Early reactions to the publication of Harold Garfinkel's Studies in Ethnomethodology, which have persisted over the passing decades, was that ethnomethodology could not address what sociology deemed to be socially significant matters such as 'power' and 'the state'. This, however, is not the case. How such matters enter into the practical everyday affairs of members is of equal interest to ethnomethodology when compared to how any matter enters into members' everyday life, and how they display that. It just does not (...) have more importance. Egon Bittner spelt this out with regard to Weber's interest in bureaucracy when he reminds sociology that when Weber talked about efficiency he was not referring to an objective standard but as something that is attuned to practical interests as they emerge in the context of everyday life. This paper examines some of the actions and interactions that were encountered in a Governmental Department in one of the European countries. It makes visible how characterisations of bureaucracy such as 'rational', and 'efficient' are achieved in the actions and interactions of Department employees, and some of the practices involved in that achievement. Garfinkel, and ethnomethodology in general, are not, in principle, to be found wanting where matters of overarching, primordial interest to sociology are concerned. (shrink)
Most accounts of Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) deal with him as a prophet of either utilitarianism or of liberal democracy. This book discusses a less familiar but very important aspect of his political thought: his theory of how government institutions should be organised in order to function as efficient and yet responsive guardians of the community's interests. It thus focuses on his programme for he executive and judicial branches of government rather than for the legislature and the electorate. Dr Hume suggests (...) that eighteenth-century political thought was richer in ideas about government that has usually been allowed, but that Bentham's special qualities of mind enabled him to widen and deepen those ideas much further than his contemporaries could have foreseen. (shrink)
In this volume, a group of international scholars address issues relating to community well being and the role of politics, law and economics in Europe and Japan in achieving human-centered symbiotic governance. Case-studies and suggestions for reform are presented in the arenas of economy, government administration, management, university governance, health, agriculture, the environment and urban planning.
Many problems of inequality in developing countries resist treatment by formal egalitarian policies. To deal with these problems, we must shift from a distributive to a relational conception of equality, founded on opposition to social hierarchy. Yet the production of many goods requires the coordination of wills by means of commands. In these cases, egalitarians must seek to tame rather than abolish hierarchy. I argue that bureaucracy offers important constraints on command hierarchies that help promote the equality of workers (...) in bureaucratic organizations. Bureaucracy thus constitutes a vital if limited egalitarian tool applicable to developing and developed countries alike. (shrink)
First, something about the word. 'Bureau' (French, borrowed into German) is a desk, or by extension an office (as in 'I will be at the office tomorrow'; 'I work at the Bureau of Statistics'). 'Bureaucracy' is rule conducted from a desk or office, i.e. by the preparation and dispatch of written documents - or, these days, their electronic equivalent. In the office are kept records of communications sent and received, the files or archives, consulted in preparing new ones. This (...) kind of rule is of course not found in the ancient classifications of kinds of government: monarchy, aristocracy, democracy - and bureaucracy? In fact it does not belong in such a classification. It is a servant of government, a means by which a monarchy, aristocracy, democracy, or other form of government, rules. Those who invented the word wanted to suggest that the servant was trying to become the master. Weber is of course aware of this tendency; in fact he attacked the pretensions of the Prussian bureaucracy to be an objective and neutral servant of society, above politics, and emphasized that every bureaucracy has interests of its own, and connections with other social strata (especially among the upper classes); see Beetham, chapter 3. But formally and in theory the bureaucracy is merely a means, and this is largely true also in practice: someone must provide policy direction and back the bureaucrat up (if necessary) with force. 'At the top of a bureaucratic organization, there is necessarily an element which is at least not purely bureaucratic', SEO, p. 335, to give policy direction. (shrink)
Weber's discussion of bureaucracy is generally taken as descriptive of organized social structure within a rational-legal society. This is understandable; yet elsewhere in Weber's sociology he cautions against precisely this kind of analysis. His counsel against reification, his emphasis upon subjective ideas standing behind social action, his characterization of "society" as subjective orientation to legitimacy, his discussion of organization and social relationships as probabilities of behavior in accordance with subjective belief in their existence, and his tendency to describe the (...) wide range of world views within the vocabularies of those who subscribe to them-all mitigate against viewing his description of bureaucratic standardization as Weber's own world view, much less as his sociology. Rather the discussion can be understood as a description of bureaucracy from within the bureaucratic setting and as a set of ideas subjectively held to as a basis of legitimacy, ideas whose truth value are largely irrelevant for Weberian analysis. This qualification of bureaucracy as a mentality supplements the more widely acknowledged ideal-type qualification and provides a basis for increased Weberian insight. Such insight dovetails with post-functionalist sociological theory, explains the origins and consequences of functionalist theory, and provides new understandings of recent findings in empirically based research. Moreover, it helps to focus current research away from bureaucracy as an existent entity and toward a phenomenon Weber identifies as the central process of Western civilization: the rationalization (bureaucratization) of human behavior, a process both unfulfillable and unstoppable. (shrink)
