Weber’s theory of bureaucracy: its ideas and characteristics

From organizational psychology, multiple theories have been raised on the organization of work in companies. Today we will meet one of them, Weber’s theory of bureaucracy.

This theory was born to resolve the limits of classical theory and the theory of human relations which, on the contrary, were opposed and contradictory. Thus, Weber proposed this rationalist theory through an efficient approach, being applicable to factories and different forms of human organization.

    Max Weber

    Maximilian Weber (1864-1920) was a philosopher, economist, jurist, historian, political scientist and sociologist. German. He is considered the founder of the modern study of sociology and public administration.

    Weber began the systematic study of bureaucracy. He developed a series of observations about it and shaped the conditions that contribute to it, with concepts such as the monetary economy, the capitalist system, the industrial revolution, etc.

    Weber’s theory of bureaucracy

    Weber’s theory of bureaucracy consists of a form of hierarchical organization of work where officials or workers are specialized in their field and functions. For Weber, bureaucracy is an instrument of domination.

    Weber sets the conditions for a person in power to justify his legitimacy; in addition, he explains because the subjects over whom this power is exercised are subject to it.

    In addition to the power of legitimation, a certain degree of administrative organization is necessary for the exercise of power to be possible. The bureaucratic-type administrative organization proposed by Weber will provide the highest degree of efficiency in work and organization. The purpose of this organization will be to solve the problems of society, And by extension those of the company.

    As positive features of his theory of bureaucracy over other types of work organization, Weber argues that it is: precise, fast and uniform, among others. In addition, he emphasizes that his organization saves objective and personal costs.

      Type of society

      In his theory of bureaucracy, Weber proposes 3 types of society according to their characteristics:

      1. Traditional society

      Patriarchy and legacy stand out (For example the family).

      2. Charismatic society

      They emphasize mystical, arbitrary and personalist characteristics (eg political parties).

      3. Bureaucratic, rational or legal society

      come out impersonal norms and rationality (For example large companies). From there he explains his theory of bureaucracy.

      Type of legitimate authority

      Weber also defines three types of legitimate authority:

      • Traditional authority.
      • Charismatic authority.
      • Legal, rational or bureaucratic authority, typical of his theory.

      Main ideas of his theory

      Weber’s theory of bureaucracy raises three fundamental ideas characteristic of bureaucracy:

      1. Legal nature of rules and regulations

      There are a number of rules and regulations drafted in the bureaucracy, which are elaborated in a detailed and rational manner. These are in line with the objectives of the bureaucracy.

      Thus, the bureaucracy it is based on its own legislation which defines how it works.

      2. Impersonality

      All rules, decisions and administrative matters will be formulated and recorded in writing.

      The worker must perform his task in an impersonal manner.

      3. Hierarchy of authorities

      The legislation under discussion consists of a series of abstract and rationally and intentionally established rules.

      The subject with authority it has a number of functions, rights and obligations. This subject has power because of its function.

      On the other hand, the subject who obeys the authority does so because he is thus determined by the laws, and not so much to obey the will of the head.

      4. Professionalization and rationality

      each professional will be selected for their degree of preparation and specialization in the subject.

      The work to be developed will be considered as a career in which one can be promoted (promoted) according to his seniority, abilities and technical knowledge.

      5. Maximum division of labor

      There are a number of positions of power within the bureaucratic organization. Each position of power obeys a number of skills, Which are delimited by a series of rules.

      The positions are organized hierarchically; thus, each post is under the control and supervision of a higher post. Each subject is responsible for his decisions and actions, as well as those of his subordinates.

      6. Determination of the rules

      Rules and regulations governing the conduct of workers. Each of them is applied to each specific case and situation in a consistent manner.

      Effects of bureaucracy

      Weber raises a number of effects arising from his bureaucratic organization: on the one hand, bureaucratic organization will help predict human behavior, and on the other hand, it will facilitate the normalization of worker performance.

      As stated above, the ultimate goal will be to have greater efficiency in all processes and positions developed in the companyIn other words, the maximum efficiency of the organization.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Weber, M. (1993). Economy and society. Madrid: SL Fund of economic culture of Spain.
      • Hogg, M. and Graham, V. (2010). Social psychology. Panamericana.

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