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Bureaucracy is "a system of administration marked by officialism, red tape, and proliferation." Historically, bureaucracy referred to a form of government, where affairs were managed by departments staffed with nonelected officials. In modern parlance, bureaucracy refers to the administrative system governing any large institution.
Since being coined, the word "bureaucracy" has had negative connotations. Bureaucracies are criticized for their complexity, their inefficiency, and their inflexibility. The dehumanizing effects of excessive bureaucracy were a major theme in the work of Franz Kafka, and were central to his masterpiece The Trial. The elimination of unnecessary bureaucracy is a key concept in modern managerial theory, and has been a central issue in numerous political campaigns.
Others have defended the existence of bureaucracies. The German sociologist Max Weber argued that bureaucracy constitutes the most efficient and rational way in which human activity can be organized, and that systematic processes and organized hierarchies were necessary to maintain order, maximize efficiency and eliminate favoritism. But even Weber saw bureaucracy as a threat to individual freedom, in which the increasing bureaucratization of human life traps individuals in the an "iron cage" of rule-based, rational control.
Word Origin and Usage 
The term "bureaucracy" is French in origin, and combines the French word "bureau" – desk or office – with the Greek word κράτος kratos – rule or political power. It was coined sometime in the mid-1700s by the French economist Jacques Claude Marie Vincent de Gournay, and was a satirical perjorative from the outset. Gournay never wrote the term down, but was later quoted at length in a letter from a contemporary:
The late M. de Gournay...sometimes used to say: "We have an illness in France which bids fair to play havoc with us; this illness is called bureaumania." Sometimes he used to invent a fourth or fifth form of government under the heading of "bureaucracy."
The first known English-language use was in 1818. The 19th-century definition referred to a system of governance in which offices were held by unelected career officials, and in this sense "bureaucracy" was seen as a distinct form of government, often subservient to a monarchy. In the 1920s, the definition was expanded by the German sociologist Max Weber to include any system of administration conducted by trained professionals according to fixed rules. Weber saw the bureaucracy as a relatively positive development; however by 1944, the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises noted that the term bureaucracy was "always applied with an opprobrious connotation," and by 1957 the American sociologist Robert Merton noted that the term "bureaucrat" had become an epithet.
Although the term "bureaucracy" was not coined until the mid-1700s, the idea of rule-bound administrative systems is much older. The development of writing (ca. 3500 BCE) and the use of documents was critical to the administration of this system, and the first definitive emergence of bureaucracy is in ancient Sumer, where an emergent class of scribes administered the harvest and allocated its spoils. Ancient Egypt also had a hereditary class of scribes that administered the civil service bureaucracy. Much of what is known today of these cultures comes from the writing of the scribes.
Ancient Rome was administered by a hierarchy of regional proconsuls and their deputies. The reforms of Diocletian doubled the number of administrative districts and led to a large-scale expansion in Roman bureaucracy. In one of the earliest-recorded criticisms of bureaucracy, the early Christian author Lactantius claimed that Diocletian's actions had led to widespread economic stagnation, and that there were now more men using tax money than paying it. After the Empire split, the Byzantine Empire became notorious for its inscrutable bureaucracy, and the term "byzantine" came to refer to highly-complicated bureaucratic structures.
In Ancient China, the scholar Confucius established a complex system of rigorous procedures governing relationships in family, religion and politics. Confucius sought to construct an organized state free from corruption. In Imperial China, the bureaucracy was headed by a Chief Counselor. Within the bureaucracy, the positions were of a "graded civil service" and competitive exams were held to determine who held positions. The upper levels of the system held nine grades, and the officials wore distinctive clothing. The Confucian Classics codified a set of values held by the officials.
In 18th-century France, the role and function of government expanded dramatically. The rise of the French civil service led to "bureaumania," and the development of the complex systems of bureaucracy which de Gournay criticized. In the early 19th century, Napoleon attempted to reform the bureaucracies of France and other territories under his control by the imposition of the standardized Napoleonic Code. But paradoxically, this led to even further growth of the bureaucracy.
By the early 19th century, bureaucratic forms of administration were firmly in place across continental Europe, North America and much of Asia. Thinkers like John Stuart Mill and Karl Marx began to theorize about the economic functions and power-structures of bureaucracy in contemporary life. Max Weber was the first to endorse bureaucracy as a necessary feature of modernity, and by the late 19th century bureaucratic forms had begun their spread from government to other large-scale institutions.
The trend toward increased bureaucratization continued in the 20th century, and, in the modern era, practically all organized institutions rely on bureaucracy to organize tasks. They do this by processing and controlling records and information ("the files"), and administer complex systems of rules.
