Thursday, 25 December 2014

Why is Bureaucracy’s Relationship to Democracy so Conflicted?

Max Weber asserts that bureaucracy entails the push towards fairness, openness, and democracy. Bureaucracies are complex and thus hierarchical. In some instances, people in top leadership up in the hierarchy use their expertise and position to favor other people undemocratically. Bureaucracies exist in state and local governments, universities, corporations and other areas in many countries in the world. Bureaucracies are advocated for due to accountability purposes.  Modern bureaucracies originated in Europe when governing affairs of centralized regimes became complicated so that it became necessary to delegate the king’s authority.

Historically, bureaucracy was only seen as government administration, which is managed by government departments that are staffed with non-elected officials. Today, the meaning of change has change and largely seen as an administrative system of government within a large institution. Pejoratively, bureaucracy is seen as inefficient, inflexible, and complex. In The Trial by Franz Kafka, excessive bureaucracy has dehumanizing effects. In modern management theory, it is important to eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy. Moreover, in most political campaigns, elimination of this kind of bureaucracy is essential.

Max Weber supports bureaucracy existence. He perceives bureaucracy as a rational and efficient way through which human activity should be organized due to the presence of organized hierarchies and systematic processes. Bureaucracy is important as it helps in the maintenance of order, maximization efficiency, and elimination of favoritism. However, with all these merits, Max Weber pointed out the conflicting relationship between democracy and bureaucracy. He posits that bureaucracy threatens. To him, the continued human life bureaucratization traps people in what he called an ‘iron cage.’ Individuals’ freedom is constrained by this same bureaucracy where the ‘iron cage’ of rational control is rule-based.  This constrains the independence of human beings. People’s rights and freedoms are subverted when they are expected to carry themselves in the manner only prescribed within the rule-bound ‘iron cage.’

In the Ancient China, Confucius established a complicated and rigorous system that sought to govern relationships in politics, religion, and family. The society was supposed to be an organized state bereft of corruption. Confucius advocated for recruitment of workers based on meritocracy. The civil service was supposed to be graded and officials expected to undertake competitive exams. They even wore very distinctive clothing. The values were codified and thus behavior was within the restrictions of these established and codified rules. This codification of rules equally limits freedom of a people and thus subverts the rights and freedoms of the people it seeks to work for and consequently, impinging and subverting their democratic rights and freedoms.

Bureaucracy enhances professionalism and efficiency. This is because recruitment and promotion is based on merit, regular pensions and salaries. Hierarchical authority also characterizes it. Division of labor is given premium to ensure task specialization. There are extensive rules and regulations coupled with clear organizational goals. Merit-based hiring as well as promotion is done since job performance is based on productivity. Moreover, divided supervision demands that there exist some kind of dual responsibility (Stivers, 2001). In furtherance of a people’s democratic rights, public scrutiny is emphasized and cultivated. Where public scrutiny is not enshrined and inculcated in an organization’s culture, conflicts between bureaucracy and a people’s democratic rights are infringed.

Bureaucracy facilitates cost effectiveness and efficiency in operation. Moreover, recruitment in any bureaucracy should be based on meritocracy. The best-qualified individuals should get jobs. This means that political patronage should not influence the hiring process. For instance, in the U.S., the Hatch Act passed by the Congress in 1939 ensures that a politics-administration dichotomy. However, there are a number of criticisms leveled against the bureaucracy. Agencies conflict by sometimes working at cross-purpose. Role duplication, wasteful spending, unchecked growth, and accountability issues mar service delivery in most bureaucracies in furtherance of democratic principles. Bureaucracies emphasize on customer satisfaction, and rewarding ideas by employees, as well as fewer rules will better service deliver and foster public confidence.

George Ritzer points out that Ray Kroc facilitated McDonald restaurants franchising. The impact of this idea was not only astounding and anticipated. McDonald is seen both a household name not just for the U.S., but also for the entire world. He called this the McDonald model. When an organization adopts this model, workers own the business and therefore strive to meet the expectations of the clients. The bureaucracy has the interests of the people in heart, it follows that, efficiency, and effectiveness within an organization is enhanced and this facilitates the expansion of an organization. People in a McDonald restaurant are able to calculate the amount of time it takes to drive in the restaurant, to be served, eat, and return home. George Ritzer postulates that most McDonaldized institutions emphasizes on financial costs and time. This eventually enhances service delivery. People get what they need instantaneously and conveniently. Even universities and other institutions are becoming moderately McDonaldized. This bureaucracy is spawned inevitably by irrationalities.
George Ritzer says that McDonaldization was preceded by innumerable economic and social developments. Max Weber points out his fears on bureaucratization and rationalization. For instance, Nazi Holocaust led to mass killing. Those who executed the killings acted at the behest of unilateral rules. Bureaucrats are expected to also act within certain written arrangements and rules. Those in higher management levels use these rules as a compulsion means. This flaunts democratic principles by using compulsion as opposed to freedom. The bureaucracy today is more effective than earlier organizational structures. For instance, in traditional societies, the officials acted under personal rules resulting from their loyalties to their leaders. Their acts were based on personal whims as opposed to impersonal rules within the bureaucracy today.

