Bureaucracy. Eugene Kamenka 1989

What is Bureaucracy and What is its Future?

‘Bureaucracy’ is an overworked concept and often an unclear one. It is, as Martin Albrow has put it, ‘a term of strong emotive overtones and elusive connotations’. Albrow distinguishes seven separate though related modern meanings of the term. These I have in part incorporated and in part significantly amended in what follows. Most neutrally, and in my view most fundamentally, as a descriptive core, ‘bureaucracy’ means a centrally directed, systematically organized and hierarchically structured staff devoted to the regular, routine and efficient carrying out of large-scale administrative tasks according to policies dictated by, rulers or directors standing outside and above the bureaucracy. Such a staff, as Weber rightly saw, tends to become rule-bound, functionally specialized, elevating impersonality and esprit de corps. But ‘bureaucracy’ has also meant the opposite of organizational efficiency and effective centralized control: red tape, slowness of procedure, reluctance to take a decision, the unnecessary multiplication of people, rules and forms — a connotation achieved by singling out for attention unfavourable secondary features or tendencies of bureaucratic structures. The term ‘bureaucracy’ has been included in, but also contrasted with, the more general concept of administration. Sometimes this is done by seeing bureaucracy as a formal and impersonal mode of administration, sometimes by seeing bureaucracy as that form of administration where administrators (the bureaucrats, the officials) have become the real rulers, arrogating to themselves privilege, power and control, and thus prejudicing, as Laski put it, the liberties of ordinary citizens or the power of their nominal ruler(s). Not only administrative forms or staffs, but whole societies have been described as ‘bureaucratic’ on that basis. Some writers distinguish modern state-centred and highly or pervasively administered societies from looser, more traditional and less rationalistic societies of the past. Others single out, in both past and present, societies basically or effectively ruled by a caste of officials, who derive their position and their power from carrying out socially central administrative tasks. These have been called oriental despotisms, examples of the Asiatic mode of production, bureaucratic feudalism, state capitalism or simply ‘totalitarian’. They have been contrasted with freer, less state-directed, more pluralist societies that have not been totally bureaucratized and with arbitrary personal rule, tyranny or ‘sultanism’, where nothing is rule-bound, routine, predictable.

Like so many fundamental concepts in social thought, each of these ‘definitions’ or uses of the word ‘bureaucracy’ incorporates a wider theory. In the case of ‘rule’ or ‘power’ of officials it further incorporates a relative, shifting standard of what amounts to ‘power’, best expressed as a point along a continuum stretching from helplessness to omnipotence but rarely, if ever, achieving either end. All of the uses I have mentioned, nevertheless, derive from the elevation or criticism of a basic concept of bureaucracy as referring to centrally directed and supervised, hierarchically structured routine administration on a scale so large that it must be conducted on the basis of rules; files and delegated but formally limited authority that is related to the functions of each office. Let us begin, therefore, by distinguishing sharply and definitely between the descriptive core of the term ‘bureaucracy’ and pejorative overtones that can be and have been added to it by incorporating further claims about the nature or effects of bureaucratic structures and organizations. Those claims may be true even if they are often grossly exaggerated, but they constitute a separate and different issue.

Max Weber was right in rejecting the usefulness and centrality for the study of history and society of rigidly defined, clear and distinct universal concepts, static pictures, against which concrete historical processes and events were to be matched and classified. He perceived, rightly, that ‘bureaucracy’, like many other social concepts, constituted a shorthand for complex systems and trends that work themselves out over time. They had to be understood in and through wider social contexts, functions and problems. They held together, in logical and practical relationships, mutually supporting characteristics, principles, attitudes and traditions; they struggled against that which was for them disruptive, competitive, dysfunctional. Bureaucracy, in short, was an ‘ideal type’, a selectively accentuated theoretical construct recognising and organising the existence and inter-relation of logical and historical trends — both injecting theory into practice and drawing theoretical perceptions out of it. Ideal types enable us to recognize the great conflicts of history for what they are — not mere random or accidental collisions, but great struggles between competing trends, outlooks, traditions and ways of organization, incorporating ‘contradictory’ principles, values and desiderata. For, as Werner Sombart has rightly said, ‘No theory, no history’. But ideal types, though suited to studying social trends and institutions over time, are not themselves atemporal. What is coherent, mutually supportive, (efficient’ in one age or set of circumstances may cease to be so in another, may itself give rise to unsuspected conflicts and tensions as it confronts new situations and demands.

