The bureaucratic centralization theory of max weber

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Max Weber, known as the father of organization theory, founded the bureaucratic centralization theory. Despite of the study on this issue made by others prior to him, the theory did not pronounce its existence as a systematic one until Web. This theory advocated bureaucratic organization and many people considered it is a most ideal structure with industrialization. As a traditionally organizational mode suited for industrializing society, bureaucracy could exist reasonably. But along with the development of modern society, its drawback has been exposed day by day. Research (Turner & Factor, 2009) showed that the rational official system could not have an active response to the post-industrial society because of its abuses since 1970s'. Consequently, most western advanced countries started the administration reform against the officialism. It is time to reform bureaucratic system and modern people nowadays pay more and more attention to explore and solve these major issues and select the essence of new management to develop our administration.

Bureaucratic management thoughts

Max Weber is a famous sociologist, political economist and the founder of the bureaucratic centralization theory. Weber's bureaucratic organization theory has profound influence on the entire western society and even the world since it birth (Turner, 1993). Weber's bureaucratic centralization theory is one of the biggest impact theories throughout the 20th century. It can be say that web's bureaucratic centralization theory is a milestone in the history of organizational theory that it marked the classical theory become mature and perfect. However, in the period of Weber's, there are apparent split between Germany's economic structure and the political and social value system that the economic structure could be easily controlled by industrial system and bureaucratic rule. In the meanwhile, culture value system and political structure is still influenced by traditional semi-feudal society values and bureaucratic conservatism. Web profoundly realize that the characteristic and defects of this system and analyzed thoroughly about the reason of features and defects, thus he put forward the bureaucratic centralization theory (Kasler, 1989).

Weber gave an extremely high praises to modern bureaucracy, he thought the emergence of modern capitalism is inseparable with the bureaucracy although entrepreneurs possess means of production. Market freedom, rational technical, predictable legal, free labor and commercial of capitalist is also the necessary condition of existence and development of capitalist. If people want to optimum use of the industrial organization of capitalism forms they must rely on the predictable judgment and management (Weber, 1978).

From 1960's, along with the rapid development of bureaucratic organization, scholars of western management, social field and even political field make a great criticism and rethinking of these bureaucratic organization. Since 1980's, in the most typical bureaucracy of public management field, from Britain to the United States, from Australia to New Zealand, it launched a global reform movement called the new public manage movement. In the business world, there is a powerful sound that government or enterprises must abandon bureaucracy since the emergence of a new management mode, for example, humanized management, network organization, virtual organization and learning organization.

Bureaucratic in modern management

Since the 18th century, bureaucratic has achieved great success in western society that the formal rationality and technical design are fit for their society. However, in contemporary developed countries they all entered the post-industrial society and the bureaucracy emergence several different degrees of ills on in or outside adapt. Because of its own defects and the development of the change modern social environment, the organization mode of the bureaucracy is also facing a crisis and the bureaucratic organization also exist some disadvantages.

First, bureaucratic organization's rigid and closed. Bureaucracy organization use hierarchy temperance type of organization form to maintain the authority of organization, use the scale and level of organization to reflect the superiority of bureaucratic organization, therefore, it leads unrestricted expansion of the organization's size (Andreski, 2010). As Weber said people will hold their position and use their deliberate to climb the peak of bureaucracy hierarchy. But at the peak it inevitably at least has a kind of not purely factors of bureaucratic system. Meanwhile, the technical and mysteriousness of bureaucratic organization make it become a closed system that separated from the social environment (Downs, 1967). So bureaucratic organization became lack of flexibility, more and more inflexible and can not adapt to the rapid development of the information society changes thus it showed overall non efficiency.

Second, bureaucracy advocated impersonal, rationalized and institutionalized spirit that hampered personal growth and personal mature, in a certain extent it influence the efficiency of the unity and organizational members (Levin &Sanger, 1994). The worker of bureaucracy only do things routine nature, they will lose their affection and finally become a person that has no spiritual experts and no emotion enjoyment. Individual's freedom is encroached by technological advances and organizational goals, people's personality and passion will be depressive, the man's work has become increasingly meaningless and no humanized.

