Weber’s Theory of Bureaucracy

… a core concept in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100

Concept description

Wikipedia (reference below) summarizes the bureaucratic model expounded by Max Weber (1864-1920) as incorporating:

  • rigid division of labor which clearly identifies the regular tasks and duties of the particular bureaucratic system.
  • firmly established chains of command, and the duties and capacity to coerce others to comply is described by regulation.
  • regular and continuous execution of the assigned duties by hiring people with particular qualifications which are certified.

Wikipedia notes that this gives rise to nine main principles or characteristics:

  1. Specialized roles
  2. Recruitment based on merit (e.g., tested through open competition)
  3. Uniform principles of placement, promotion, and transfer in an administrative system
  4. Careerism with systematic salary structure
  5. Hierarchy, responsibility and accountability
  6. Subjection of official conduct to strict rules of discipline and control
  7. Supremacy of abstract rules
  8. Impersonal authority (office bearer does not bring the office with him)
  9. Political neutrality

Wikipedia states that:

“Max Weber himself noted, real bureaucracy will be less optimal and effective than his ideal type model. Each of Weber’s principles can degenerate, more so, when it is utilized to analyze the individual level in the organization. But when implemented in a group setting in an organization, some form of efficiency and effectiveness can be achieved, especially with regards to better output. … However, competencies, efficiency and effectiveness can be unclear and contradictory especially when dealing with oversimplified matters. In a dehumanized bureaucracy, inflexible in distributing the job-scope, with every worker having to specialize from day one without rotating tasks for fear of decreasing output, tasks are often routine and can contribute to boredom. Thus, employees can sometimes feel that they are not part of the organization’s work vision and missions. Consequently, they do not have any sense of belonging in the long term.”

Atlas topic, subject, and course

Organizational Design and Behaviour (core topic) in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100 Governance and Institutions.


Wikipedia, Max Weber, at, accessed 19 January 2017. Works cited in quotation:

Jeong Chun Hai @Ibrahim, & Nor Fadzlina Nawi (2012), Principles of Public Administration: Malaysian Perspectives. Kuala Lumpur: Pearson Publishers.

James W. Fesler (1965), “Bureaucratic Phenomena”. Administrative Science Quarterly, Volume 10, September 1965, p. 163.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 19 January 2017.

Image: Wikipedia, Max Weber, at, accessed 19 January 2017.