Saturday, February 2, 2008

Max Weber’s Ideal Bureaucracy


By: Ernesto C. Casiple, Jr.

I. Summary:

The absolute exercise of authority requires bureaucratic functioning of an institution. It follows then that an organization is bureaucratic if it employs bureaucratic administrative staff. While it recognizes that the head of the organization may occupy position through appropriation, election, or designated in succession, it is necessary that the administrative staff under the supreme authority shall be appointed. This is to exercise control powers.

Appointment of staff shall be based on principles of division of labor, impersonal orientation, hierarchy of authority, regulations and control mechanisms, career orientation, efficiency, salary as a form of remuneration, and selection through technical qualifications. This type of organization is applicable to wide variety of different institutions. It may be applied to capitalistic (business) enterprise, charitable organizations, military, political, and religious institutions. The development of modern forms of the organization of corporate groups is identical with the emergence and spread of bureaucratic organization.

Its historical existence can also be demonstrated in all these fields. Experience would tell that the purely monocratic type of bureaucratic organization is capable of attaining highest degree of efficiency and is the most imperative control over human beings. Moreover, those who tend to escape the influence of the existing bureaucratic apparatus, thus creating their own organization are found subject to the general processes of bureaucratization. As a result, the existing bureaucratic institutions continue to function that are not only material and objective but also ideal in character. Without it, society like our own could no longer function.

The capitalistic system is said to be the basis of bureaucratization. Capitalism strongly tends to foster development of bureaucracy, though both capitalism and bureaucracy have arisen from different historical sources. On the other hand, socialism would also in fact require a higher degree of formal bureaucratization. Both capitalism and socialism needs a system of control. On the basis of knowledge, bureaucratic administration means exercise of control.

In general, the development of bureaucracy greatly favors the leveling of social classes. Rational bureaucracy provides the necessity of formalism of any structure. This means that regulatory measures have formal character and tend to be treated in formalistic spirit.

II. Points of Agreement:

Max Weber raised some “unbreakable” points that are very important in any organization.

First, I would like to agree with him on pointing out the use of formalistic structure. Bureaucracy thus becomes a way of organizing work in which people are treated as interchangeable and replaceable cogs to fill specialized roles. Sets of rules of an “ideal bureaucracy” describe the duties of members, a set of standard operating procedures, and impersonal relations between members.

Second, it is recognized that capitalistic enterprises necessitates extreme bureaucratization that Weber, himself, labeled it as the “purest type.” Systematic production of goods needs the emergence of a strict division of labor to produce with utmost efficiency. Weber’s ideal type of bureaucracy is a tool for giving us new or at least fruitful perspectives on the past and for coping with modern developments, especially in post-industrial technologically highly advanced societies.

Third, it is of course important to provide salary for the staff as fruits of their work. There is no dysfunction in providing remuneration to workers; it is always a functional term.

Fourth, it is as imperative to treat official obligations separately. Impersonality of official obligations is a key to delivery services to its highest efficiency.

Fifth, hierarchy of offices is unstoppable. They exists in any form of organization may it be formal or informal, small or large.


III. Points of Disagreement:

There are some fundamental flaws on the arguments presented by Max Weber.

First, what he seemed to proposed is emphasis on extreme division of labor as applicable to any given society. While division of labor provides expertise, it creates boredom among workers. Applicability of extreme division of labor is limited to the production of goods that requires mechanistic approach. A production of a canned tuna for example needs this. Delivery of services on the other hand requires professionalized system rather than routinization.

Second, the appointment of workers by the supreme authority emphasized the control mechanisms. . In this model of ideal bureaucracy, initiatives and policy directions come only from the top echelons. Weber seemed to promise that it provide for continuity and stability in the work place. But what was misplaced here is that in many cases workers' control is interpreted in ways which co-opt rather than mobilizes forces for change.
Third, the role of technical knowledge is overly treated as a very important criterion in the selection of administrative staff. While technical knowledge is essential

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