Contributions Of Max Weber’s Bureaucracy To Public Administration Essay


This assignment is a discussion on the topic of bureaucracy as described by Max Weber. The discussion looks at the theory in general and its effects in public administration in terms of advantages and disadvantages. It will be argued in the discussion that the approach is characterized by hierarchical distribution of power and authority in both public and private sector organizations.

The major advantage is that it ensures that jobs are done only by those employees who are qualified to do them; that is, the employees are selected purely on merit. Its major short coming in public administration is that it is too rigid especially when it comes to making decisions. This delays the delivery of services as well as the efficiency and effectiveness of public organizations.

The Bureaucratic Approach

This theoretical approach was formed by Max Weber in 1947.The approach conceptualizes organizations as being guided by hierarchical chains of command, in which decisions are made based on the top down approach. Those who are at the top management positions are responsible for making the decisions while their juniors are responsible for the execution of those decisions.

In the hierarchy, each position is composed of specific roles and responsibilities as well as some amount of authority to make decisions or to command other workforce down the hierarchy (Rainey, 2009).

The approach conceptualizes organizations as being characterized by division of labor and specialization. Each position in the hierarchy is held by specialized individuals or bureaucrats who have acquired education and training on that particular position. The specializations are accompanied by some specific authorities depending on the position in the hierarchy (Shafritz, 2011).

The approach views organizations as being guided by formal regulations and rules which are formed and communicated well within the organization (Fry, 2008).

There are the rules of conduct in the work place which govern things like working hours, holidays, offs, the language to be used, communication protocols within the organization based on the hierarchy, and the communication channel regarding assignments for specific positions in the hierarchy.

These rules and regulations govern the procedures and the processes of the organization so as to give it an identity as well as stability and make it possible to predict the output of the organization because everything is planned in advance and followed to the letter without failure or compromise (Fry, 2008).

The approach views organizations as being characterized or guided by rationality. Employees are selected not on the basis of friendship but on merit and their qualifications. The approach does not encourage the mixing of friendship or family issues with organizational business. All employees are therefore selected in a transparent and competitive process which is free from any bias.

The same applies to employee remunerations. Each and every employee is remunerated as per his or her position, qualifications, and rank in the organization, meaning that those who are at the top get higher remunerations than those who are at the bottom in the hierarchy.

In terms of responsibilities, those at the bottom are more involved with organizational activities while those at the top are mostly concerned with policy issues and public relations activities and are less involved in the daily running of the organizations (Hamilton, 1991).

The approach recognizes positions in the hierarchy by their designations but not by the individuals who hold them. This is to say that there is no personification of ranks within the organization which ensures that authority is respected and reduces subjectivity as it increases objectivity in organizational undertakings.

This idea of addressing positions by their designations in the hierarchy also ensures that there is no conflict of interest or unnecessary arguments or exchanges between various officials in the chain of command, which in turn increases efficiency in the organizational business (Hamilton, 1991).

Advantages of approach In Public Administration

Bureaucratic theory is characterized by clearly defined rules and procedures in the work place. These rules make work easier for the employees because there is no ambiguity and therefore each and every employee is able to focus on his or her duties and responsibilities on the required time.

The clear chain of command also ensures that there is good communication because every employee knows where to receive commands from; which reduces conflict of interest between various levels in the organizational structure (Hamilton, 1991).

The recruitment of employee is also based on merit and professional qualifications which ensure that the correct people are employed for the correct jobs. This ensures that there is efficiency and high quality production in the organizations or businesses. The separation of employees’ personal issues and those of organizations makes employees focus solely on their duties and responsibilities (Naidu, 2005).

Disadvantages of bureaucratic approach in public administration

The theory has however been described by critics as being too rigid. It has also been accused of losing rationality especially in the issue of decision making, which its critics argue that it takes a lot of time before the bureaucrats in the chain of command procure a decision, which in turn compromises the efficiency and effectiveness of the organization.

Other critics argue that the approach tends to build empires within organizations which discourage creativity and innovations of junior employees thereby hindering organizational progress and growth (Hamilton, 1991).


Fry, Brian. 2008. Mastering public administration: from Max Weber to Dwight Waldo. (2nd ed.). New York, NY: CQ Press.

Hamilton, Peter. 1991. Max Weber: critical assessments 1, Volume 1; Volume 3; Critical Assessments of Leading Sociologists Series. New York, NY: Routledge.

Naidu, S.P. 2005. Public Administration: Concepts and Theories. Andhra Pradesh.: New Age International.

Rainey, Hal. 2009. Understanding and Managing Public Organizations; Essential Texts for Nonprofit and Public Leadership and Management. (4th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons.

Shafritz, Jay. 2011. Classics of Public Administration. (7th ed.). New York, NY: Wadsworth Pub Co.

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