Weber's bureaucratic model



Bureaucracy seems to be the most effective from we have been able to develop in dealing with the new mass society which has developed in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (Cyril Sofer, 1972). The first sections of this essay describe the principal characteristics of the Weberian “ideal type” bureaucracy in organization on base of classical theory. Subsequent sections outline the roles of power and authority in this model. There are three types of authority which are rational-legal, traditional and charismatic in organizations. At the same time, there are also three views of power which are political view, behavioural view and relational view in organizations. The last part of this essay will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of bureaucracy by focus on Weber's bureaucratic model in organization.

Weber's bureaucratic model:

“Bureaucracy is a part of the system through which the values and aspirations of various segments of the community are incorporated into public policy, it is more than a mere conduit through which these outside groups can exercise influence upon government decisions” (Francis E. Rourke, 1969). Weber claimed bureaucracy is made rational by the fact that within it control was exercised on basis of knowledge, expertness, and in technical competence (Hőpfl, H. M, 2006). According to his theories, bureaucracy is way for the state to exercise authority in a mass society. Weber analyzed the bureaucracy in a “real-type” term, it means he identifies the pure from of a certain system of administration, isolating and putting together its key characteristics and showing certain logical consequences and correlates. Weber mentioned that his bureaucracy is a logical and ideal model which can set up an organization. Weber went on to explain the main characteristics of the bureaucratic administration in a general way. They are as follow.

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First, people or things in a bureaucratic administration are divided into levels of importance, and that is according to a clearly defined structure of offices and positions with different responsibilities. They make this decision because they take the levels of authority, jurisdiction into account. In bureaucracy, the hierarchy is also typically very complex, its many levels providing a highly differentiated structure of authority. Second, in a bureaucracy, personal feelings such as sympathy or friendliness are not that popular because the rights and duties of people are in the charge of the impersonal rules. Rules are the highest instructions, they can beat everything. Third, people who are working in a bureaucracy will no exactly be controlled by their bosses or leaders, their rights and duties are written in the rules and regulations, so they subject to the rules instead of people. Fourth, the salaries people working in a bureaucracy can get are not flexible, and they do not own their office or any extra dividend. Fifth, a bureaucratic administration will always have a clear and detailed guideline which includes how to deal with almost all kind of problem that may be happen and the statement of people's responsibilities. Therefore, whenever they need to make decisions, they can make it in accordance with those guidelines and put no personal thoughts in them. Sixth, a bureaucracy has a very distinct classification of the levels of all the employees. People take orders only from people who are one level higher than them. ‘Bureaucracy is predicated on a clearly defined division of labor based upon functional specialization of tasks and a well defined hierarchy of authority. Authority is strictly defined and officials take orders only from those immediately above them in rank (Marx Weber, 1930)'. Seventh, in order to maintain the manner that the rules control everything instead of people, the relationships among people who work in a bureaucracy are not very close. Eighth, bureaucratic officials treat people as “cases” instead of individuals; they are also very impersonal to the public like they are not who they are but what they need to be in the bureaucracy. Ninth, every decision made by people in a bureaucratic administration has to be in conformity with the principle that mentioned in written documents. Tenth, in a bureaucracy, people perform a duty or promise according to what the rules say although they are carried out without regard for people.

The role of power and authority in bureaucracy model:

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“Bureaucratic authority is ‘specifically rational in the sense of being bound to intellectually analyzable rules'; while charismatic authority is specifically irrational in the sense of being largely foreign to all such formal, intellectually analyzable rules” (Weber, 1978, I: 224).

According to Weber (In 1947 as quoted in R.J.Dwver, 2005), authority can come from different roots and to be acceptable it needs to be legitimized. It focuses on the Weber's theory of legitimized authorities. Kinds of illegitimated authorities can affect the efficiency of an active organization when they exist in an organization. Meanwhile, bureaucracy will play the role of legitimiser in organization. Linstead, Fulop and Lilley (2004) outline one way to understand how the evolution of the nature to examine the power of these organization. “The only basis of legitimacy for it is personal charisma so long as it is proved; that is, as long as it receives recognition and as long as the followers and disciples prove their usefulness charismatically” (Weber, 1978, I: 244).

Weber distinguished between three types of ‘legitimate authority' in different societies and organizational types. In an acceptance of traditional authority is the order of some people or groups, it is always been such things which people always been followed to do (Cyril Sofer, 1972). There are three types of authority in organizations. They are rational-legal, traditional and charismatic respectively. (Weber, 1964)

1. Rational-legal authority

Rational-legal authority is anchored in the objective rules which are established by law. It becomes to the social relations' character and can be exchange with bureaucracy.

