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The Improvement and Utilization of Max Weber’s Theories on Bureaucracy

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Max Weber was known as a successful sociologist. In his life time he had written so many theories that influenced the lives of the people around him. In his theories he talked about rationality, religion, political value, responsibility, and management. Most of his works were with religious belief. Weber’s success has reasons. Weber looked at the problems from the perspective of development. He thought the biggest changes between today and five hundred years ago were not science, technology, medication. He believed the biggest change was a difference in the way people think. People who live in the twenty-first century query his ideology obsoleted. In someone’s opinion, people focused too much on the result but ignored Weber’s way of thinking. Weber’s critical thinking process still has effectiveness for twenty-first century. This research is to analyze Weber’s thinking process and improve his theory to suitable in the twenty-first century.

In the twenty-first century today, when people search the word “bureaucracy” it is related to a negative word, usually defined as inefficient, complex, and rigid. But in the transition from feudal society to modernization Weber’s bureaucratic management mode played a positive role. Weber lived at the end of the nineteenth century. At that time, society’s environment was during the formation of the first German national state. The turbulent changes influenced him. He watched the process and was concerned with understanding modern society. Before he established the bureaucracy management mode, he analyzed history and social back grounds. People believed from the transition from traditionalism to modernity began was a time process that changed, but Weber had a different idea. He thought the time change was a natural condition, the essential change were people.

When Weber looked back in history, he found out that societies, and people, were becoming more rational. He believed the real defining features of the transition from traditionalism and modernity were ways of thinking. He started to analyze the reasons massive shift in people’s thinking. According to divine right of kings “In European history, a political doctrine in defense of monarchical absolutism, which asserted that kings derived their authority from God and could not therefore be held accountable for their actions by any earthly authority such as a parliament. Originating in Europe, the divine-right theory can be traced to the medieval conception of God’s award of temporal power to the political ruler, paralleling the award of spiritual power to the church”. Through his analysis, he gave the answer was because of the reformation of religion made people’s ideologies have been changed.

Weber had another focus was what started this movement of rationalization. Weber viewed the transition from traditionalism to modernity began with the protestant reformation. According to Max Weber, writing about Europe in his time, “Protestants were more likely than Catholics to reflect the values of hard work and savings conducive to capitalist ideology. Focusing on Calvinism, he showed that Protestant values influenced the rise of capitalism and helped create the modern world order” (Little 289). The basis of his analysis is he compared modernity with traditionalism and tried to figure out the difference between them. Weber defined the ways people think and people’s ideas became more rational were the basic reasons of the rationalization process. He thought traditionalism takes things for granted, but modernity did not. In modernity, everything is up for grabs. He designed bureaucracy based on most workplaces used relationships, kinship, family, or customs to lead and make decisions which are called traditional authorities. Bureaucracy is an important part of the transition from the traditional to the modern state. Compared with traditional authority, bureaucracy is more suitable for rationalization society. Weber designed bureaucratic theory to include two parts which are clear organizational hierarchy and clear rules about decision making. A clear organizational hierarchy was each hierarchy have legal-rational authority. It means the power holder is in the leader position instead of individual person. Weber wanted those who are running organizations to achieve goals more rationally, especially through clarified leadership and clarified rules for decision making. Weber referred to clear rules about decision making as rational-legal decision-making rules.

Organizations should be governed by rules. According to Peek, written the management theory of Max Weber on Business.com “In an ideal bureaucracy, everyone is treated equally, and their work responsibilities are clearly divided by each teams’ areas of expertise. A well-defined hierarchical management system supports this, providing clear lines of communication and division of labor based on the layer of management one worked in” (Peek). Weber identified six characteristics of bureaucracy which are hierarchical management structure, division of labor, formal selection process, career orientation, formal rules and regulations, impersonality. These characteristics have the effective independence, combination together also systematization. Bureaucracy is made up of level structure, and clearly command system. This makes it legitimate and high efficiency. The arrangement structure consists of special roles, and through formal written communication. Bureaucracy is composed of a hierarchy of positions with an extremely clear chain of command, that made it both extremely rational and very efficient. This hierarchy is made up of a variety of very specialized roles and is held together by formal, written communications.