The impact of Max Weber in giving us new perspectives on the past has been immense. He has revolutionized much writing of history and much of our understanding of past, especially of ancient, societies, just as he has profoundly influenced our appreciation of the differences that European developments in the past three centuries have made and are still making in the rest of the world. As Theodore von Laue has put it:

[T]he world revolution of Westernization brought together, in inescapably intimate and virtually instant interaction, all the peoples of the world, regardless of their prior cultural evolution or their capacity — or incapacity — for peaceful coexistence ...

In creating an interdependent world through. conquest, colonization and expanded opportunities for all ... [a small minority commonly called ‘The West’] imposed its own accomplishments as a universal standard to which all others, however reluctantly, had to submit ...

Western ascendancy was so complete that it left only one rational response: abject imitation as a condition of survival and self-affirmation. Decolonization and the formation of Western-inspired nation-states among the former colonial and semi-colonial peoples merely escalated the imitation and hardened the grip of Western institutions and values over the entire world. Even the most heated protests against Western power — and they were never lacking were expressed in Western concepts and propagated by Western technology in Western languages.

For the sake of feeding’, housing, transporting, educating, and employing the world’s population, ‘Westernization’ is now pressed forward by non-Westerners themselves. Culturally neutralized, it has become ‘modernization’ or simply ‘development’, the common goal of all peoples and governments no matter how handicapped in achieving it.

Much as some may dislike the ideology of ‘modernization’, it is gross misunderstanding to blind oneself to the fact. The apparent challenges to the West, both communism and fascism, Laue insists, in fact tried ‘to convert their subjects by force into organization-minded citizens as disciplined, loyal, and cooperative as their counterparts in the Western democracies’.

Rizzi’s title La Bureaucratisation du monde, then, was an accurate enough prediction — a leitmotif in recent human history and in global perspectives, made even more pervasive and inevitable by the continuing rapid escalation of the world’s population and of technological means and the need for centralized controls and ever-wider economies of scale. Weber’s conception of rational-legal authority and of modern bureaucracy as an ideal type has in crucial respects indeed been working itself out over history, now providing the constitutional forms, the administrative structures and the legal systems or rules of the world’s nation-states, of regional and international bodies and of great multinational corporations.

Weber himself was careful to insist that no actual historical institution or administrative structure corresponds completely to its ideal type. Some of the less interesting criticism of Weber consists merely of elaboration of this fact — of bringing out the importance of personal networks, of traditions, of charisma, even of corruption in actual existing bureaucracies, both past and present. That no one sensible would deny or consider a valid or important reason for rejecting Weber’s postulation of a trend. A more interesting and significant criticism emphasizes the role that personal networks, traditions, charisma and even corruption play in enabling bureaucracies to do their work efficiently — a matter ,on which there is much evidence. This can indeed be of central importance to the historian in studying particular societies and institutions and to the statesman in formulating policies. Eliminating corruption overnight in Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, the USSR or China is impossible, precisely because without it the present economy and administration would abruptly grind to a halt and the cooperation and accommodation necessary for their operation would disintegrate.

