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Summary

What Is a Bureaucracy?

Summary What Is a Bureaucracy?

Bureaucratic Models

Scholars have proposed three different models to explain how bureaucracies function, summarized in the following chart.

 
THREE MODELS OF BUREAUCRACY

Model

Important Trait

Problematic Behavior

Weberian ModelHierarchyLethargy
Acquisitive ModelExpansionismCompetition
Monopolistic ModelLack of competitionInefficiency

Weberian Model

According to the Weberian model, created by German sociologist Max Weber, a bureaucracy always displays the following characteristics:

  • Hierarchy: A bureaucracy is set up with clear chains of command so that everyone has a boss. At the top of the organization is a chief who oversees the entire bureaucracy. Power flows downward.
  • Specialization: Bureaucrats specialize in one area of the issue their agency covers. This allows efficiency because the specialist does what he or she knows best, then passes the matter along to another specialist.
  • Division of labor: Each task is broken down into smaller tasks, and different people work on different parts of the task.
  • Standard operating procedure (SOP): Also called formalized rules, SOP informs workers about how to handle tasks and situations. Everybody always follows the same procedures to increase efficiency and predictability so that the organization will produce similar results in similar circumstances. SOP can sometimes make bureaucracy move slowly because new procedures must be developed as circumstances change.

Acquisitive Model

The acquisitive model can be distinguished by the following characteristics:

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