Pipers Woerterbuch zur Politik

Authors: Nohlen
Summary: The approximately 1300 word entry distinguishes between a societal and an internal perspective of analysis, offers a general definition from a sociological perspective, refers to main characteristics developed by Weber, and summaries critical arguments against the common process of the bureaucratization of political and social life in advanced industrial countries. From an internal perspective, bureaucracy is defined as a specific form of social organization that adheres to the principle of purpose-rationality. From Max Weber the entry borrows four characteristics of an ideal type bureaucracy: a system of vertical lines of communication, a division of labor based on specialization, a codex of rules and guidelines that specifies rights and responsibilities of each member of the bureaucracy, and a codified system of rules how to handle any task. The entry summarizes arguments from critics with an internal perspective, who question the effectiveness of bureaucratic forms of organization (red tape) and highlight structural conservatism of goals pursued and means applied as a result of these organizational principles. Authors with a societal perspective highlight the expansion of bureaucratic forms of organization during the development of industrialized countries. Not only do states take on more functions and responsibility which increases the relevance of the public bureaucracy. As the entry highlights, other social organizations (parties, interest-groups, unions, universities etc.) also adopt bureaucratic principles which therefore come to dominate political and social life. The entry summarizes critical voices from this perspective, that highlight the problem that bureaucracies increasingly escape public and political control since bureaucrats acquire specialized factual knowledge on which the public depends but which it does not share. The entry ends with a brief summary of attempts since the 1970s to de-bureaucratize the state and public life.