And by a prudent flight and cunning save A life which valour could not, from the grave. A better buckler I can soon regain, But who can get another life again? Archilochus

Monday, January 3, 2022

Max Weber on Bureaucarcy


Bureaucratic administration means fundamentally domination through knowledge.

 — Max Weber

Weber distinguished three ideal types of political leadership (aka three types of domination, legitimisation or authority)
-Charismatic authority (familial and religious);

-Traditional authority (patriarchs, patrimonialism, feudalism); and

-Legal authority (modern law and state, bureaucracy)
Weber notes that the instability of charismatic authority forces it to "routinise" into a more structured form of authority. In a pure type of traditional rule, sufficient resistance to a ruler can lead to a "traditional revolution". The move towards a rational-legal structure of authority, using a bureaucratic structure, is inevitable in the end. Thus this theory can be sometimes viewed as part of the social evolutionism theory. This ties to his broader concept of rationalisation by suggesting the inevitability of a move in this direction.

Weber would explain bureaucracy through nine main characteristics/principles:
-Specialized roles

-Recruitment based on merit (e.g. tested through open competition)

-Uniform principles of placement, promotion, and transfer in an administrative system

-Careerism with systematic salary structure

-Hierarchy, responsibility and accountability

-Subjection of official conduct to strict rules of discipline and control

-Supremacy of abstract rules

-Impersonal authority (e.g. office bearer does not bring the office with them)

-Political neutrality
Weber's ideal bureaucracy is characterised by hierarchical organisation, by delineated lines of authority in a fixed area of activity, by action taken (and recorded) on the basis of written rules, by bureaucratic officials needing expert training, by rules being implemented neutrally and by career advancement depending on technical qualifications judged by organisations, not by individuals.[109][112]
The decisive reason for the advance of the bureaucratic organisation has always been its purely technical superiority over any other form of organisation.
— Max Weber[111]

While recognising bureaucracy as the most efficient form of organisation and even indispensable for the modern state, Weber also saw it as a threat to individual freedoms and the ongoing bureaucratisation as leading to a "polar night of icy darkness", in which increasing rationalisation of human life traps individuals in the aforementioned "iron cage" of bureaucratic, rule-based, rational control. To counteract bureaucrats, the system needs entrepreneurs and politicians.

Weber also formulated a three-component theory of stratification, with social class, social status and political party as conceptually distinct elements. The three-component theory of stratification is in contrast to Karl Marx simpler theory of social class that ties all social stratification to what people own. In Weber's theory, issues of honour and prestige are important. This distinction is most clearly described in Weber's essay Classes, Staende, Parties, which was first published in his book Economy and Society. The three components of Weber's theory are:
Social class: based on economically determined relationship to the market (owner, renter, employee, etc.)

Status (German: Stand): based on non-economic qualities like honour, prestige and religion

Party: affiliations in the political domain
All three dimensions have consequences for what Weber called "life chances" (opportunities to improve one's life). Weber scholars maintain a sharp distinction between the terms status and class, even though, in casual use, people tend to use them interchangeably

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