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In: Business and Management

Submitted By roys
Words 13513
Pages 55
Maybe it is time to rediscover bureaucracy?
Johan P. Olsen

Working Paper
No.10, March 2005


The paper questions the fashionable ideas, that bureaucratic organization is an obsolescent, undesirable and non-viable form of administration, and that there is an inevitable and irreversible paradigmatic shift towards market- or network organization. In contrast, the paper argues that contemporary democracies are involved in another round in a perennial debate and ideological struggle over what are desirable forms of administration and government, that is, a struggle over institutional identities and institutional balances.
The argument is not that bureaucratic organization is a panacea and the answer to all challenges of public administration. Rather, bureaucratic organization is part of a repertoire of overlapping, supplementary and competing forms co-existing in contemporary democracies, and so are market-organization and network-organization.
Rediscovering Weber’s analysis of bureaucratic organization, then, enriches our understanding of public administration. This is in particular true when we (a) include bureaucracy as an institution, and not only an instrument; (b) look at the empirical studies in their time and context, and not only at Weber’s ideal-types and predictions; and (c) take into account the political and normative order bureaucracy is part of, and not only the internal characteristics of “the bureau”.


Making sense of public administration
Is “bureaucracy” an organizational dinosaur helplessly involved in its death struggle? Is it an undesirable and non-viable form of administration developed in a legalistic and authoritarian society and now inevitably withering away because it is incompatible with complex, individualistic and dynamic societies? Are, therefore, the term…...

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