Theories of Bureaucracy 
Karl Marx 
Karl Marx theorized about the role and function of bureaucracy in his Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right, published in 1843. In his Philosophy of Right, Hegel had supported the role of specialized officials in the role of public administration, although he never used the term "bureaucracy" himself. Marx by contrast was opposed to the bureaucracy. He saw the development of bureaucracy in government as a natural counterpart to the development of the corporation in private society. Marx posited that while the corporation and government bureaucracy existed in seeming opposition, in actuality they mutually relied on one another to exist. He wrote that "The Corporation is civil society's attempt to become state; but the bureaucracy is the state which has really made itself into civil society."
John Stuart Mill 
Writing in the late 1860s, political scientist John Stuart Mill theorized that successful monarchies were essentially bureaucracies, and found evidence of their existence in Imperial China, the Russian Empire, and the regimes of Europe. Mill referred to bureaucracy as a distinct form of government, separate from representative democracy. He believed bureaucracies had certain advantages, most importantly the accumulation of experience in those who actually conduct the affairs. Nevertheless, he thought bureaucracy as a form of governance compared poorly to representative government, as it relied on appointment rather than direct election. Mill wrote that ultimately the bureaucracy stifles the mind, and that "A bureaucracy always tends to become a pedantocracy."
Max Weber 
The German sociologist Max Weber described many idealized types of public administration and government in his 1922 work Economy and Society. His critical study of the bureaucratisation of society became one of the most enduring parts of his work. It was Weber who began the studies of bureaucracy and whose works led to the popularization of this term. Many aspects of modern public administration go back to him, and a classic, hierarchically organized civil service of the Continental type is called "Weberian civil service". As the most efficient and rational way of organizing, bureaucratization for Weber was the key part of the rational-legal authority, and furthermore, he saw it as the key process in the ongoing rationalization of the Western society. Weber essentially argues that bureaucracy constitutes the most efficient and (formally) rational way in which human activity can be organized, and that it is indispensable to the modern world.
Bureaucratic administration means fundamentally domination through knowledge
— Max Weber
Weber listed several precondititions for the emergence of bureaucracy. The growth in space and population being administered, the growth in complexity of the administrative tasks being carried out, and the existence of a monetary economy requires a more efficient administrative system. Development of communication and transportation technologies makes more efficient administration possible but also in popular demand, and democratization and rationalization of culture resulted in demands that the new system treats everybody equally.
Weber's ideal bureaucracy is characterized by hierarchical organization, delineated lines of authority in a fixed area of activity, action taken on the basis of and recorded in written rules, bureaucratic officials need expert training, rules are implemented by neutral officials, career advancement depends on technical qualifications judged by organization, not individuals.
While recognizing bureaucracy as the most efficient form of organization, and even indispensable for the modern state, Weber also saw it as a threat to individual freedoms, and the ongoing bureaucratization as leading to a "polar night of icy darkness", in which increasing rationalization of human life traps individuals in a soulless "iron cage" of bureaucratic, rule-based, rational control.
Ludwig von Mises 
In his 1944 work Bureaucracy, the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises was highly critical of all bureaucratic systems. He believed that bureaucracy should be the target of universal opprobrium, and noticed that in the political sphere it had few defenders, even among progressives. Mises saw bureaucratic processes at work in both the private and public spheres; however he believed that bureaucratization in the private sphere could only occur as a consequence of government interference. He wrote that "No private enterprise will ever fall prey to bureaucratic methods of management if it is operated with the sole aim of making profit."
Robert K. Merton 
The American sociologist Robert K. Merton expanded on Weber's theories of bureaucracy in his work Social Theory and Social Structure, published in 1957. While Merton agreed with certain aspects of Weber's analysis, he also considered the dysfunctional aspects of bureaucracy, which he attributed to a "trained incapacity" resulting from "overconformity." He saw bureaucrats as more likely to defend their own entrenched interests than to act to benefit the organization as a whole. He also believed bureaucrats took pride in their craft, which led them to resist changes in established routines. Merton also noted that bureaucrats emphasized formality over interpersonal relationships, and had been trained to ignore the special circumstances of particular cases, causing them to come across as "arrogant" and "haughty."
See also 
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Bureaucracy|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Bureaucracy|
- Adhocracy – The opposite of bureaucracy
- Max Weber
- Michel Crozier
- Public administration
- Red tape
- State (polity)
- Technocracy – An alternative to bureaucracy and adhocracy
- Bureaucracy @ Merriam-Webster.com - http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bureaucracy
- Bureaucracy @ Free Dictionary - http://www.thefreedictionary.com/bureaucracy
- Bureaucracy @ Investopedia – http://www.investopedia.com/terms/b/bureaucracy.asp#axzz2938hwENQ
- Philip K. Howard (2012). "To Fix America's Education Bureaucracy, We Need to Destroy It". The Atlantic.
