Classical authors: Weber, Taylor and Fayol

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Max Weber: the bureaucracy[edit | edit source]

The bureaucracy began to establish itself in the 19th century and even at the end of the 18th century in Prussia with Frederick II. The bureaucracy left a great deal of room for judgment by the directors with a lot of arbitrariness and discretion. There was a public administration marked by many forms of arbitrary drifts and discretionary power. Many criticisms have arisen calling for the implementation of another model.

Max Weber made an essential theoretical contribution to the socio-political analysis of bureaucracy by pointing out the relationship between the exercise of a legal-rational authority characteristic of the modern state and a form of bureaucratic organization characterized by the professionalization, hierarchization of functions and impersonality of rules. Previously, we were in an erratic model, now it is a more professional, formalized and hierarchical model.

At the same time he gave a very complex theory of society, in which the problem of relations between bureaucracy and power occupies an important place, and a very structured model of bureaucracy. The purpose of these characteristics is to maximise control and predictability of civil servants, with a view to greater rationality of public administration. This model has been presented as a "steel cage" to ensure the efficiency of the public administration should not have to leave liberties otherwise civil servants will do anything.

Definitions of State, Politics and Power[edit | edit source]

The bureaucracy is part of Weber's design. To understand Weber's bureaucratic theory, it is necessary to situate his model within the general framework of his conception of state, politics and power. The State needs to rely on an administrative apparatus, there is a link between the State and the administrative structure, there is no empowerment between the two bodies. The State is responsible for enforcing the laws and defending the territory against external aggression, which requires an administrative apparatus.

State[edit | edit source]

In Economy and Society published in 1921, Max Weber defined the State as a {{citation}political undertaking of an institutional character when and as long as its administrative management successfully claims, in the application of its regulations, the monopoly of legitimate physical coercion on a given territory}}}. When we talk about the state, it is said that the state has a monopoly on legitimate physical and symbolic violence. At the heart of this notion of democracy is a relationship with the state, which exercises power and dominance over the members of a community.

Politics[edit | edit source]

For Weber, politics is the activity that claims, for the authority established in a given territory, the right of domination, with the use of force, even violence, to maintain internal order and defend the community against attacks from outside.

Power has three characteristics:

  1. activity taking place on a defined territory;
  2. The behaviour of individuals living in this territory is conditioned by the authority responsible for maintaining internal order and external security: this requires an administrative organization;
  3. The means of politics is force, or even violence, which is physical coercion.

Dominance and power are therefore at the heart of politics.

Power[edit | edit source]

Weber distinguishes between two types of power:

  • Die Macht – all means: power, the chance to prevail within a given social relationship with one's own will, even against resistance, no matter what this chance is based on, whether it is custom, interest, rationality in purpose or value among others. Command power is not necessarily legitimate, submission is not necessarily a duty. In other words, it is the idea is that even if individuals resist, will be found the means to still make them obey. When Weber defines the concept of Die Macht, this power is not necessarily perceived as legitimate by the citizens. It is a raw power that would represent what Rousseau calls the right of the strongest. Nevertheless, if power has only these foundations, then it is a fragile power. For Rousseau, in Le contrat social, the right of the strongest lasts only as long as its strength. The power of the strongest and linked to the maintenance of the superiority of his strength and all power will seek to hold a form of legitimacy, not necessarily brute force, but we seek to convince individuals and obtain their support.
  • Die Herrschaft – legitimate power: legitimacy and strength. No domination is satisfied with pure and simple obedience, but it seeks to awaken among those who obey the faith in its legitimacy, which is reflected in the recognition of the validity of the orders given to them. When we talk about legitimate power, there are two types of means. A power linked to force[1] to impose on people to obey and the other legitimacy[2] of which we distinguish two types of foundations:
    • External: material means that are economic and administrative.
    • Internal: it is the trust that individuals have in a particular form of power, whether traditional, charismatic or legal-rational.

