Weber's Bureaucracy, Its Features and Conceptions

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Words: 604 |

Page: 1|

4 min read

Published: Feb 8, 2022

Words: 604|Page: 1|4 min read

Published: Feb 8, 2022

Max Weber greatly contributed to social theory and is often mentioned with Marx and Durkheim as one of the founders of sociology. Weber describes bureaucracy as the “purest form of rational legal authority”. He also expresses how it only develops in a capitalist economy. Weber’s ideas in bureaucracy aided him in his theory of the development of the state, as he found the approach of methodical processes and systematic hierarchies integral for an efficient state which preserves order and erases bias, as the personal agendas of those who hold the power are kept separate from their decision making process. Despite this, Weber did conclude that Bureaucracy does have its downfalls, in that “it does not necessarily go hand in hand with democracy, it can threaten it”.

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Weber’s bureaucratic structure contains five key features. First, a division of labour, whereby each sector of the state has its own work to complete. Second, a hierarchy of authority, with a recognised chain of command integral to the state.Weber described this recognition as a key component, stating “The merely external fact of the order being obeyed is not sufficient to signify domination in our sense; We cannot overlook the meaning of the fact that the command is accepted as a valid norm”. Thirdly all individuals must adhere to a set of rules. Next, an outlook of impersonality must be utilised among all the people of the state, to diminish favouritism. the last feature is that formal selection must be carried out to determine members based on their personal merits (training, qualifications, education).

According to Weber a state of bureaucracy can be narrowed down to three conceptions, each detailing a type of state authority. Weber’s first conception is that of rational legal domination, where the authority of the state is not held by one individual. This can be seen in modern day society’s where a government holds the authority and governs the set of rules to be followed by members of the state. This type of domination holds political power as the most integral function of society.

Weber’s second conception, charismatic domination is illustrated perfectly by looking at the authority in America, Trump is a perfect example of how charismatic domination is the antithesis of traditional bureaucracy. He also highlights the importance of the charismatic leader to showcase his own “extraordinary status” Trump does so by discussing the huge numbers who attend his rallies. Weber has his consequences of such authority, “In a democracy the people choose a leader in whom they trust. Then the chosen leader says ‘now shut up and obey me’. People and party are then no longer free to interfere in his business”

The last of weber’s conceptions is Traditional domination. This type of authority relates to the acceptance and belief in the supremacy of the monarchy. The domination of such traditional form does however have its downfalls. This ruling can become archaic, and those who hold the authority favour the status quo. Weber called this negative effect of bureaucracy “the iron cage of bureaucracy” whereby the authority of the state revokes its subordinates rights and freedoms.

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To conclude, it is clear that Weber’s bureaucracy is extremely useful in understanding the running of society and who holds power in a state. His theory of rationalization is also demonstrated by the structure of bureaucracy, where society’s means to ends are decided by the state authority in the form of regulations which are imposed upon members of the society. This intricate structure of operations performed by different sectors of society in a calculated chain, is often compared with the process of a fast food restaurant, bringing up the term “Mcdonaldization of society”.  

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Weber’s Bureaucracy, Its Features And Conceptions. (2022, February 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 21, 2024, from
“Weber’s Bureaucracy, Its Features And Conceptions.” GradesFixer, 10 Feb. 2022,
Weber’s Bureaucracy, Its Features And Conceptions. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 21 Jun. 2024].
Weber’s Bureaucracy, Its Features And Conceptions [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 Feb 10 [cited 2024 Jun 21]. Available from:
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