(redirected from Bureacracy)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Legal, Encyclopedia.


The set of government employees who write, implement, and enforce regulations set under their purview by appropriate legislation. Examples of bureaucratic organizations in the United States include the IRS, the Department of Justice, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Max Weber argued that bureaucrats have no interests of their own, and that their incentives are identical to those of the state. Karl Marx, on the other hand, believed that bureaucrats protect themselves and their own positions ahead of the state. The term can have a negative connotation depending on its use.


a structured ORGANIZATION formed to achieve specified goals. The term is commonly used in a pejorative sense to refer to those organizations which appear to have an excessive number of levels in the HIERARCHY, where job roles are narrow and sharply defined and where rules are rigidly adhered to, whatever the circumstances.

As developed by German sociologist Max Weber (1864-1920), however, the term is used to apply to all organizations which include the following features: clearly defined jobs; a hierarchy; a set of rules to govern operations; employees who are appointed (not elected) to posts which constitute their main occupation; and a system of promotion. In Weber's view personal emotions should not enter into the running of the bureaucracy. Weber viewed the bureaucratic organization as a distinctive feature of the modern world. In contrast to traditional societies, the bureaucracy involved a clear separation of home and work life.

In his writing on bureaucracy Weber pioneered the analytical device of the ‘ideal type’ as a means of identifying the essential features of a phenomenon. The features outlined above constitute the essential features that are present to a greater or lesser extent in bureaucracies. The notion of ideal type has no evaluation or prescriptive connotations.

Subsequent research has questioned Weber's contention that the bureaucracy is a highly efficient form of organization. The emphasis on following the rules can deflect employees' attention from the efficient or effective production of goods and services (see GOAL DISPLACEMENT).

American sociologist Alvin Gouldner (1920 – 80) identified three types of bureaucracy in terms of the function and observance of rules:

  1. mock bureaucracy, where rules are imposed from outside the organization, e.g. by legislation, and where all or most employees, including managers, evade or ignore them;
  2. representative bureaucracy, where rules are supported by all organization members, and hence are willingly obeyed;
  3. punishment-centred bureaucracy where rules are enforced by one group upon another in the organization, using punishments to achieve compliance. This approach can lead to CONFLICT.
References in periodicals archive ?
We're unconvinced licensing would raise standards - it would just impose more bureacracy.
But Sixth Judicial Circuit Public Defender Bob Dillinger testified against that proposal, asking for more time to let the unified court model work without "creating another bureacracy.
The changing ownership of UK companies to reward the payroll, not just the directors, can help eradicate the bureacracy and lack of prospects currently concerning employees.
9] The simplistic ahistorical notion that indigenous customs were immutable and legally and ethically questionable was superceded in subsequent debate in the colonial bureacracy (see Fenbury 1978:124-5) but no progress was made toward the judicial rationalisation of custom.
When asked about the culture shock of leaving the rather free-wheeling private sector for the heart of the federal government bureacracy, she replies that she's spent far more of her time working with bureaucracies than most people think.
The most discomforting thing about being a critic of the bureacracy is the company in which one finds oneself, notably the businessman who, convinced that the government machinery is operated by people whose IQ is just above dribbling, comes to Washington armed with some hackneyed maxims to set things straight.
but are less enthusiastic when the price is more elections, more levels of decision-making and bureacracy and the Lib Dem promise-or threat-to introduce a local income tax.
Now that dead hand of bureacracy has been lifted from all kinds of workers seeking opportunities across the EU, while keeping safeguards against the feared flood of cheap labour from new member states.
They are looking to work on a lot of projects in built-up and outlying areas ( the problem is funding, and getting decisions through the bureacracy.
First, we should waste less money on bureacracy and give headteachers greater flexibility on how to spend their budgets.
Funds for the new channels, which will have a combined annual budget of around pounds 150million, will come from cutbacks in bureacracy.
But the compensation scheme has fallen victim to old-fashioned British bureacracy.