Legitimate power is not only based on coercion, but also on the conviction of the legitimacy of the orders that the power will know.

Three types of legitimate domination[edit | edit source]

Max Weber has developed a typology based on the specificity of the motivation that drives obedience:

  • Traditional domination: based on the daily belief in the sanctity of time-honoured traditions and the legitimacy of those who are called to exercise authority by these means. This is the typical example of monarchical power in the old regime. This form of domination has legitimacy, but it is not part of the validity of the decisions and proposals made by the king, but of the fact that the king is part of a recognized lineage.
  • Charismatic domination: based on an extraordinary submission to the sanctity, heroic virtue or exemplary worth of a person, or emanating from orders revealed or issued by that person. This is an example of personal power, such as Hitler's or Mussolini's personal power. As much as traditional as charismatic domination can deviate towards arbitrary forms.
  • legal-rational domination: based on a belief in the legality of regulations and the right to give directives to those who are called upon to exercise domination by these means. This is the kind of domination that is typical of modern states. Dominance is no longer rooted in obedience to a person, but in obedience to impersonal rules that are the same for everyone. The representative of the order is obeyed not for traditional reasons, but because they themselves obey the rule and the law. This type of domination is unique to modern states. The bureaucracy is completely rooted in the legal-rational model. The exercise of power by the State will have to be based on a form of administration that fits within the model of legal-rational domination.
App1 trois types de domination légitime 1.png

If we are in a traditional administration, the public administration is done around servants, we do not look at their skills, we do not pay them a salary, but we will mobilize servants and courtiers for administrative tasks. In a charismatic model, the community represents itself in an emotional way. The model of legal-rational administration is characterized by the bureaucratic model.

For Weber, there is a link between modern state capitalism and democracy. In order for capitalism to function properly, it needs clear rules of the game that are embodied in the bureaucratic model and that are not erratic. A predictable model is needed to build ways of operating capitalism that will increase prosperity.

Definition of bureaucracy: structural level[edit | edit source]

What are the conditions for the existence of rational power and bureaucracy? How does Weber view the structural level of democracy? How can the management methods of the official be envisaged at individual level?

Weber will propose five conditions for the existence of legal-rational power and bureaucracy:

  1. All norms must be set rationally, through agreement or imposition, so that obedience can be demanded from all members of the social group. Individuals do not obey a person, but a rule to be convinced of the validity of that rule, and that belief can only come into play if that rule is rationally established. The rule must have won the conviction for reasons of rationality.
  2. The law must be made up of a set of abstract norms, applied in all cases by courts and the administration must ensure that the interests of the social group as defined by the law are realized within the limits of the law. The abstract standard is applicable without distinction to the whole community. This standard guarantees equal treatment. These are impersonal rules that should concern all people. These abstract standards will be applied to cases by courts or civil servants. If the rule is too detailed, there is a risk that differentiated treatment will again occur. Where the administration is responsible for applying the rule, it must do so in order to respect the common interest.
  3. the holder of legal power must obey the impersonal legal order on the basis of which he directs his command. No one is above the rules. The Head of State commands in the name of the rule, the rule is superior to the command. In other words, the holder of power is no exception.
  4. The one who obeys must obey only as a member of the social group and only to the law. The subordinate must obey not by virtue of charismatic domination (Die macht), nor must he obey because he believes in the legitimacy of the ruler, but in the name of the right not as a particular person, but in the name of the collective. What matters is not obedience to one person, but to a rule that is the same for everyone.
  5. group members do not obey the person of the power holder, but the impersonal standards and objective command competencies assigned to them on the basis of those standards. People are obeyed because it is the rules that have given them power. When you work in public administration, according to Weber, you are not in the service of an ideology or a party. Public administration serves the public interest.