Bureaucracy is a favored more rational approach to running organizations. Through Weber’s bureaucracy theory, people use this idea in the US today. For instance, when people go to the polls every four years, they are making a choice about who’s going to direct the bureaucracy, and they make that choice based on the characteristics of the people running. The idea that the people run to be leaders of offices Democratic or Republican bureaucracies, do so with the support of their specific political parties. In the actual operation of bureaucracy in large organizations, people have a high evaluation of bureaucracy. Weber himself thought this was a scientific system, which can strengthen the modernization in the transitional period. According to Pierson written on The Modern State “It is obvious that technically the great modern state is absolutely dependent upon a bureaucratic basis. The larger the state and the more it is or the more it becomes a great power state, the more unconditionally is this the case” (Pierson 17).

Weber’s analysis inspired people to think about the twenty-first century. When we look back on history, we will find that Weber’s bureaucracy is flawed. Weber’s hierarchical management put responsibility as a whole and spread into different levels. The lower level needs to obey orders from the higher level, and higher-level people not only control lower level, but also follow the central command. Everyone knows what to do and their responsibilities and positions are clear. This structure is usually considered a connective chain use into organizations from high-level positions to the low-level positions. Hierarchical structure was popularly used in the nineteenth century Germany. People were influenced by religion to do their work with their focus, not to question about the hierarchical levels, but in twenty-first century people’s ideology has improved. That the reason why today we put Weber’s structure of hierarchical management run into organizations have many negative results. In the chain of different levels have to have too many positions. For the high-level management, the business owner has to pay more money for their experience, skills and this would cause organization spend quite a bit of money to pay for these positions. Another problem was Weber’s hierarchical management structure could be too complex, that it would cause the results that slow decision and action making. Because of needing each level to report to higher level position, sometimes a question or an emergency situation cannot get back the response on time because actions are slowed down and time is wasted. Due to the different personalities, different leaders may have different standards. Compared with a company only having one decision maker, Weber’s hierarchy did not have beneficial results and was inefficient.

Weber’s division of labor has a limitation problem used in the present. Weber’s general idea was let each individual person to be professional handle specific work. He thought if everyone was a small part of a chain and did well in the small part of their jobs, then the whole chain has maximum benefits. But Weber also felt anxious about division of labor. According to Weber “It is horrible to think that the world could one day be filled with nothing but those little cogs, little men clinging to little jobs and striving towards bigger ones – a state of affairs which is to be seen once more, as in the Egyptian records, playing an ever-increasing part in the spirit of our present administrative system, and especially of its offspring, the students.” This has exposed the limitation of work skills. Everyone focuses on their own part of the chain. Everyone knows what they are doing and are used to doing the cycling route works. Everyone is considered a little piece of a part in the company. But division of labor has unclear responsibilities problems. When the whole chain had something wrong, it was hard to find out all those that did something wrong. If one person quit their job, nobody knew how to do the part, due to their skill being limited. Another thing is people work not just for the money. The most important is to create value and self-realization. But work under this system is a tedious cycle work that leads to a loss of a meaningful way of life. Although this kind of work can improve the efficiency of production, it is cruel to employees.

According to Weber’s formal selection process, Sean Peek writing in business.com “In the ideal organization, Weber believed that employees should be chosen based on their technical skills and competencies, which are acquired through education, experience or training – no other factors should be considered” (Peek). The formal selection process is based on being equal and through reasonable evaluation methods to choose leaders. In the present, people usually get a job through an interview process. But interviews cannot fully see a person’s ability. Some people may not be honest during the interview, giving an exaggeration of their own ability to pass the interview. But when the person is actually on the job the work skills may not be as good as what the person said during the interview. Another disadvantage was the person took the old experiences and applied them into the new job. From that point, the person may not actually be an analysis of the actual fact in the new working situation. This will surely give employees negative thinking and harmful emotions. A better idea to promotion was to select people already employees thus giving more opportunities to choose candidates. This way can encourage employees to have a competitive consciousness and challenge each other to learn more skills in their work environment.