Further, as both Robert Merton and Philip SeIznick have pointed out, Weber’s emphasis on precision and reliability in administration, on its rule-bound character, has to be supplemented by a recognition that human attitudes and relationships are involved. The norms of impersonality may bring administrators into conflict with citizens and thus make them ‘inefficient’. Functional sub-division will set up sub-group loyalties in the bureaucracy vital to the successful functioning of the sub-division, yet leading to conflicts within the whole. That point is more damaging to Weber’s theory. It brings out one of the general difficulties of functional social theories and of the concept of ideal types. That which is ‘functional’, ‘efficient’, is not always a coherent logical structure — efficiency may depend, and usually does, on a delicate balancing, in concrete contexts, of competing and conflicting trends and desiderata. A bureaucracy needs both impersonality and ‘good relations’, predictability and flexibility, rules and discretyions, central control and local initiative. Weber’s ideal-type bureaucracy, as a theoretical construct, is not undermined by this. Only by formulating that construct can we see both the extent to which actual bureaucracies depart from it and when and why they do so functionally or dysfunctionally. But when and why this is so we cannot determine in the abstract — we must look at actual bureaucratic institutions and the societies in which they work, at the character of the population, at the technologies available, at ideologies and traditions. Neither in the attempt to understand history nor in the attempt to formulateadministrative and political principles for our own age can we work from general abstract principles alone.

Weber captured an important element in the development of modern conceptions of bureaucracy as a ‘public service’ when he stressed that a bureaucracy should be a staff carrying out policies given to it. That aspect of bureaucracy — the extent to which it influences policies, ignores them or creates its own — has long caused concern an causes more concern as the scale and complexity _of administration increase. In recent writing, there has been greater emphasis on and recognition of the relationship of particular functional departments in the bureaucracy with ‘clients’ and others who form an interest group in society. The latter may seek, honestly or corruptly, to turn that section of the bureaucracy into their ‘representatives’. The relevant section of the bureaucracy may even play that role on its own initiative, as a result of its work experience and compete, on behalf of its ‘clients’, with other sections of the bureaucracy, seeking to alter the allocation of resources, the nature and application of rules and even the overall policies. It is difficult to see bureaucracies as playing an important role in ‘feedback’ without giving at least limited endorsement to such internal bureaucratic initiatives. When sections of bureaucracy ‘go public’, the question becomes more difficult, though it was long a socialist demand (in countries not governed by socialists) that public servants should be free to speak out and oppose policies they were expected to administer. Even in ancient China, there were acceptable ways of doing this under penalty — by committing suicide to impress on the emperor how serious an issue had been dismissed.

On this basis, we are in a position to consider Weber’s ideal type of bureaucracy as a tool for giving us new or at least fruitful — perspectives on the past and for coping with modern developments, especially in post-industrial technologically highly advanced societies. When it comes to the past it could be argued that Weber, by focusing on the contrast between traditional and rational-legal authority and legitimation, has over-emphasized the break between aspects of bureaucratic theory and practice in the great bureaucracies of ancient societies and those of the modern age — though it is also precisely through his ideal type that he is able to bring out reasons for the instability of many ancient bureaucracies and patterns of rule.

Weber’s work itself did, much to draw attention to the power and size of hierarchically organized formal administrative structures in parts of the ancient world. It would be perverse not to use the terms ‘bureaucracy’ and ‘bureaucracies’ for organized administration through others on that scale. It would also be important not to confuse officials with local notables or feudal lords, deriving some authority from the king but not all of it and performing some tasks and passing on some tribute or taxes to him. Weber was right in arguing that in ancient and medieval societies the line between an official and a comparatively independent magnate or lord accepting some duties to and control by the state could be uncertain. Often, however, the uncertainty is ours and stems from the fact that we do not know enough. The line, as Weber said, can easily be crossed when the centre is weak or parsimonious, when it leaves officials to raise their own reward. But Weber did systematically underestimate the extent to which ‘rational’ bureaucratic procedures were developing even in very early times.

