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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 ?
Observers contend our health care system is beset by many of the same problems that plague public education -- too much top-down government interference, excessive bureaucratization, perverse incentives and a lack of consumer choices.
For Weber the processes associated with disenchantment were closely connected to bureaucratization.
It is bending trade negotiations away from true liberalization and toward international bureaucratization.
Chubb and Moe's institutional theory presumes that democracy necessarily promotes bureaucratization and that bureaucratization necessarily interferes with educational performance.
Bureaucratization as Development: Administrative Development and Development Administration in the Arab World.
The pluralization of culture and lifestyle, the depersonalization and codification of social relationships, the bureaucratization of politics and economics, and the removal of social phenomena from traditional moral regulation all represent a direct assault on fundamentalism's conceptions of the ideal ordering of collective social life.
Our hypotheses are drawn from four theoretical perspectives: (1) a costs perspective, which maintains that the costs of employment affect an organization's choice of employment practices; (2) an external control approach, which posits that employment practices are shaped by the interests of powerful external groups and by conditions in a firm's environment; (3) a bureaucratic control perspective, which maintains that an organization's size and level of bureaucratization create diverse and sometimes contradictory pressures that affect employment arrangements; and (4) a job complexity perspective, which posits that the skills required to perform a job affect a firm's choice of employment arrangements.
He uses this case study of the institutional and political life of the UFWA to question longstanding shibboleths about union bureaucratization and the relation of unions to the stratification of U.
And they accurately attribute the Democratic disinclination to the bureaucratization, ossification, and gerontofication of the American labor movement, which has in recent years sought to defend its diminishing position rather than expand its base.
The legalization and bureaucratization of organizational life has increased because risk management has created new demands for proof and evidence of action.
Finally, it is crucial for The Bahamas to streamline the bureaucratization of procedures, not only to eliminate opportunities for corruption, but also for citizens to receive quality services in a timely manner.
Eight chapters are: legacies of early empire; an imperial centre, 1801-1846; the survival of patronage, 1847-1870; guardians, subalterns, and serfs; managing labour in Africa; manpower in Malaysia and the Pacific; technologies and manpower in Africa; the bureaucratization of patronage.