The notion of bureaucracy until recently had been a vague concept of performing some sort of administrative work at the government level, sorting through heaps of paper and most notably the idea of red tape. However, in sociology class, I was able to widen my understanding on bureacracy and clarify the misapprehension by looking into Max Weber’s model of bureaucracy.
Max Weber believed that bureaucracy was the only means of achieving maximum efficiency in large scale organisations. According to Weber, bureaucracy is the guiding principle comprising of rules, structures and rankings allowing organisations to function efficiently on a daily basis. Bureaucracy is constitituted in a hierarchic order, this deliberate arrangenment accords power to individuals of higher ranks to exert their will over inferior posts in an organisation provided it is exercised in accordance to the framework of regulations of that particular firm. This legitimate authoritative power resides with the particular position or office that one occupies and is notdefined by one’s charismatic leadership like in the past. However, this use of power can be regarded in two ways: illegitimate or legitimate. The illegitimate use can be exercised through dominatation such as manipulating a child’s access to information through means of brainwashing or beating a child by threat of force. The legitimate use of power is in the authoritative way of administration such as in schools, hospitals and militray. Weber makes three classification of forms of authority: traditional, charismatic and bureaucratic. The traditonal use is the acceptance of beliefs, dogmas and practices that have been passed down from generations. For instance, the practices of Upanayana, Saptapadi and Shraaddha marking the three disctinct stages of our lives. The charismatic use refers to when an individual has been able to establish a strong rapport with other individual through his outgoing personality and valour. Napolean Bonaparte was one such leader who rose to prominence for his charismatic personality. The bureaucratic use refers to the virtue of power that a person holds when he accepts certain position in any organisational setting. In a school setting, children are made to stand up and greet the teacher before starting of the class. This concept of bureaucratisation has become a common sight in todays world, however, it may be interesting to find out the reasons why Max Webber was prompted to conceptualise such a systematised model of administration.
From Giddens chapter on ‘What is sociology’, we find that the emergence of modern society resulted by some important shifts in the social pattern. For instance, the abandonning of traditional beliefs and practises based on superstitions to rational thinking. The shift from simple agrarian societies to urban areas of industries for better wages. Weber believed that the constant increase of the working class in industrial zones was the result of rationalisation. Unlike Marx, he didn’t agree that capitalisn was dominated by class struggles instead he saw science and bureaucracy as the founding pillars because it was through bureaucray that an organisation could be managed efficiently. However, he was afraid by its consequences for he felt that bureaucratic domination would intrude into people’s lives and regulate their social action.
The bureaucratic domination and its dreadful implications that Weber had raised almost a century ago can be seen in today’s educational institutions. In utilitarian organisations such as business firms, workers are paid for their time and effort. Similarly, in colleges, though students are not paid for attending classes they receive a diploma for spending time in classes. In bureaucracy along with hierarchy, there exists a division of labour. In simple societies, a single artisan used to perform all the intermediary stages of manufacturing before realising the final product. In complex societies, these stages of manufacturing are distributed among several workers allowing each one to specialize into a particular area. This way of production has resulted in decrease of cost and multiplied the yield by standardizing the product. Similarly, during the admission process in APU, I noticed that every staff had been designated a desk wherein their specifications where menitoned. I followed the strict protocol in order to get myself formally enrolled. This form of bureaucracy ensured a transparant functionning and no disproportionate influence. In simple societies, it was the relationship and customs that influenced decision making which resulted in discrimination of people from different religiom, sex, race and gender. However, the modern day bureaucracy has ensured an objectivity in scanning for recruitement primarily on the basis of people’s qualifications. In bureaucratic organisation everything is documented and writen down in a systematic manner. In colleges students are provided an identity card along with their admission number which ensures a complete accountability. The classes and faculty members are systematically mentioned in the time tables alongside office hours. The concepts of predictibility and efficacy are also common to bureaucracy. The former results in making standardize syllabus, announcing exam dates and credit points acroos all section for the same programme. The latter is achieved through MCQs during exams and later checking it through OMR. This mode of examination not only makes it difficult to assess whether the student has understood the concepts but it leads to memorisation rather than an active leanring. The fact of giving grades by reducing the individual’s talent to mere decimals likewise seems to be a moral contradiction. Similarly, adhering to timetables has led to a routinization making students strictly conform to the program content. This mechanical process has often resulted in killing creativity….
Going beyond bureaucratisation by working creatively, having flat power structure, find internal motivations.