There is some basis, then, for speaking of bureaucracy in (parts of) the ancient world, for noting that it is more unstable in some societies than others and for describing societies like post-Han China as highly bureaucratized. We can make sense of the notion that there are more bureaucratized societies and less bureaucratized societies, as well as societies that have no significant bureaucratic structures at all. The Marxist concept of the Asiatic mode of production recognized, correctly, that there were societies in which the state — the ruler and the officials acting in his name — organized and controlled production, distribution and exchange on a national scale, appropriating the ‘surplus value’ produced by the labour of the people to such extent that the state formed the Marxist ruling and exploiting class. In such societies, power vis-a-vis ‘the masses’ rested principally upon state-created or state-recognized position, not on wealth or status independent of the ruler. The parallel between those societies and the modern communist states is striking and has struck many; it is fair to say that both kinds are examples of bureaucratic societies. To say this is to say that they are ruled by state officials that form a self-perpetuating bureaucracy which confront the people as the privileged and ruling class. It is not to say that the emperor, king or general secretary is a mere puppet of this class. That suggestion may and does raise complex and difficult issues that cannot be decided on general theoretical or sociological principles. Nor is it easy to characterize the social origins and composition of such bureaucracies as independent variables.

In speaking of bureaucratic or bureaucratized societies, we are using a comparative, relative standard — plotting points on a continuum. The western world today seems increasingly bureaucratized to most of its inhabitants. It would not seem very bureaucratic to a Chinese or a Russian of almost any historical period. The movement represented by Gorbachev and Deng Xiao-ping contributes a conscious if limited attempt to debureaucratize their own societies precisely in the sense of weakening the scope and unassailability of bureaucratic control, of control by officials and official procedures.

To speak of bureaucratic societies is to speak of the role and relative power and importance of officials serving or constituting the state. Turning to Weber’s narrower and more specific conception of modern rational bureaucracy as an ideal type, one might argue that he did grasp an important historical trend. Sir Ernest Barker called it ‘the disengagement of the state’, the creation of a public as opposed to a royal service. Weber also saw some of the most important causes of instability in pre-modern bureaucracies — the tendency to convert offices into fiefs. But his concept of ‘rational’ bureaucracy as an ideal type brings together, into an allegedly logical relationship, features of modern bureaucracies that can and do come into conflict with each other or become dysfunctional in changed social circumstances. Thus in modern, post-industrial societies — where we have a great tendency to elevate the newspaper headlines of the decade into the truth of the century — there are nevertheless features Weber took insufficient notice of. The increasing prosperity, education and sophistication of the population in the fortunate post-industrial societies have, as many socialists predicted, led to a steady diminution of the role of direct physical force in the allocation of goods and of direct authoritarian command in the production of goods and administration of services. The computer has meant a drastic reduction in the labour necessary to assemble as a matter of routine the information on which bureaucracies work. The increasing education and sophistication of the workforce has led to more collaborative and cooperative styles of work. The rigidity of centralized direction, in a world of increasing complexity and of much greater public protest and scrutiny, has proved even more dysfunctional than it was 100 years ago. Telephone exchanges, as one study proved, operated more efficiently if the operators felt themselves to be working in a significant area of personal discretion and responsibility, provided that area is not too great. As bureaucracies grow in size and intrude into more and more aspects of social fife, functional specialization reveals some of its dangers. Centralized direction as the imposition of a system of general rules comes to have greater and greater difficulty in dealing not only with special cases, but with particular areas of concern, particular classes of people, particular and often transitional problems. For the practising administrator and the administrative theorist, less so for the historian , these questions of balance can become central. They do so especially in a society of rapid change, where flexibility and innovative responsiveness to change suddenly appear more crucial even than stability and obedience to rules. One result of this is a movement away from the legal education that had been replacing the generalist training of administrators toward ever more specialized training for lower and middle level bureaucrats and the elevation of economic and scientific training at the top. Another movement, linked with demands for wide-ranging social reform on single but pervasive issues (such as the position of women, of the poor, of indigenous peoples) has been the formation of political-administrative task forces criticizing and ‘making inputs’ into the work of many ministries rather than seeking a ministry or department of their own, so as to draw attention to the unexpected impact on women or the poor, or indigenous peoples, of policies not on the face of it related to those issues. Together with these demands for wide-ranging and rapid social reform have come far-reaching attacks on or rejections of the ideal of bureaucratic impartiality and of the separation between the political formulation of policies and the administrative implementation of them. All this, very visibly, undermines Weber’s elevation of ideal-type bureaucracy as ‘rational’, in the sense of desirable, for modern conditions. But it does not, I believe, undermine it as a tool for understanding the changes in modern fife and the attacks on it. Nor could the present elevation of other concerns make sense if the stable structures and rules, the bureaucratic efficiency and impersonality of the past could not be taken for granted. In fact, however, efficiency and impersonality cannot be achieved or maintained as a basic, necessary and desirable foundation for administrative work and discretionary decisions without continued emphasis on the features — Weber treated as characterizing ‘rational’, ideal type bureaucracy. The point is not to get rid of that concept or of that type of administrative integrity and impersonality but to recognize competing requirements and desiderata. Some of the new public concerns mentioned above, the demands for rapid social reform, have undermined and continue to undermine some of the virtues of ‘rational’ bureaucracy and the professional integrity of the bureaucrat as an impersonal administrator, putting aside his or her prejudices and predilections. A politicization of the public service that prevents it from acting as a brake on political wilfulness and arrogance can be the result. Here, too, it is a question of balance. The horrors of National Socialist Germany and other horrors have made people today extremely aware of the fact that unjust laws are not made better by being justly administered and that they are made worse in their effects by being efficiently administered. The result has been a strong, perhaps excessive, revolt against rule-boundedness analogous to the belief that there is nothing between wearing jackboots and having bare feet. Neither extreme makes for a tolerable or a fair society.

