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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 ?
Dans les chapitres 2 et 3 qui portent sur la bureaucratisation et la professionnalisation, l'auteure rapporte de maniere fluide l'experience complexe, qu'elle suit pas a pas, des transformations des facons de faire et des relations entre les acteurs.
In the first scenario, the forces of commercialism, consumerism and bureaucratisation prove overwhelming and health care is largely taken over by corporations and run on business principles.
Dans les annees 30 s il existait deja un corpus analytique du phenomene de la bureaucratisation autant a l'interieur de l'appareil etatique que dans les grandes bureaucraties industrielles.
A new dynamic, influenced at least indirectly by France, appeared which echoed citizen dissatisfaction with marginalisation of many segments of society, the potential exclusionary aspects of the market, the intensity of corporatist bureaucratisation, and the exclusivity of entitlement based on employment or membership in a specific group--for example, as members of a given occupation.
The effect of this bureaucratisation of the SANDF by way of a private consultation company is noticeable throughout the Defence Force: logistic and administrative units are nowadays known as 'General Support Bases'; a 'Service Agreement' is needed for support to be rendered to a unit or formation; and artillery guns, armour regiments, infantry battalions, etc in the SANDF have become 'End User Systems'.
Hannah Arendt, a radical post-World War Two political thinker, argued: 'Representative government itself is in a crisis today, partly because it has lost, in the course of time, all institutions that permitted the citizen's actual participation and partly because it is now gravely affected by the disease from which the party suffers; bureaucratisation and the [political] parties' tendency to represent nobody except the party machines.
Weber recognised the dangers of bureaucratisation and spoke of how measurement processes could turn people into cogs in a machine.
In this paper, we utilise data from the 1996 Australian National Trade Union Survey (ANTUS) to explore key questions concerning the alleged bureaucratisation of Australian unions and its consequences for union democracy.
She has also read widely amongst secondary sources, and shows the influence of both Tony Ashworth's view of the bureaucratisation of the war and Eric Leed's of the marginalisation of the individual.