Weber, Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft, part III, chap. 6, pp. 650-78
VIII. Bureaucracy - I: Characteristics of Bureaucracy
MODERN officialdom functions in the following specific manner:
I. There is the
principle of fixed and official jurisdictional areas, which are
generally ordered by rules, that is, by laws or administrative regulations.
1. The regular activities
required for the purposes of the bureaucratically governed structure
are distributed in a fixed way as official duties.
2. The authority to give
the commands required for the discharge of these duties is distributed
in a stable way and is strictly delimited by rules concerning the
coercive means, physical, sacerdotal, or otherwise, which may be
placed at the disposal of officials.
3. Methodical provision
is made for the regular and continuous fulfilment of these duties
and for the execution of the corresponding rights; only persons
who have the generally regulated qualifications to serve are employed.
In public and lawful
government these three elements constitute 'bureaucratic authority.'
In private economic domination, they constitute bureaucratic 'management.'
Bureaucracy, thus understood, is fully developed in political and
ecclesiastical communities only in the modern state, and, in the
private economy, only in the most advanced institutions of capitalism.
Permanent and public office authority, with fixed jurisdiction,
is not the historical rule but rather the exception. This is so
even in large political structures such as those of the ancient
Orient, the Germanic and Mongolian empires of conquest, or of many
feudal structures of state. In all these cases, the ruler executes
the most important measures through personal trustees, table-companions,
or court-servants. Their commissions and authority are not precisely
delimited and are temporarily called into being for each case.
II. The principles of
office hierarchy and of levels of graded authority mean a firmly
ordered system of super- and subordination in which there is a supervision
of the lower offices by the higher ones. Such a system offers the
governed the possibility of appealing the decision of a lower office
to its higher authority, in a definitely regulated manner. With
the full development of the bureaucratic type, the office hierarchy
is monocratically organized. The principle of hierarchical office
authority is found in all bureaucratic structures: in state and
ecclesiastical structures as well as in large party organizations
and private enterprises. It does not matter for the character of
bureaucracy whether its authority is called 'private' or 'public.'
When the principle of
jurisdictional 'competency' is fully carried through, hierarchical
subordination--at least in public office--does not mean that the
'higher' authority is simply authorized to take over the business
of the 'lower.' Indeed, the opposite is the rule. Once established
and having fulfilled its task, an office tends to continue in existence
and be held by another incumbent.
III. The management of
the modern office is based upon written documents ('the files'),
which are preserved in their original or draught form. There is,
therefore, a staff of subaltern officials and scribes of all sorts.
The body of officials actively engaged in a 'public' office, along
with the respective apparatus of material implements and the files,
make up a 'bureau.' In private enterprise, 'the bureau' is often
called 'the office.'
In principle, the modern
organization of the civil service separates the bureau from the
private domicile of the official, and, in general, bureaucracy segregates
official activity as something distinct from the sphere of private
life. Public monies and equipment are divorced from the private
property of the official. This condition is everywhere the product
of a long development. Nowadays, it is found in public as well as
in private enterprises; in the latter, the principle extends even
to the leading entrepreneur. In principle, the executive office
is separated from the household, business from private correspondence,
and business assets from private fortunes. The more consistently
the modern type of business management has been carried through
the more are these separations the case. The beginnings of this
process are to be found as early as the Middle Ages.
It is the peculiarity
of the modern entrepreneur that he conducts himself as the 'first
official' of his enterprise, in the very same way in which the ruler
of a specifically modern bureaucratic state spoke of himself as
'the first servant' of the state. The idea that the bureau activities
of the state are intrinsically different in character from the management
of private economic offices is a continental European notion and,
by way of contrast, is totally foreign to the American way.
IV. Office management,
at least all specialized office management-- and such management
is distinctly modern--usually presupposes thorough and expert training.
This increasingly holds for the modern executive and employee of
private enterprises, in the same manner as it holds for the state
V. When the office is
fully developed, official activity demands the full working capacity
of the official, irrespective of the fact that his obligatory time
in the bureau may be firmly delimited. In the normal case, this
is only the product of a long development, in the public as well
as in the private office. Formerly, in all cases, the normal state
of affairs was reversed: official business was discharged as a secondary
VI. The management of
the office follows general rules, which are more or less stable,
more or less exhaustive, and which can be learned. Knowledge of
these rules represents a special technical learning which the officials
possess. It involves jurisprudence, or administrative or business
The reduction of modern
office management to rules is deeply embedded in its very nature.
The theory of modern public administration, for instance, assumes
that the authority to order certain matters by decree--which has
been legally granted to public authorities--does not entitle the
bureau to regulate the matter by commands given for each case, but
only to regulate the matter abstractly. This stands in extreme contrast
to the regulation of all relationships through individual privileges
and bestowals of favor, which is absolutely dominant in patrimonialism,
at least in so far as such relationships are not fixed by sacred