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Bureaucracy Management

THE OPPROBRIOUS CONNOTATION OF THE TERM BUREAUCRACY

 

THE terms bureaucrat) bureaucratic) and bureaucracy are clearly invectives. Nobody calls himself a bureaucrat or his own methods of management bureaucratic. These words are always applied with an opprobrious connotation. They always imply a disparaging criticism of persons, institutions, or procedures. Nobody doubts that bureaucracy is thoroughly bad and that it should not exist in a perfect world.

 

The abusive implication of the terms in question is not limited to America and other democratic countries. It is a universal phenomenon. Even in Prussia, the paragon of authoritarian government, nobody wanted to be called a bureaucrat. The Prussian king's wirklicher geheimer OberRegierungsrat was proud of his dignity and of the power that it bestowed. His conceit delighted in the reverence of his subordinates and of the populace. He was imbued with the idea of his own importance and infallibility. But he would have deemed it an impudent insult if somebody had the effrontery to call him a bureaucrat. He was, in his own opinion, not a bureaucrat but a civil servant, his Majesty's mandatory, a functionary of the State unswervingly attending day and night to the welfare of the nation.

 

It is noteworthy that the "progressives" whom the critics of bureaucracy make responsible for its spread do not venture to defend the bureaucratic system. On the contrary, they join those whom they in other respects scorn as "reactionaries" in condemning it. For, they maintain, these

bureaucratic methods are not at all essential for the utopia at which they themselves are aiming. Bureaucracy, they say, is rather the unsatisfactory way in which the capitalist system tries to come to an arrangement with the inexorable trend toward its own disappearance. The inevitable final triumph of socialism will abolish not only capitalism but bureaucratism also. In the happy world of tomorrow, in the blessed paradise of all-round planning, there will no longer be any bureaucrats. The common man will be paramount; the people themselves will take care of all their affairs. Only narrow-minded bourgeois can fall prey to the error that bureaucracy gives a foretaste of what socialism has in store for mankind.

 

Thus everyone seems to agree that bureaucracy is an evil. But it is no less true that  nobody has ever tried to determine in unambiguous language what bureaucracy really means. The word is generally used loosely. Most people would be embarrassed if somebody were to ask them for a precise definition and explanation. How can they condemn bureaucracy and bureaucrats if they do not even know what the terms mean?