Elizabeth Anderson argues for civic as against distributive egalitarianism. I agree with civic egalitarianism understood as a public ideal, and welcome her interest in the sociological conditions under which it may best flourish. But I argue that she is mistaken in opposing what she calls 'hierarchies of esteem' and proposing that where the egalitarian ideal has insufficient hold on civil society it should be implemented by an efficient bureaucracy. We should learn a different lesson from Max Weber. What the (...) ideal of equality needs is not more bureaucracy but more influential advocacy—and that requires healthy 'hierarchies of esteem'. (shrink)
A distinction between �consensual� and �critical� Conservatism would seem to provide a useful framework for analysing the intellectual approaches of conservative thinkers to the question of bureaucracy in Britain in the modern period. It is suggested here that, although in the nineteenth century there quickly emerged a dominant, liberal/conservative consensual approach to bureaucracy, there has also been a lively, countervailing and critical set of conservative ideas and concerns. This critical approach itself contains many strands; it has contributed to (...) the vitality of conservative ideas on the subject and many of the concerns of contemporary right wing critics of bureaucracy have their antecedents far back in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century ideas. (shrink)
Abstract In a certain sense, voluntary communities and market relationships are relatively less coercive than democracy and bureaucracy: they offer more positive freedom. In that respect, they are more like romantic relationships or friendships than are democracies and bureaucracies. This tends to make voluntary communities and markets not only more pleasant forms of interaction, but more effective ones?contrary to Weber's confidence in the superior rationality of bureaucratic control.
Organizational sociologists often treat institutions as macro cultural logics, representations, and schemata, with less consideration for how institutions are ”inhabited“ (Scully and Creed, 1997) by people doing things together. As such, this article uses a symbolic interactionist rereading of Gouldner’s classic study Patterns of Industrial Bureaucracy as a lever to expand the boundaries of institutionalism to encompass a richer understanding of action, interaction, and meaning. Fifty years after its publication, Gouldner’s study still speaks to us, though in ways we (...) (and he) may not have anticipated five decades ago. The rich field observations in Patterns remind us that institutions such as bureaucracy are inhabited by people and their interactions, and the book provides an opportunity for intellectual renewal. Instead of treating contemporary institutionalism and symbolic interaction as antagonistic, we treat them as complementary components of an “inhabited institutions approach” that focuses on local and extra–local embeddedness, local and extra-local meaning, and a skeptical, inquiring attitude. This approach yields a doubly constructed view: On the one hand, institutions provide the raw materials and guidelines for social interactions (“construct interactions”), and on the other hand, the meanings of institutions are constructed and propelled forward by social interactions. Institutions are not inert categories of meaning; rather they are populated with people whose social interactions suffuse institutions with local force and significance. (shrink)
In his book, Democratic Autonomy: Public Reasoning about the Ends of Policy, Henry Richardson suggests a process-based objection to bureaucracy – that is, an objection to bureaucracy that does not refer primarily to results, but rather to an ethical flaw that is inherent to bureaucratic procedures. Richardson’s worry is that, while large and complex societies rely on bureaucratic agencies to implement policies, there is a threat of those within bureaucratic institutions having more power than the average citizen when (...) it comes to making specific decisions about how to enact policy, and that this inequality in decision making power may be unjustified because undemocratic. If such inequality in decision making power is indeed a real threat, it will turn out that bureaucratic organisations, while being largely motivated by considerations of procedural fairness, may in fact constitute quite unfair procedures. Richardson proposes some institutional reforms that he thinks will enable us to avoid being dominated by bureaucracies, while retaining bureaucratic agencies, which he believes are necessary in modern societies. In what follows, I illustrate Richardson’s worry about bureaucratic domination and his proposed solution to the problem with a simplified, concrete example. If we compare Richardson’s proposed institutional reforms with Max Weber’s analysis of the concept of bureaucracy, however, I argue that it becomes apparent that bureaucracy is in fact incompatible with the sort of democracy that Richardson favours. If I am correct, this means that to the extent that we adopt Richardson’s proposed reforms, we will be replacing bureaucracies with something else. (shrink)
The “Fourth International Conference on the Comparative, Historical and Critical Analysis of Bureaucracy” was held in Vancouver, B.C., September 2-6,1985. Focusing on the relations between “Bureaucracy and Culture,” the conference program promised to have sections on intellectuals, the labor movement, prisons, mass culture, the new class, state terrorism, etc. As is usually the case in even the best organized conferences, however, most speakers paid only lip service to their assigned theme and chose to discuss instead whatever they happened (...) to be working on. The predictable result, of course, was that when these various Leibnizian monads were forced by the collective discussion to focus on the issues at hand, they simply fell back on recycling well-worn political stances to confront specific questions with automatic easy answers. (shrink)
