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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 ?
This will alleviate whole sections, whole divisions, whole directorates of people, significantly cutting down the bureaucracy.
But a study of the pilot scheme has found that the majority of staff had not detected any significant reduction in bureaucracy.
The New Left's radical antibureaucratic critique helped make it conventional for establishment liberals to support reforms that promised to address, in Christopher Jencks's words, "the bureaucracy problem.
We see it as an urgent necessity to begin the process of reducing the scale of this bureaucracy which at the moment doesn't give the taxpayers value for money.
Not only did the show present an idealized view of art as a silver bullet, but there was a corresponding misrecognition of the installation's own point of reference: When presented in a museum, a focus on administrative order and legalistic structure risks revealing first and foremost the art institution's own banal bureaucracy.
Yet the supposedly impartial federal bureaucracy still claims the drinking age has been as successful as the polio vaccine.
They're trying to do better, but the bureaucracy is slow to react compared to the corporate world," says John G.
The bureaucracy strike against the arrest of Ahad Cheema has been ended on the advice of Chief Secretary (Rtd) Captain Zahid Saeed.
The former finance minister said there was no need for the NAB to be overawed by the bureaucracy.
In a statement, former Senate chairman Syed Nayyar Hussain Bukhari said that Sharif had been exposed by the reaction of the bureaucracy on the arrest of Ahmed Cheema.
He said it is utterly shameful how bureaucracy chose to go on protest against accountability.
For PPPs, the traditional notion of a bureaucracy is still relevant.