At the structural level, Weber wonders what principles should be respected at the macro level and how the bureaucracy should be structured. It will identify eight fundamental categories of the legal-rational power of bureaucracy:

  1. administrative functions must be performed on a continuous and rule-based basis. It is declined in two ways that must be both temporal[1] and there can be no geographical void[2]. In other words, the public administration must cover a territory and be timeless.
  2. such functions shall be exercised within the limits of a jurisdiction which defines the duties to be performed, the command powers necessary for the performance of those functions, the means of coercion to be used and the conditions for their implementation. According to Weber, we must ask ourselves about the objectives to be achieved, the means at our disposal in order to achieve the objectives, how to compel people to comply with the administration's injunctions and the working conditions in which this system will be able to be set up. For Weber, it is the constituted authority.
  3. the principle of administrative hierarchy with the organisation of supervisory authorities for any incorporated authority. Every incorporated authority shall be subject to supervision.
  4. the rules that guide administrative activity can be either technical rules or standards, their implementation requires specialised preparation. The technical rules describe procedures to be followed in order to indicate how to work and perform their duties for civil servants; the standards set out criteria to be taken into account in the decision. At Weber, the civil servant is not a mechanical performer, but he or she is a competent person with specialized preparation. The rule requires competence to keep the general interest in mind.
  5. civil servants do not have the means of administration, whether technical or financial. Officials are accountable for the use of these means, referring to the principle of total separation of resources from private function and resources, place of work and place of residence.
  6. public servants do not own their jobs or functions. The position does not belong to the employee despite his or her right to security of employment and independence in the performance of his or her duties. Nevertheless, he is guaranteed job security and independence in the performance of his duties.
  7. The administration relies on written documents in accordance with the principle of conformity of acts. These are not informal and oral relationships, but they must be written based. It is a way of formalizing the work of the public administration.
  8. legal-rational power can assume very different forms depending on the countries and the types of services that can be rendered.

At the structural level, the question of impersonality and procedural fairness is important, the question of the specialisation of staff is essential, the notion of a highly hierarchical system is paramount, the separation between private and professional life and the notion of continuity of public administration is central.

Characteristics of civil servants: individual level[edit | edit source]

Weber will identify ten characteristics of public servants that derive from the characteristics of the structural level:

  1. members of the bureaucratic apparatus are personally free from personal allegiance or loyalty and obey only the objective duties of their office: in the performance of their duties, a public servant must set aside any form of allegiance. This runs counter to any form of politicization of the public service, because the public service is at the service of the general interest.
  2. they are placed in a well-defined hierarchy that must answer to their superior.
  3. They have well-defined skills: they are prepared people who are experts in their field. With the increasing complexity of public affairs in our contemporary societies, there is an increase in this knowledge. Legal-rational domination and domination by virtue of specialized knowledge. The knowledge of the field will give him an important power in the way of doing things.
  4. they are recruited and not elected on the basis of open selection: access to the public service is free, there is no privileged class with easier access to the public service. These are great competitions open to everyone.
  5. selection is based on a professional qualification, verified by examination or on the basis of diplomas. The staff member is recruited and is often appointed for life if desired. He has a job security that will be guaranteed if he wishes. Job security also means pension rights. People who drew inspiration from Weber in the years following World War II will develop this point.
  6. they receive a cash salary, the amount of which depends first on rank and then responsibility for their position. This is the principle of compliance with rank. Weber emphasizes the principle of wage compliance.
  7. they see their function as their sole or principal occupation. The profession of civil servants and above all to put itself at the service of public administration.
  8. they have the opportunity to pursue a career, depending on seniority and/or services provided, as determined by their hierarchical superiors.
  9. they have neither the means of administration nor the function or position they hold.
  10. they are subject to rigorous discipline and control. Expectations must be met through a number of methods.