The concept of bureaucratization is predicated upon the rationalization principles of predictability, efficiency, calculability, as well as non-human technologies, which control people. McDonaldization is an extension and amplification of Weber’s rationalization theory. To Weber, rationalization model was bureaucracy. Ray Kroc is credited for developing rationality principles. Simply put, bureaucracy is based on formal authority. To J. Ayer, there is no form of morality than can be founded on formal authority, this is even where that authority is divine. To Chris Grey, Weber was astounded by the emergence of bureaucratic or rational-legal organization. Towards this end, the conflict between democracy and bureaucracy arises due to bureaucratic dysfunction occasioned by substantive rationality deficiency. Bureaucrats indulge their own preferences and prejudices in their conduct. According to Du Gay, there is widespread condemnation and questioning of bureaucracy. For example, when Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher assumed power as President of the U.S., and Prime Minister of Britain in the 1980s, they promised to eliminate government regulation bureaucracies. These bureaucracies were seen as overbearing.

Jack Welch succeeded in eliminating the cumbersome bureaucratic structures as a manager. He made a fortune out of this. He observed that within corporations themselves, there are bureaucracies. While most organizations rely upon bureaucratic systems in the management of information, control and process records, the administrative rule system has affected service delivery in most organizations. However, paperwork elimination and electronic databases emergence are streamlining the way the bureaucrats functions.

Stuart Mill argues that successful monarchies like Imperial China and Russian Empire were basically bureaucracies. Mill saw bureaucracy as a government form contrary to representative democracy. To him, bureaucrats accumulate experience through the learning process where those charged with the responsibility of discharging affairs become more knowledgeable. However, representative democracy is better than bureaucracy is and this is the cause of the conflict in the relationship between democracy and bureaucracy. It relies upon appointment as opposed to direct election. To some extent, the manner through which it conducts its business is affected by political patronage.

Bureaucracy should be the position of professional cadre bereft of political allegiance. Woodrow Wilson advocated for the existence of a bureaucracy as an element of essential political life. Woodrow sort establish the dichotomy between politics and administration. Political questions are no administrative questions.  Politics set out administration tasks. Reliance of the administration upon politics is not in order. While this is the practice world over, it comprises the quality of services that the citizenry is given. This compromises the independence of the bureaucracy. For instance, politicians seek success through allegiance to political parties that have the highest preponderance of forming government. When these parties form government, these political loyalists expect positions in government. This provides employment opportunities to supporters of the ruling party. While democracy would call for recruitment through meritocracy, political loyalty is rewarded and this creates sycophancy, which compromises the quality of services rendered.
Bureaucracy however should be targeted for universal opprobrium. Ludwig Mises notes that bureaucracy has little support from the entire political sphere. There are bureaucracies within both the public and private spheres. Government interference culminates to private sector bureaucratization. Ludwig writes that if a private enterprise operates to maximize profits, no bureaucratic methods will affect. On the other hand, Robert Merton delves on the issue relating to the conflict existing between bureaucracy and democracy albeit indirectly. He notes that ‘over conformity’ leads to ‘trained incapacity.’ In the defense of their interests, bureaucrats flout basic democratic principles. The advance their own stakes and this way, this puts personal interests over public interests. Bureaucrats at times reject possible changes within the structure. Bureaucrats are considered ‘haughty’ and ‘arrogant’ when they ignore certain special circumstances. Formality is given premium over any interpersonal relationships.

While adhocracy may be favored in place of bureaucracy, bureaucracy remains very much entrenched within both public and private sectors. Technocracy may however be more practical than both adhocracy and bureaucracy. Meanwhile, an organization that has an elaborate bureaucracy bereft of red-tape may prove effective in terms of democratically service people within a given jurisdiction. Bureaucracy should learn to accept organizational change and conform to the existing rules and regulation.

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