With the spread of social egalitarianism, resentment of bureaucracy has indeed focused on rules and procedures, on bureaucratization even more than on bureaucrats. The resentment, often justified, is of the distortion of facts, values and activities in the interest of making them quantifiable, categorizable and more easily administered — though there is also the less worthy resentment of considerations that take account of interests other than one’s own. There is the clash, noted by Daniel Bell, between an economic system that elevates efficiency, a political system that elevates equality and an educational and ideological trend that elevates self-determination. Here, bureaucracy as state organization has been very significantly supplemented by the increasing bureaucratization of the non-state sector, including corporations, trade unions, hospitals and schools (whether public or private). Weber himself stimulated considerable work, especially in Germany, on non-state bureaucracies and comparisons of these with those of the state. More recently, there has been much greater intertwining of public and private economic activity and services. The distinctiveness of the sphere assigned to the state and consequently to the public service has been greatly weakened and much of the western world has followed America in seeing no real distinction between the managerial skills and philosophies required in higher level public service and those required in the private sector. That does assault, to a significant degree, both the contemporary public servant’s sense of vocation and career structure and permanence. It may bring other benefits, such as more direct responsiveness to ‘market’ and popular demands and greater flexibility in meeting these. But it is weakening both the dedication and the disinterestedness of those who saw the public service career as being just that — public service. The fact that ‘disinterestedness’ has become, in many circles, a dirty word, is not wholly to be welcomed.

A theoretical difficulty for Weber that has become especially evident in recent times is Weber’s conflation of professional and administrative expertise — a source of conflict elevated by Talcott Parsons and Alvin Gouldner who see important tensions between the professional ethos and the administrative. More recently, Robert Brown,’ drawing on a vast literature, has emphasized that bureaucratic administration, whether public or private, is nowhere near as stable in its self-maintenance as Weber believed, even when it is on Weber’s criterion ‘rational’. Brown cites W. G. Bennis to bring out four major contemporary threats to a Weberian model of centralized bureaucratic administration built on routine work-flows, a pyramidal chain of command and a clear system of rules. These are rapid and unexpected change (now more and more frequent); an increase in size beyond sustainable growth; an increasing variety of specialized skills that replace the previous mass of simple repetitive jobs; an increasing demand from the workforce that the tasks themselves be made more satisfying.

