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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.
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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.
Collins Dictionary of Business, 3rd ed. © 2002, 2005 C Pass, B Lowes, A Pendleton, L Chadwick, D O’Reilly and M Afferson
References in periodicals archive ?
Different ways and methodologies are proposed to introduce the "zero bureaucracy".
The military bureaucracy was still in the shock of 1971; Mr Bhutto took complete powers over the state in his hands.
Chaudhry Sarwar urged the bureaucracy to perform departmental task with responsibility and honestly for facilitating the people and said that coordination should be ensured among various departments for prompt decision making.
'In the previous year, several mega corruption cases emerged in Punjab,' he said, while asking if bureaucracy does not take decisions, how the bureau could proceed [with the investigation process].
"Bureaucracy should fulfil its responsibilities without any fear and see if the environment is favourable to work," he added.
The Population - bureaucracy ratio in Pakistan is perhaps highest when compared to countries with such low per capita income as ours.
'It seems the bureaucracy does not want to comply with the resolutions', she said.
Mr Khan is in favour of restructuring and reforming the bureaucracy 'to make it progressive and innovative'.
Chairing a meeting of Task Force on Civil Service Reforms in Islamabad, the premier said he regretted that bureaucracy was heavily politicised during the past ten years which resulted in its inefficiency and created fear amongst the bureaucrats.
The prime minister regretted that bureaucracy was heavily politicized during the past ten years which resulted in its inefficiency and created a fear amongst the bureaucrats.
What we needed, it turns out, was a bit of bureaucracy. And contrary to at least some expectations, that bureaucracy produced some innovation--having worked her way through my checklists, my assistant has been able to suggest new, more efficient approaches.
They focus on the relationship between politics and bureaucracy, organizational challenges and problems, and the significance of identity and public ethos in modern bureaucratic institutions.