Third, the inverted of purpose and means make former rationality enter the erroneous zone. Organization rule and program is mean to achieve organization's efficiency and means. But because the ego inflation of bureaucracy organization and the pursuit of their own interests make the purpose and means of bureaucracy organization inverted. Bureaucracy constantly improves its method for achieving its objectives and means increasingly become the purposes of management.

Forth, from the practical perspective analysis, bureaucracy led to widespread bureaucratize and corruption problem. Personal become a part of machine and any flexible behavior is not allowed in the hierarchy principle of machine built by organization division and differentiation. This will inevitably leads to the bureaucratic disease such as egotistical socialist and red-tape, bureaucracy will be fully development but the problem of bureaucracy will be more and more serious. Especially when people analysis the theory of Max Weber and bureaucratic centralization theory people will find some problems that many bureaucrats abuse public power and abuse power for their own interests even though these theory reflect strict rationality and science technology center of socialism, so that in the world most countries suffered bureaucratize and corruption problem when they practice bureaucracy (Morgan, 2010). As that point, people can say that bureaucratic organization is the breeding the hotbed of bureaucracy and corruption.

The more influential theory the more question will come from all parties. A cosmopolitan theory must undergo repeated criticism and temper. Weber's bureaucracy born with the noise of great industrial machine and it made a brilliant influence on industrial age. Bureaucratic organization appeared various problems in actual operation performance and most people put blame eye to Weber's theory. Meanwhile many people thought bureaucratic organization will be ended at 1950's or 1960's (Bennis, 2009), but the life of bureaucratic organization still not over.

If people can observe and study cautiously, they will find an interesting fact that those so-called alternative bureaucracy things, whether new theory or practical mode, not only abandon away bureaucracy but also perfect repair the bureaucracy. But there are some academic theories that do not direct conflict with bureaucracy corroded quietly with foundation of bureaucracy (Andreski, 2008). In a practice management, the new public management reform of government field and the management revolution of enterprise management have no fundamentally impact on bureaucracy. On the contrary, these reforms basically focus on improve performance, reduce cost and use rational method and without a reform is focus on negative the level of division, reduce rational factors and against professional skills. However, since 1960's, the new reform of bureaucracy as it is for swab machine dirt, remove the machine sundry, polishing, tighten parts and add some oil that make machine appear shining. So human beings can say because the Weber's bureaucracy, people established a research organization and unprecedented paradigm of management. Future management after Weber's is actually perfect, enrich and development this bureaucracy paradigm. So far, the new organization theory although had some breakthrough bureaucracy paradigm, but is still cannot become a new paradigm to alternative Weber's. Furthermore, those reform practices who try to abandon the bureaucracy have become new branches of this paradigm and those critical theories of bureaucracy are added Weber's theory on advocate rationality (Wood & Watermn, 1994). So bureaucracy paradigm of Weber's is still dominated the whole world.


Weber introduced bureaucracy to emphasize rule, ability and knowledge, which in fact offered an efficient and rational administrative system to society. An ideal administrative organization should be based on rationality-legal rights. The more it reduced the personal, irrational and unpredictable factors, the more it developed in Weber's view. Although the polity, economy and culture of modern society has changed a lot compared the Weber's age, but the basic idea of his age still applies to today's organization. Certainly, bureaucratic organization is still cannot easily replace of organization in the management of government' department, large social group and enterprise (Rosenbloom, 1995). However, people must be fully aware that the bureaucracy that developed on the industrial age already exist many problems and it becomes overstaffed, severe waste and low efficiency. Therefore, people must reform part of bureaucratic system, such as fully exert government officials' subjective and adaptability, decentralized government's power, pay a more attention to rationality, train rational spirit, play the advantage of bureaucracy technology, form a organization concept that respect knowledge and talent, establish a cheap and efficient government organization.