvantages to Weber’s bureaucratic theory are:
- The slowness in the resolution of a task , due to the series of processes that requires its resolution, which does not allow managing urgent matters.
- The lack of flexibility for decision-making by not being able to get out of the established rules, which makes it difficult to solve unforeseen problems.
- The power exercised by the highest rank in the hierarchy does not allow taking into account the opinions of the rest or those who think differently.
- The lack of self-criticism or continuous improvement in order to optimize the bureaucratic system itself, due to the fact that it always remains under the same rules and the standard management mode.
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