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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 ?
Top Barriers to Competitiveness [Percent of respondents indicating significant or extensive barrier] Labor cost 71% Work rules 66% Tax policy 66% Government bureacracy 65% Raw material prices 56% Availability of skilled labor 51% Labor policy 51% Source: Deloitte Research, based on the "Made in North America" Survey conducted by Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu member firms in Canada, Mexico and the United States, the National Association of Manufacturers and The Manufacturing Institute.
removes another layer of the burdensome bureacracy involved in the planning of the LOCs cold war roots and toward processes that enable timely response and flexible partnership as we work to meet uncertain threats in the future.
It's not about headlines or being on national TV, it's about working with business professionals to get rid of bureacracy.
Monte Palmer, Ali Leila, and El Sayed Yassin, The Egyptian Bureacracy (Cairo: AUC Press, 1988), 75-90.
Having successfully negotiated the Roman bureacracy herself, she told Mother Katharine to "Go to Rome yourself" (as cited in Baldwin, 2000, p.
In the Reagan administration, the principals of Team B became, as it were, the A Team, scattered in mid-level positions throughout the bureacracy.
The stark truth is that because of bureacracy and gross inefficiency in the Health Service, some of these women will die uneccessarily.
The federal government has stepped in to ease financial aid bureacracy for students and schools alike, and some private lenders have helped, too.
Even among the companies that did apply, several privately expressed deep reservations about entangling themselves in artificial groupings and submitting to the Film Council bureacracy.
Could it be that the thing a bureacracy manages most efficiently is the diminution of human conscience?
One thing is sure, they can't keep having relegation dodged through bureacracy while those who have earned the right to progress are denied the vital step up.