2. Tradition authority

The ore-modern societies are often dominated by the tradition authority. It is based on the traditional beliefs and fated. However, tradition authority is difference from rational-legal authority because it is not based on the objective laws. Tradition authority is regarded as a feudal system because it is always invested in a hereditary line by a higher power. It is too difficult to change, but when a change is due to the head or the ruler.

3. Charismatic authority

Charismatic authority is a specifically revolutionary force. “Charismatic authority is associated with the type of organization that rests on the appeal of leaders who claim allegiance because of the force of their extraordinary personalities” (Weber, 1964). The leaders used their charisma to attract others through devotion for appealing but it is difficult to find a new one who wants to keep the charisma when the leader leaves.

There are three views of power researched by Fulop and Lilley (2004). They are political view, behavioural view and relational view respectively.

1. Political view

Political view plays a non-decision-making behavior role in the bureaucracy modern. “Political view involves the consideration of ways in which decisions are prevented from being taken on potential issues of public concern over which there is observable conflict of interests” ( Linstead, Fulop and Lilley, 2004, pp184).

2. Behavioural view

Behavioural view plays a decision-making behavior role in the bureaucracy modern. It means that a person who use his/her behavior in the decision-making.

3. Relational view

Relational view means there have some special quality relationship between the parties. For example, you allow doing something by power, but may limit to do that.

Strength of Weberian conception of bureaucracy:

The strengths of bureaucracy contain several aspects. Bureaucracy by means of combination of hierarchy and division of labour can restrict the harmful forms of authorities which may lead to unfair circumstances for employees (Ballé, M, 1999).

First, it can improve the speed and precision in operation as everyone knowing his or her own duties. Second, conflicts and confusion between each other can be much reduced as effective communication can be easily achieved, due to that subordination of juniors to seniors in a strict and know way. Third, it can produce a reliable and well organized business system, since the known and calculable rules accumulated from similar cases will regulate future business activities and achieve predictable results, and also, personal emotions which could have negative influence in the decision making can be much reduced or even totally avoided. Finally, for every individual labor, as the job can be very detailed and specialized, expertise can be created for each person and greater benefits will be generated.

Weakness of Weberian conception of bureaucracy:

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One main criticism that represents the idea of bureaucracy argues that this idea will decrease the flexibility and active efficiency in organizations, which means that growing of the corpus of bureaucracy, can affect the efficiency of a system. What's more, it can also reduce its flexibility by the growth. By opposite, the latter one is against the essence of bureaucracy that it can increase the efficiency of organizations, in which its strange nature becomes self-destroying. This is caused by bureaucracy is taken more seriously than it needs. Bureaucracies being devices or means, it can be made clearer, more satisfactory and more efficient that organizations are able to work with or in them. However, due to the growth of the importance of the corpus of bureaucracies, it may work against the efficiency. It is because that bureaucracy is just one of organizational means, not playing the role as the goal of an organization, in which it reflects that goals and means are able to change their place once bureaucracy can happen easily. In this way, if bureaucracy takes the position from managerial device and acts as the goal of organization, it will reduce the efficiency of whole system.

Bureaucracies is in the large form that it can reduce the creativity among employees, since every specific action is designed to happen in just few allowed area and forms. In this way, there would be no room left for the creativity to do routine tasks and to mention that its disadvantage. Thus, it is useful to consider the increasing of employees' dissatisfaction in mechanistic organization. Further, it is important to realize that the mechanical thinking about business organizations comes from the idea of bureaucracy and it can also lead to the thinking mechanistically not only about the organization but also about peoples who work in such an organization. In short, it can be concluded that employees will be unsatisfied and less efficient when they are working under inflexible rules and without any creativity.

Bureaucracy as a large body of rules, laws and instruction that designed for best results in terms of predicted goals remains no rooms for innovation (Giddens A. 2001). It means that the organization had to adapt with new required factors when it situates in the new circumstances or needs some innovative act.


This article is written some essential aspects of bureaucracies. In popular usage, the tern ‘bureaucracy' is most strongly associated with the defects of large organizations in both public and private sectors. What's more, I focused on the characteristics of bureaucracy like hierarchy, division of labor and objectively in Weberian account of bureaucracy I reviewed some strengths and weakness of above characterizes. Characters like hierarchy or division of labor is useful factor for making more efficient and more satisfactory for both employees and employers. At the same time, in side of weakness it seems that the role of bureaucratic structure can reduce the proportion the proportion of innovation and reduce efficiency of whole system. Through consider the kinds of positive and negative of bureaucracies, it seems bureaucracy is more and more important for the sort of organization. Although the idea of bureaucracy still need to be modified, it is more helpful in wider range of organizational activities.