The Civil Service in Britain and France

By William A. Robson | Go to book overview

Chapter 1
BUREAUCRACY AND DEMOCRACY

By WILLIAM A. ROBSON

THERE is much talk in the press and on the platform about bureaucracy. The subject is one of immense importance, and it is desirable that it should be widely discussed, though with more insight and understanding than is commonly shown.

What do we mean by bureaucracy? Max Weber, whose writings originated the modern study of bureaucracy, identified it with the following characteristics: first, the allocation as official duties of the regular activities needed to fulfil the purposes of the organ; second, the distribution in a stable manner of the authority required to discharge these duties, and its strict delimitation by rules concerning the means of enforcement available to officials; third, methodical provision for the regular performance of these functions by qualified persons. Weber regarded these three elements as constituting 'bureaucratic authority' in public administration, or 'bureaucratic management' in private enterprise. He further observed in all bureaucratic structures the hierarchical principle; a reliance on written documents, files, records, and the apparatus of modern office management; the formulation of general rules or practices for the management of the office, these rules comprising a technique in which the officials of both public and private administration must be trained, and in which they become expert.1

Professor Friedrich of Harvard has carried the analysis a stage further and suggests six primary criteria of bureaucracy. These are differentiation of functions; qualifications for office; hierarchical organization and discipline; objectivity of method; precision and consistency or continuity, involving adherence to rules, 'red tape' and the keeping of records; and lastly, the exercise of discretion, involving secrecy in regard to certain aspects of government.2

____________________
1
Max Weber: Essays in Sociology (Ed. Gerth & Mills), pp. 197-198.
2
Constitutional Government and Democracy ( 2nd Edition, 1951), pp. 57-58.

-1-

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