Weber’s ‘theory of bureaucracy’

Weber’s ‘theory of bureaucracy’

Weber’s most famous work is his essays on, ‘economic Sociology’, a book, ‘sociology of Religion’, ‘The proletariat Ethic & the spirit of Capitalism.’ Most of his writings were translated, into english & were published later on.
Being a sociologist, Weber understood, the importance of society. A state has a different role to play because state has power, authority & legitimacy. It has coercive power. Why do people obey? What constitutes the legitimacy of Power? Power turns into authority when it gains legitimacy. On the basis of these realistic assumptions, Max Weber wrote on Bureaucracy.

He made a systematic study of Bureaucracy & its Characteristics. To him, Bureaucracy is an administrative body of appointed officials. Weber categorised Bureaucracy into – 1) Patrimonial Bureaucracy which is found in traditional & Charismatic type of authorities & legal rational Bureaucracy which is founded only in legal type of authority. Weber claimed that Bureaucracy is a power elite, & owes it on its three assets; – expertise, information & access to secrets. This power of Bureaucracy makes all dependent on Bureaucracy.
Without Bureaucracy, there would be chaos. Bureaucracy has certainly, precision & predictability. Weber insists on Bureaucracy as a technical instrument of Administration. Bureaucracy is not only technical instrument but is also social force, having effect on the values of society at large.

Max Weber was the first administrative thinker to study interrelationship between state & Society. As a scholar of Law, he understood the significance of power, authority & legitimacy. Having understood the importance of Bureaucracy, as viewed by Weber, it is necessary to understand his ‘Theory of Bureaucracy.’

Weber’s ‘theory of bureaucracy’

Max Weber viewed Bureaucracy from its structural characteristic. Such a structure, such an organisation has an authority, which is exercised by Bureaucracts. The Bureaucracts exercise their authority only because they hold public office. They excercise authority with well defined rules & regulations. Thus Bureaucracy is essentially an organisation, with definite rules, regulations, powers & functions. Weber developed his theory of Bureaucracy on its
structural basis.
Weber’s Bureaucracy is based upon legal-rational authority. The following are the basic features of his theory of Bureaucracy.
i) Bureaucratic organisation is based upon a well-defined hierarchy. Hierarchy, based on authority, has downward trends. Authority flows from upward to downward.

ii) Bureaucratic organisation is divided between vertical & horizontal lines for division of work & functional specialisation. Every employee in the organisation has a well defined power & authority, based upon employee’s specialisation & expertise.

iii) This Bureaucratic organisation functions within a framework of fixed rules? regulations. An employee, i.e. a Bureaucrat, has to function within this framework of rules & regulations.
iv) Such a Bureaucratic organisation specifies the duties & responibilities of Bureaucrats. Authority implies responsibility.

v) Every Bureaucratic organisation functions with a specific procedure, laid down by the organisation. This procedure is laid down for performing their functions.
vi) The Bureaucrats. should be properly & scientifically selected. This enables efficiency of Bureaucracy. The Bureaucrats should be given periodic promotion on the basis of their technical competence.
vii) An employee in the organisation, obeys the authority. The rules, regulations are practiced & obeyed by Bureaucrats. The procedure of work is followed by employees.
viii) One of the unique features, suggested by Weber, is the impersonal approach of an employee, in the organisation. The interrelationship amongst the emplayees should be based upon impersonal approach. Every employee should function with impersonal approach, while performing duties.



Leave a Reply