“Bureaucracy”

Max Weber

Different from Adam Smith, Henri Fayol and Karl Marx’s focusing on economic force in analyzing the social development, Max Weber has the very different emphasis. Weber thinks that the notion of ideas and ideals guides the development of the society and human beings across classes. As Weber’s words go in “Capitalism and the Protestant Ethic, “the interests expressed in changing societies are not merely economic; they relate as well to the world of ideas and ideals” (Denhardt, p.29).

Weber develops his theory of notion of “ideal type”. Weber states that the ideal type is not ideal in a normative sense. It is an abstraction and elaboration of a particular set of elements whose combination imparts a special cultural significance (Denhardt, 2014). The ideal type doesn’t answer the question about what human beings need to pursue but it provides an explanation of the undefinable problems from the perspective of sociology and ethics.

Weber also identified three types of legitimate authority in the ideal-type bureaucracy: 1) legal authority, based on a belief in the legality of certain patterns or rules and in the right of those in positions of legal authority to issue commands; 2) traditional authority, based on a belief in the importance of enduring traditions and those who rule within such traditions; 3) charismatic authority, based on an emotional attachment or devotion to a specific individual (Denhardt, p.31). And Weber thinks that legal authority is the best and the most advanced in bureaucracy.

Weber is also aware of the expansion of bureaucracy, which is caused by the groups holding the same ideas and ideals. He hopes that the charismatic leaders could control the expansion in the systems of bureaucratic administration.

In “Bureaucracy”, Max Weber points that bureaucracy is characterized by six points:

1) Bureaucracy is ordered by rules, by laws and administrative regulations; 2) hierarchy—there is a supervision of the lower offices by the higher ones; 3) management is based upon written documents; 4) management training is necessary; 5) official activity demands the full working capacity of the official; 6) the management of the office follows general rules.

The position of the official is a life-long vocation. It is patterned in five ways: 1) modern official strives and enjoys a social esteem; 2) bureaucratic official is appointed by a superior authority; 3) official position is held for life; 4) official receives fixed pension; 5) the official is set for a career within the hierarchical order of the public service.

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