Weber's interest in the
nature of power and authority, as well as his pervasive preoccupation
with modern trends of rationalization, led him to concern himself
with the operation of modern large-scale enterprises in the political,
administrative, and economic realm. Bureaucratic coordination of
activities, he argued, is the distinctive mark of the modern era.
Bureaucracies are organized according to rational principles. Offices
are ranked in a hierarchical order and their operations are characterized
by impersonal rules. Incumbents are governed by methodical allocation
of areas of jurisdiction and delimited spheres of duty. Appointments
are made according to specialized qualifications rather than ascriptive
criteria. This bureaucratic coordination of the actions of large
numbers of people has become the dominant structural feature of
modern forms of organization. Only through this organizational device
has large- scale planning, both for the modern state and the modern
economy, become possible. Only through it could heads of state mobilize
and centralize resources of political power, which in feudal times,
for example, had been dispersed in a variety of centers. Only with
its aid could economic resources be mobilized, which lay fallow
in pre-modern times. Bureaucratic organization is to Weber the privileged
instrumentality that has shaped the modern polity, the modern economy,
the modern technology. Bureaucratic types of organization are technically
superior to all other forms of administration, much as machine production
is superior to handicraft methods.
Weber also noted the dysfunctions of bureaucracy. Its major advantage,
the calculability of results, also makes it unwieldy and even stultifying
in dealing with individual cases. Thus modern rationalized and bureaucratized
systems of law have become incapable of dealing with individual
particularities, to which earlier types of justice were well suited.
The "modern judge," Weber stated in writing on the legal
system of Continental Europe, " is a vending machine into which
the pleadings are inserted together with the fee and which then
disgorges the judgment together with the reasons mechanically derived
from the Code."
that the bureaucratization of the modern world has led to its depersonalization.
of decision-making] and with it its appropriateness for capitalism
. . [is] the more fully realized the more bureaucracy "depersonalizes"
itself, i.e., the more completely it succeeds in achieving the exclusion
of love, hatred, and every purely personal, especially irrational
and incalculable, feeling from the execution of official tasks.
In the place of the old-type ruler who is moved by sympathy, favor,
grace, and gratitude, modern culture requires for its sustaining
external apparatus the emotionally detached, and hence rigorously
Further bureaucratization and rationalization seemed to Weber an
almost inescapable fate.
consequences of that comprehensive bureaucratization and rationalization
which already today we see approaching. Already now . . . in all
economic enterprises run on modern lines, rational calculation is
manifest at every stage. By it, the performance of each individual
worker is mathematically measured, each man becomes a little cog
in the machine and, aware of this, his one preoccupation is whether
he can become a bigger cog. . . . It is apparent today we are proceeding
towards an evolution which resembles [the ancient kingdom of Egypt]
in every detail, except that it is built on other foundations, on
technically more perfect, more rationalized, and therefore much
more mechanized foundations. The problem which besets us now in
not: how can this evolution be changed?--for that is impossible,
but: what will come of it?
Weber's views about the inescapable rationalization and bureaucratization
of the world have obvious similarities to Marx's notion of alienation.
Both men agree that modern methods of organization have tremendously
increased the effectiveness and efficiency of production and organization
and have allowed an unprecedented domination of man over the world
of nature. They also agree that the new world of rationalized efficiency
has turned into a monster that threatens to dehumanize its creators.
But Weber disagrees with Marx when the latter sees alienation as
only a transitional stage on the road to man's true emancipation.
Weber does not believe in the future leap from the realm of necessity
into the world of freedom. Even though he would permit himself upon
occasion the hope that some charismatic leader might arise to deliver
mankind from the curse of its own creation, he thought it more probable
that the future would be an "iron cage" rather than a
Garden of Eden.
There is yet
another respect in which Weber differed from, or rather enlarged
upon, Marx. In accord with his focus on the sphere of economic production,
Marx had documented in great detail how the capitalist industrial
organization led tot eh expropriation of the worker form the means
of production; how the modern industrial worker, in contrast to
the artisan of the handicraft era, did not own his own tools and
was hence forced to sell his labor to those who controlled him.
Agreeing with most of this analysis, Weber countered with the observation
that such expropriation from the means of work was an inescapable
result of any system of rationalized and centrally coordinated production,
rather than being a consequence of capitalism as such. Such expropriation
would characterize a socialist system of production just as much
as it would the capitalist form. Moreover, Weber argued, Marx's
nearly exclusive concern with the productive sphere led him to overlook
the possibility that the expropriation of the workers from the means
of production was only a special case of a more general phenomenon
in modern society where scientists are expropriated from the means
of research, administrators from the means of administration, and
warriors from the means of violence. He further contended that in
all relevant spheres of modern society men could no longer engage
in socially significant action unless they joined a large-scale
organization in which they were allocated specific tasks and to
which they were admitted only upon condition they they sacrificed
their personal desires and predilections to the impersonal goals
and procedures that governed the whole.