Policy making is not only about the cut and thrust of politics. It is also a bureaucratic activity. Long before laws are drafted, policy commitments made, or groups consulted on government proposals, officials will have been working away to shape the policy into a form in which it can be presented to ministers and the outside world. Policy bureaucracies - parts of government organizations with specific responsibility for maintaining and developing policy - have to be mobilized before most significant policy (...) initiatives are launched. -/- This book describes the range of work policy officials do. The 140 civil servants interviewed for this study included officials who helped originate policies which were subsequently taken over as manifesto commitments by the Labour Party; officials who helped devise the formula by which billions of pounds are allocated to local government in grants; and also officials who recommended to the Secretary of State that a controversial publisher be allowed to take over a national newspaper. The background and career paths of middle-ranking officials show them to be a diverse group who do not tend to develop long-term subject specialisms. The instructions to which these officials work - whether coming from ministers or senior officials - are often very broad and leave much to personal interpretation. -/- Policy Bureaucracy goes on to examine how ministers and senior officials affect the work of middle ranking officials and the cues policy bureaucrats use to develop policy. The analytical approach adopted in the book is derived from Alvin Gouldner's Patterns of Industrial Bureaucracy and his elaboration of Max Weber's notion that hierarchy and expertise place a fundamental tension at the heart of modern bureaucracies. In the UK this tension is handled by combining 'invited authority' with 'improvised expertise'. The book also explores other models of handling this tension in political systems in Europe and the USA. (shrink)
The authors discuss findings from a qualitative research project concerning applied ethics that was undertaken at a general family counseling agency in southern Ontario. Interview data suggested that workers need to dialogue about ethical dilemmas, but that such dialogue demands a high level of risk taking that feels unsafe in the organization. This finding led the researchers to examine their own sense of "breaking rules" by suggesting an intersubjective view of ethics that requires a "safe space" for ethical dialogue. The (...) authors critique the individualistic tendency of professional ethics as an effect of power that is tied to the history of professionalism, and discuss the role of bureaucracies in diminishing a central role for ethics in helping services. The authors call for elaboration of critical perspectives on ethics in order to promote the centrality of ethics in the helping professions. (shrink)
In communities of user-generated content, systems for the management of content and/or their contributors are usually accepted without much protest. Not so, however, in the case of Wikipedia, in which the proposal to introduce a system of review for new edits (in order to counter vandalism) led to heated discussions. This debate is analysed, and arguments of both supporters and opponents (of English, German and French tongue) are extracted from Wikipedian archives. In order to better understand this division of the (...) minds, an analogy is drawn with theories of bureaucracy as developed for real-life organizations. From these it transpires that bureaucratic rules may be perceived as springing from either a control logic or an enabling logic. In Wikipedia, then, both perceptions were at work, depending on the underlying views of participants. Wikipedians either rejected the proposed scheme (because it is antithetical to their conception of Wikipedia as a community) or endorsed it (because it is consonant with their conception of Wikipedia as an organization with clearly defined boundaries). Are other open-content communities susceptible to the same kind of ‘essential contestation’? (shrink)
In this article, I explore how the ideas of French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas offer insights into a debate often held today in the field of corporate governance, concerning the relative merits of statutory and voluntary approaches to the regulation of business. The philosophical position outlined by Levinas questions whether any rule-based systematisation of ethical responsibility, either statutory or voluntary, can ever equate to a genuine responsibility for the other person. I reflect on how various authors have adapted Levinas’s philosophy to (...) form a critique of bureaucracy and rule following in business, and the lack of ethical authenticity in corporate codes. However, this article also considers the question of whether a theoretical separation can be made between an ethical responsibility based on sensibility (as is suggested by Levinas) and a rational conceptualisation of how one is required to act. Considering the difficulty of disentangling these notions of ethics, I return to the problem of corporate governance and suggest an approach to stakeholder conflict based on mediation and dialogue, which rules out neither principles of conduct nor an openness of responsibility to the Other. (shrink)
Several prominent analysts, including Heilbroner, Ophuls, and Passmore, have drawn bleak conclusions regarding the implications of contemporary environmental realities for the future of democracy. I establish, however, that the day-to-day practice of environmental politics has often had an opposite effect: democratic processes have been enhanced. I conclude that the resolution of environmental problems may weIl be more promising within a political context which is more rather than less democratic.
Käthe Truhel’s 1934 doctoral dissertation, prepared under the supervision of Karl Mannheim, repays detailed examination for a number of reasons. First, it serves as an important counter-example to commonplace generalities about the alleged incapacity of women social workers of Truhel’s generation, supposedly enmeshed in ideological myths about ‘motherliness’, to reflect on their power relations to a male-dominated society and state. Second, it offers an intrinsically interesting and subtle analysis of the emerging bargaining structure for negotiations between bureaucrats and social workers (...) in the context of late Weimar, understood as a site of the crisis of modernity. Third, it illustrates the quality and range of empirical work fostered by Mannheim during his brief tenure in Frankfurt. (shrink)