P.M. Blau and M.W. Meyer have suggested that in modern administrative structures the codes and procedures by which administrators work are increasingly ‘subject to challenge, review and change. The bureaucratic hierarchy becomes a network for channeling information and appeals for review. Thus, managerial authority still exists in the organization, but it is depersonalized, being exercised not so much through issuing commands and close supervision as through designing effective impersonal control systems’. As machines, especially the computer, supply more and more of the information, the role of direct interpersonal command diminishes, the number and importance of competent specialists consulted by colleagues and superiors increase and work becomes more cooperative. As Brown puts it, ‘labour specialization, job rules, standard operating procedures, impersonal relations, and especially hierarchical authority, all limit variation, both of input and output’. Bureaucracies may well divide into task-forces of temporary teams with minimum supporting staff and an extended family of interconnected computers and automated machinery dealing with large routine flows of work and requiring only a skeleton staff of overseers. This, though even now not beyond possibility, may take time to spread through the system. In the meantime, the number of task-forces — whether they are called that or not — constantly increases, as does the rapidity with which their members are expected to turn from one major task to another. The old concept of bureaucracy as requiring caution, rigidity and immersion in dull and safe routine is already becoming increasingly inapposite in modern societies of rapid social, political and technetronic change. So is the simple division between political rule and administrative service or between ‘expert’ advice and administrative responsibilities. It is here that Gesellschaft traditions of private law, freedom of speech, publication and information and effective democratic government remain the important, if imperfect, effective limitation on the power of bureaucrats and of bureaucracy vis-a-vis its clients, just as bureaucrats, with experts and academics, still offer some check on political dishonesty and shallowness, on frank appeals to self-interest and on the contemporary politician’s preference for looking good in the short term in the media and in the marginal seat. The great crimes of history have been committed in the name of religion, of morality and of politics — not of bureaucracy.

This book, then, is to a significant extent a defence of Weber as the proposer of themes around which the historical study and understanding of bureaucracies can be organized. It is not a defence of Weber as someone who has exhausted the issues with which bureaucracies are confronted and which are relevant to understanding their organization and style of work. Those issues, as Weber himself saw, have to be dealt with concretely, in specific and changing historical and social contexts. Some of the criticism of Weber is an elaboration of this. More of it, today, is an emotional rejection of actual historical facts and trends — of the triumph of nation-states over stateless communities, of complexity over simplicity, of planning over taking it easy, of exercising authority over harming no one, or of western rationalism over backward-looking traditionalism and fundamentalism. Here, too, actual societies depend on a delicate and subtle balance between all of these — a balance that cannot be prescribed on the basis of general moral or political principles, and that necessarily changes with time.

A striking feature of the modern age is its greatly expanded experience of different modes of living and social organization and its increased recognition of complexity, of the possibility of handling different things in different ways, as well as its yearning for seemingly incompatible ‘life-styles’. Let us return to a distinction we have made in the course of this book between Gemeinschaft, Gesellschaft and bureaucratic-administrative structures, institutions and Weltanschauungen. These terms should not be seen as designating whole societies or whole periods of human history. They should be seen, rather, as coexisting, competing and conflicting trends that have manifested themselves in human history, and in particular social institutions, including actual bureaucracies, themselves. Gemeinschaft elevates the spontaneous cooperation and common interest of a community based on interpersonal relations and shared outlook, ideology and tradition. On a wider scale, however, its ‘social cement’ has tended to be provided by imposed ideologies and social hierarchies. Gesellschaft elevates individual rights and pursuits in a framework of stable impersonal laws that see citizens as standing, legally and politically, in a horizontal relationship of equality and equivalence, having rights against the state and its officers in exactly the same way as the state and its officers have rights against them. Its formal equality can hide, or even facilitate, much substantive inequality — though it is on Gesellschaft ideology that the demand for substantive equality has fed. The bureaucratic-administrative elevates social purposes and social areas as planning goals. It sees the relationship between these goals and both functionaries and citizens as vertical relationships of subordination and sub-subordination. Ideally, it assigns to people a place in an administered society and an administered activity, even if the administration is ultimately for the good of the people. In spite of Weber’s typically continental conflation of the two, it elevates administration’, regulation, ‘public’ law concerned with ordering activities, rather than (private’ law, which is concerned with the rights of the parties before the court, which treats the state itself, in any particular case, as just another party and the social interest as just another (somewhat suspect) particular interest, sometimes (but only sometimes) overriding.

Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft have been presented as direct conceptually systematic contradictories fighting each other on every point — though Edward Shils has correctly pointed out that the modern Gesellschaft is bearable only because it is palliated by the existence of innumerable Gemeinschaften within it. Others have stressed the strength of contractual reciprocities, and of economic dependence and self-interest, even within rural or tribal Gemeinschaften. The bureaucratic-administrative stands in a more complex relationship to each of these two opposites. It shares with the Gemeinschaft the elevation of the social against the individual, of responsibilities against rights, of common purposes against individual satisfactions, of specific response to social ‘needs’ against abstract rules designed to protect individuals. Both Gemeinschaft and the bureaucratic-administrative emphasize social relationships and the needs of social activities and provinces against the individual. They thus tend to reject the conception of the abstract individual, to define the administrator and the citizen as belonging to a certain group, as having a status — whether as pensioner, ‘disadvantaged person’, the ‘prescribed authority’, or whatever. Against the Gemeinschaft, however, the bureaucratic-administrative and the Gesellschaft share the elevation of law, rules and regularized procedures, the concepts of intra and ultra vires and the depersonalization of claims and demands.

Elsewhere, Professor Tay and I have explored the contradictory tensions in socialism and in modern communist societies by arguing that traditional socialism stands in an ambiguous critical relationship to the Gesellschaft of laissez-faire capitalism, elevating Gemeinschaft criticisms and longings on the one hand and bureaucratic-administrative ones on the other. What was true of nineteenth-century socialism and modern communism has remained true, only more obviously so, as political climates and economic demands and arrangements change. But it has become equally true of modern western societies, even if the relative strengths of the three components differ. Modern western society has witnessed, simultaneously, a concerted attack on and subversion of the last remaining traditional status-bound Gemeinschaft institutions in that society — the family, the school, the university, the professions — in the interests of the Gesellschaft values of equality and de-traditionalization and of bureaucratic-administrative values of ‘economic rationalization’ and the reducing of all to a common administrative measure. Here ‘bureaucratization’ rather than ‘bureaucrats’ is the enemy. Here, as Weber foresaw, collegiality gives way to centralized control, pluralism to the monocratic principle and to corporatism, to what the Nazis called Gleichschaltung, making everything operate as part of a unified system. But we have also seen, simultaneously, an elevation of selected individual rights against both bureaucracies and Gemeinschaft institutions, an elevation of social planning and economic rationalization against individual rights and liberties and social differentiation, and a highly politicized elevation of ‘community’ values, participation and support.

While there is much strident overemphasis by partisan supporters of each course, there is, in practice at least, growing recognition that Gemeinschaft, Gesellschaft and the bureaucratic-administrative all have their part to play in social life. This is so not only in the wider society as a whole, but within the public or civil service, and other bureaucratic institutions. There lip-service, at least, is increasingly paid to 91 of these ideals and styles of working. In practice we now have the search for an optimal mix, which cannot be deduced from general principles. But we search in the context of ever-increasing bureaucratization in practice on the one hand, of ever-increasing politicization (often dishonest) on the other, and of some fundamental changes in the nature of bureaucratic structures themselves that depart from the traditional concept of the bureaucratic-administrative. That which explains the past need by no means necessarily point the way to the future. At present still, bureaucratization, more than bureaucracies, is one of the great dangers of modern life. Shallow, media-oriented politicization is another. Here, too, Weber and Tönnies and a mass of modern writing help us to see the resulting collisions as more than random accidents. Nor will such a typology make us jump in surprise when we find the Byzantine bureaucrat or the Chinese official conscious of at least some similar tensions and conflicts. That things are the same and not the same — eadem sed aliter — is still the motto of history and of life.