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For the specific role of bureaucrats in Wikipedia, see Wikipedia:Bureaucrats.

A bureaucrat is a member of a bureaucracy and can compose the administration of any organization of any size, though the term usually connotes someone within an institution of government. Bureaucrat jobs were often "desk jobs" (the French for "desk" being bureau, though bureau can also be translated as "office"), though the modern bureaucrat may be found "in the field" as well as in an office.


The term 'bureaucrat' was first used in print during the French Revolution by the journalist Fouilloux in the Père Duchesne in 1791, writing that the object most deserving of his disgust was the bureaucrat, harbinger of a ‘new mode of servitude’. The word ‘bureaucrat’ was then officially codified by La néologiste française in 1796 as an expression of contempt.[1] The 'bureaucrat' has kept its pejorative connotations since,[dubious ][citation needed] even though sociologists and political scientists use the term synonymously with the term 'administrator.'

German sociologist Max Weber defined a bureaucratic official as the following:[2]

  • He is personally free and appointed to his position on the basis of conduct.
  • He exercises the authority delegated to him in accordance with impersonal rules, and his loyalty is enlisted on behalf of the faithful execution of his official duties.
  • His appointment and job placement are dependent upon his technical qualifications.
  • His administrative work is a full-time occupation.
  • His work is rewarded by a regular salary and prospects of advancement in a lifetime career.
  • He must exercise his judgment and his skills, but his duty is to place these at the service of a higher authority. Ultimately he is responsible only for the impartial execution of assigned tasks and must sacrifice his personal judgment if it runs counter to his official duties.
  • Bureaucratic control is the use of rules, regulations, and formal authority to guide performance. It includes such things as budgets, statistical reports, and performance appraisals to regulate behavior and results.

As an academic, Woodrow Wilson professed:[3]

But to fear the creation of a domineering, illiberal officialism as a result of the studies I am here proposing is to miss altogether the principle upon which I wish most to insist. That principle is, that administration in the United States must be at all points sensitive to public opinion. A body of thoroughly trained officials serving during good behavior we must have in any case: that is a plain business necessity. But the apprehension that such a body will be anything un-American clears away the moment it is asked. What is to constitute good behavior? For that question obviously carries its own answer on its face. Steady, hearty allegiance to the policy of the government they serve will constitute good behavior. That policy will have no taint of officialism about it. It will not be the creation of permanent officials, but of statesmen whose responsibility to public opinion will be direct and inevitable. Bureaucracy can exist only where the whole service of the state is removed from the common political life of the people, its chiefs as well as its rank and file. Its motives, its objects, its policy, its standards, must be bureaucratic. It would be difficult to point out any examples of impudent exclusiveness and arbitrariness on the part of officials doing service under a chief of department who really served the people, as all our chiefs of departments must be made to do. It would be easy, on the other hand, to adduce other instances like that of the influence of Stein in Prussia, where the leadership of one statesman imbued with true public spirit transformed arrogant and perfunctory bureaux into public-spirited instruments of just government.

Bureaucrats of the EU are frequently termed "eurocrats" simply because its a portmanteau of European Union (or Europe) and bureaucrat?

In Imperial China, bureaucrats largely composed the social elite. Known in Europe as Mandarins, after the Portuguese word for 'councillor', this variety of bureaucrats passed a set of complicated examinations and were posted throughout the empire.

The arts[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ralph Kingston (2011). Bureaucrats and Bourgeois Society: Office Politics and Individual Credit, 1789-1848. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 1. 
  2. ^ Max Weber. Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft. pp. 650–78. 
  3. ^ Woodrow Wilson (June 1887). "The Study of Administration" 2 (2). Political Science Quarterly. pp. 197–222. Retrieved 2008-03-25. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

  • John Kilcullen, Mq.edu.au, Lecture—Max Weber: On Bureaucracy
  • Ludwig von Mises, Mises.org, Bureaucracy