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Bureaucracy as Pejorative Connotation in Light of Weber’s Theoretical Underpinnings of Seminal Wor

Bureaucracy as Pejorative Connotation; Red Tapes; Weber’s Theoretical Underpinnings of Seminal Work on the Bureaucracy; bureaucracy Corruption; Lack of Accountability and Responsibility; Worst Public Administration Systems in Africa and mostly in D. R. Congo-Zaire.

The following research essay will analyze the negative theoretical framework of Bureaucracy. As most of the time, the term Bureaucracy is typically associated with the realm of public administration, often with pejorative or negative connotation. Also, the theoretical underpinnings of bureaucracy, including Weber’s seminal work regarding this concept will be discussed.

Bureaucracy has often been regarded in reference to public administration with a great deal of negativity. Max Weber examined bureaucracy to a great degree and derived an idealistic view that at its best it was a system that was both organized and rational and far more advanced the previous systems of administration. A few basic purposes of bureaucracy according to Weber are as follows:
1. The necessity of stable execution of state functions in the modern society;
2. The importance of calculable rules and “objective” discharge of bureaucratic functions for the capitalist society; and,
3. The peculiarity of the professional specialization and training of the modern
bureaucracy and their importance for the capitalist society.” (Stanisevski 2004, 120)

At the same time, Weber also looked at bureaucracy as an impersonal decision-making process which avoided personal bias. He also regarded at bureaucracy as being a concept steeped in modernity and reflective of a collective understanding among academics as to the nature of administrative operations (Cunningham & Schneider 2001, 580).

However, bureaucracy in practice has not always been about the ethereal, intellectual concepts propounded by academics. Bureaucracy has derived its negative connotation from the inequities it engenders by its basic principle of hierarchy. Instead of being a mechanism for education or the raising of consciousness, bureaucracy is a tool which reinforces the structures of control in society (Gale & Hummel 2003, 416). For example, in Democratic Republic of Congo, government seems to have government and parliament parallel to the established institutions. Institutions are being overshadowed by presidential executive powers which are omnipotent and ready to fire, detain or even kill whoever stands to make opposite claims.

The pejorative labels which have been placed on bureaucracy are not without cause. Bureaucracy has been a site of abuse, particularly in reference to the abuse of power by bureaucrats. Accordingly, those wielding power, the bureaucrats themselves, have an inordinate amount of ability to inflict damage or bestow benefits than would other members of society.

On an idealistic level, bureaucracy is supposed to be a sphere of neutrality which is independent of special interests (Tijsterman & Overeem 2008, 74). Yet, on an operational level, bureaucracy is often quite the opposite. Special interests are the main driving forces behind bureaucracy. In the realm of politics, only those who are wealthy can have a realistic chance to run for office due to the financial requirements of campaigning. For example, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the cost tag for Administration payment to run for the presidential elections in 2006 was US $50,000 (Fifty thousand US dollars) in a country where the individual GDP at the time was hardly less than US $900.00 (nine hundred US dollars), and only less than one percent of individuals can access such exorbitant sums . wonder why only those in previous governments had to be the only one viable to use such lavish and successful campaigns.

Part of the clue to analyzing bureaucracy from a realistic basis is given by another perspective of bureaucracy. Weber also regarded bureaucracy as being “first of all functional for the functioning of rational economic actors who can predict and calculate even the legal results and consequences of their economic action and evaluate its costs and benefits, taking into account the functioning of an equally rational public administration” (Gronow 1988, 322). This premise presupposes a certain level of competence and assumes bureaucracy to be initially as system which can be wielded by bureaucrats themselves.

Another condemning perspective on bureaucracy is that it is a tool which democracies generally take a lot effort to manage, but autocracies utilize seamlessly (Skorupski 2008, 175). This aspect of bureaucracy lends to the negative connotation, as it belies a sense of bureaucratic imposition on those who are managed, or even manipulated by the bureaucrats. At the same time, the system should not be such that there is a restrictive level of control on how bureaucrats themselves critique their own shortcomings. Bureaucrats are charged with using reason in making their best judgments and ideally as scholars, they should have an unrestricted public forum to voice any concerns they might have (Rutgers & Schreurs 2004, 109). Yet, such interpretations of how bureaucracy should function are indeed the trappings of intellectual exercise in the realm of idealistic thinking.

Weber and Friedrich Hegel both retained some similar views regarding bureaucracy. There are similarities between the approach Weber took in looking at Bureaucracy and the perspective Hegel had on Civil Service (Alkadry 2004, 96). They both looked at how private interest is influential in the intrinsic design of bureaucracy and civil service. The realm of civil service has a definitive confluence with the perspectives on public administration by definition.
In a comprehensive manner, “Hegel and Weber presented their ideas about bureaucracy as part of a broader set of general or universal arguments about the evolution of human civilization” (Spicer 2004, 97). They both looked at bureaucracy as being a component of modernity and certainly saw bureaucracy at its best as being an evolved system.

At the same time, bureaucracy can also be supplanted. Neopatrimonial systems can replace the framework of bureaucracy, and make the same claims on the legal-rational system inherent in modernity (Erdmann & Engel 2007, 105). Bureaucracy is a code word for a system which has transcended the age of kings but may still be subject to the travails of power struggles in much the same manner. Thus, the operational quality may have superficial superiority over previous systems, but may inevitably suffer from the same flaws as other systems which have been present throughout history. However, the ideals propounded by intellectuals such as Weber still provide viable objective for bureaucracy to strive for.

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Bibliography

Alkadry, Mohamad. 2004. "INTRODUCTION RETHINKING WEBER: A DIALOGUE."
Administrative Theory & Praxis (Administrative Theory & Praxis) 26, no. 1: 96-96. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed July 9, 2009).

Cunningham, Robert, and Robert A. Schneider. 2001. "ANTI-ADMINISTRATION:
REDEEMING BUREAUCRACY BY WITNESSING AND GIFTING." Administrative Theory & Praxis (Administrative Theory & Praxis) 23, no. 4: 573-588. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed July 9, 2009).

Erdmann, Gero, and Ulf Engel. 2007. "Neopatrimonialism Reconsidered: Critical Review and
Elaboration of an Elusive Concept." Commonwealth & Comparative Politics 45, no. 1: 95-119. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed July 9, 2009).

Gale, Scott A., and Ralph P. Hummel. 2003. "A DEBT UNPAID--REINTERPRETING MAX
WEBER ON BUREAUCRACY." Administrative Theory & Praxis (Administrative Theory & Praxis) 25, no. 3: 409-418. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed July 9, 2009).

Gronow, Jukka. 1988. "The Element of Irrationality: Max Weber's Diagnosis of Modern
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Rutgers, Mark R., and Petra Schreurs. 2004. "WEBER'S NEO-KANTIAN ROOTS."
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Skorupski, John. 2008. "II—Equality and Bureaucracy." Aristotelian Society Supplementary
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Stanisevski, Dragan. 2004. "ECONOMY AND BUREAUCRACY: HANDMAIDENS OF
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Tijsterman, Sebastiaan P., and Patrick Overeem. 2008. "ESCAPING THE IRON CAGE:
WEBER AND HEGEL ON BUREAUCRACY AND FREEDOM." Administrative Theory & Praxis (Administrative Theory & Praxis) 30, no. 1: 71-91. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed July 9, 2009).

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About the author or the publisher
-International Counsel & LAW SOCIETY OF UPPER CANADA and Ghana (Barrister - Solicitor)
-BA, BS, MA, LLB, LLD, MBA & PhD
President-Founder of NPPPC in D R Congo

www.npppc.org

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