For Weber, a career’s orientation actually is a beneficial rule for employees. This rule will help employees discover their potential abilities and establish the personal capacity and competence model. On the basis of the evaluation and assessment of organization building up a employees’ loyalty, encourage the employees do their best work in the company to create values. When Weber defined formal rules and regulations he wanted to make rules and put rules into documents for everyone to follow the rules. This way everyone knows the standard of their work. The rules written in documents helped employees understand what they should do and what they should not. Formal rules and regulations are widely used in the big organizations today.

In general, with different society changes, bureaucracy has gradually exposed its inherent flaws in the course of practice. The specific manifestation is bureaucracy overemphasizes the personalization of organizational management. The existence of this organizational based on the expense of people’s freedom, meaningful private relationships, personal emotions and all-round development. To completely follow the bureaucratic organization is an emotionless organization. The bureaucracy pays too much attention to following the laws and regulations. This emphasizes that the operations of the organization and the behavior of the staff must be restricted by regulations, which makes the behavior of the organization and individuals tend to be rigid, lacking due flexibility and resilience, and the individual followed the rules and regulations like an automatic machine. Repetition severely suppresses individual freedom, creativity and all behavior patterns brought about by rules and regulations are made organizational rigidity and conservative.

The bureaucratic organization overemphasizes the mechanical formal organizational function, while ignoring the actual operation process and the interconnection between the organization and the external environment. Bureaucracy blindly pursues the ordering of the internal structure of the organization and the maximization of technical efficiency, but the division of labor has led to the expansion of departments. The overlap between each department has caused communication barriers and coordination difficulties, which further reduces the overall efficiency. The level and moderation can make the authority and responsibilities clear, but relying on too much on text transmission, delaying the efficiency of work. The bureaucracy lacks competition and makes the officials within the bureaucracy lack internal incentives, which is not conducive to the improvement of service quality and is not conducive to innovation.

In conclusion, Weber’s theories are still in use and influence people’s lives. Though Weber’s theories analyzed and compared used into different century, people could feel the trend of historical progress in human development. In the system construction of public administration, the goal is also overall development of people. People have high value of society, the motive of social development, and the goal of development. This is a social oriented value orientation. Some of the Weber’s bureaucracy theory ideas need improvement due to the different social situations in the world. Some parts of the theory have beneficial use in organizations. With the developing of society, people need to look at the problems from the perspective of development. Weber’s theories will excite people’s minds. In Weber’s thesis he mentioned future. He had a comprehension of science that can still be used for today. According to Weber written in : Essays in Sociology “In science, each of us knows that what he has accomplished will be antiquated in ten, twenty, fifty years. That is the fate to which science is subjected; it is the very meaning of scientific work, to which it is devoted in a quite specific sense, as compared with other spheres of culture for which in general the same holds. Every scientific ‘fulfilment’ raises new ‘questions’; it asks to be ‘surpassed’ and outdated”. Weber’s theory may not perfectly suitable for the twenty-first century today, but his critical thinking process will keep influencing people. Weber encouraged people to reflexivity. Weber’s theories played an important role to remind people that ideas may be far more important than tools or money in changing nations.

Works Cited

  1. “Bureaucratic Management.” Lumenlearning, courses.lumenlearning.com/wm-principlesofmanagement/chapter/reading-bureaucratic-management/. Accessed 16 Oct. 2020.
  2. “Divine right of kings.” Britannica, www.britannica.com/topic/divine-right-of-kings. Accessed 3 Oct. 2020.
  3. Little, William. Introduction to Sociology. 1st Canadian ed., BCCAMPUS, 2014. https://opentextbc.ca/introductiontosociology/opentextbc.ca/introductiontosociology/chapter/chapter-15-religion/. Accessed 16 Oct. 2020.
  4. Peek, Sean. “The Management Theory of Max Weber.” Business.com, 27 Apr. 2020, www.business.com/articles/management-theory-of-max-weber. Accessed 27 Oct. 2020.
  5. Pierson, Christopher. The Modern State. Taylor & Francis Group, 2011. ProQuest Ebook Central, ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/lakelandcollege/detail.action?docID=995717. Accessed 27 Oct. 2020.
  6. Weber, Max. From Max Weber : Essays in Sociology, Taylor & Francis Group, 2013. ProQuest Ebook Central, ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/lakelandcollege/detail.action?docID=1111791. Accessed 16 Oct. 2020.

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