- Devin Dwyer (2009). "Victims of 'Health Insurance Bureaucracy' Speak Out". ABC News.
- David Martin (2010). "Gates Criticizes Bloated Military Bureaucracy". CBS News.
- J.C.N. Raadschelders (1998). Handbook of Administrative History. Transaction Publishers. p. 142.
- Wren, Daniel & Bedeian, Arthur (2009). "Chapter 10:The Emergence of the Management Process and Organization Theory". The Evolution of Management Thought. Wiley.
- Garrett et al. (2006). Assessing the Impact of Bureaucracy Bashing by Electoral Campaigns.
- Richard Swedberg; Ola Agevall (2005). The Max Weber dictionary: key words and central concepts. Stanford University Press. pp. 18–21. ISBN 978-0-8047-5095-0. Retrieved 23 March 2011.
- George Ritzer, Enchanting a Disenchanted World: Revolutionizing the Means of Consumption, Pine Forge Press, 2004, ISBN 0-7619-8819-X, Google Print, p.55
- Ludwig von Mises (1944). Bureaucracy. Retrieved 12 October 2012.
- Robert K. Merton (1957). Social Theory and Social Structure. Glencoe, IL;Free Press. pp. 195–206. Retrieved 12 October 2012.
- As taken from the Laterculus Veronensis or Verona List, reproduced in Barnes, New Empire, chs. 12–13 (with corrections in T.D. Barnes, "Emperors, panegyrics, prefects, provinces and palaces (284–317)", Journal of Roman Archaeology 9 (1996): 539–42). See also: Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 9; Cascio, "The New State of Diocletian and Constantine" (CAH), 179; Rees, Diocletian and the Tetrarchy, 24–27.
- Lactantius. "Chapter 7". On the Manner in which the Persecutors Died.
- Riegel, Jeffrey. "Confucius". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2012 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.).
- Mote, Frederick W. (2003-11-15). Imperial China: 900-1800. Harvard University Press. pp. 313–. ISBN 978-0-674-01212-7. Retrieved 7 February 2013.
- McKnight, Brian E. (1983-02-15). Village and Bureaucracy in Southern Sung China. University of Chicago Press. pp. 1–. ISBN 978-0-226-56060-1. Retrieved 7 February 2013.
- Karl Marx (1970). "3A". Marx's Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right (1843). Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 12 October 2012.
- John Stuart Mill (1861). "VI—Of the Infirmities and Dangers to which Representative Government is Liable". Considerations on Representative Government. Retrieved 12 October 2012.
- George Ritzer (29 September 2009). Contemporary Sociological Theory and Its Classical Roots: The Basics. McGraw-Hill. pp. 38–42. ISBN 978-0-07-340438-7. Retrieved 22 March 2011.
- Marshall Sashkin; Molly G. Sashkin (28 January 2003). Leadership that matters: the critical factors for making a difference in people's lives and organizations' success. Berrett-Koehler Publishers. p. 52. ISBN 978-1-57675-193-0. Retrieved 22 March 2011.
- Liesbet Hooghe (2001). The European Commission and the integration of Europe: images of governance. Cambridge University Press. p. 40. ISBN 978-0-521-00143-4. Retrieved 23 March 2011.
- The Max Weber Dictionary - http://books.google.ca/books?id=_c3Mcnh8hCgC&pg=PA19&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false
- Kenneth Allan; Kenneth D. Allan (2 November 2005). Explorations in Classical Sociological Theory: Seeing the Social Worl. Pine Forge Press. pp. 172–176. ISBN 978-1-4129-0572-5.
Further reading 
- Albrow, Martin. Bureaucracy. London: Macmillan, 1970.
- On Karl Marx: Hal Draper, Karl Marx's Theory of Revolution, Volume 1: State and Bureaucracy. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1979.
- Marx comments on the state bureaucracy in his Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right and Engels discusses the origins of the state in Origins of the Family.
- Ernest Mandel, Power and Money: A Marxist Theory of Bureaucracy. London: Verso, 1992.
- On Weber: Watson, Tony J. (1980). Sociology, Work and Industry. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-32165-4.
- Neil Garston (ed.), Bureaucracy: Three Paradigms. Boston: Kluwer, 1993.
- Chowdhury, Faizul Latif (2006), Corrupt Bureaucracy and Privatization of Tax Enforcement. Dhaka: Pathak Samabesh, ISBN 984-8120-62-9.
- Ludwig von Mises, Bureaucracy, Yale University Press, 1962. Liberty Fund (2007), ISBN 978-0-86597-663-4
- Weber, Max. The Theory of Social and Economic Organization. Translated by A.M. Henderson and Talcott Parsons. London: Collier Macmillan Publishers, 1947.
- Wilson, James Q. (1989). Bureaucracy. Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-00785--6.