It is a public service concept that is very much in line with many hierarchies and directives that refer to the term "steel cage". The objective of these ten characteristics is to ensure both good coordination of administrative activities and predictability of staff behaviour. One of the objectives is to improve the efficiency of public administration in achieving the objectives, but with the least possible cost. This design improves both effectiveness and efficiency by controlling public servants. According to the principle of legal certainty, the rules will be enforced in an impersonal manner to ensure that there is equal treatment.

Sources and foundations of bureaucratic power[edit | edit source]

According to Weber, the rationality of bureaucracy lies in its formalism, in the knowledge or skill it possesses and in the tendency of civil servants to perform their duties in accordance with the interests of citizens. This system makes it possible to guarantee that officials will actually act in the general interest. The civil servant will have the motivation of the public service.

Once the bureaucracy has settled down, it is one of the most difficult social formations to cut down because of three fundamental factors:

  1. its strategic position: bureaucracy is inevitable because of the needs of the mass administrations, it is it that ensures continuity of work. The issue of administration has become so complex that one would need the continuity of an administration to manage its day-to-day business. Bureaucracy occupies a strategic position, one cannot do without public administration in the complexity of the contemporary state.
  2. Competence and professionalization: bureaucracy is dominated by specialized knowledge and factual knowledge that increases with years of service. Public servants acquire a knowledge of the complexity that will become indispensable, putting them in a position of dominance by virtue of the power they hold.
  3. his practice of secrecy, which steals from criticism his knowledge and his actions. The practice of secrecy makes it very difficult to criticize bureaucracy and the public service. The power of civil servants is taking hold and it seems difficult to question and challenge.

Weber shows that the bureaucracy is better, more effective and efficient and that it would also be inevitable. Weber's design has been criticized and criticized over the years.

Summary according to J. Freund: 1968[edit | edit source]

Freund will summarize the Weberian thought through eight points:

  1. the existence of defined services and, therefore, powers strictly determined by the laws or regulations, so that the functions are clearly divided and distributed, as well as the decision-making powers necessary to carry out the corresponding tasks.
  2. the protection of civil servants in the performance of their duties, by virtue of a statute such as, for example, the security of tenure of judges. In general, one becomes a civil servant for the rest of one's life, so that government service becomes a primary profession and not a secondary occupation, alongside another.
  3. the hierarchy of functions, which means that the administrative system is highly structured in subordinate services and managerial positions, with the possibility of appealing to the higher authority; in general, this structure is monocratic and non-collegial, with a tendency towards greater centralisation.
  4. Recruitment is based on competitions, examinations or diplomas, which require specialized training. In general, the official is appointed (rarely elected) on the basis of free selection.
  5. regular remuneration of the civil servant in the form of a fixed salary and a right to retirement when he or she leaves the State service. Salaries are adjusted according to the internal hierarchy of the administration and the importance of responsibilities.
  6. the authority has the right to control the work of subordinates, possibly by setting up a disciplinary commission.
  7. the possibility of promotion of officials on the basis of objective criteria and not at the discretion of the authority.
  8. a complete separation between the office and the man who occupies it, since no official can be the owner of his office or the means of administration.

Limitations of the ideal legal-rational ideal[edit | edit source]

Many criticisms have been levelled at the Weberian model of bureaucracy. The main criticisms of the Weberian conception of bureaucracy can be reduced to five:

  1. the reproach of ethnocentrism: Weber relied on the reality he had of Frederick II's Prussia and German social democracy. It would have extrapolated from the German model a model applicable to all contemporary States and as if it were desirable to do so.
  2. methodological individualism - the unit of analysis is made up of the individual: Weber's interest is not in analysing social structures, but in analysing the behaviour of public servants and ensuring that they fit into a predictable framework. What interests him is how to influence the behaviour of individuals. For Marx, the state is at the service of capitalism, but this holistic approach does not interest Weber who adopts an individualistic perspective.
  3. bureaucracy would be the most efficient means of administration: a multiplicity of studies have shown the dysfunctions and perverse effects of the Weberian bureaucratic model.
  4. no consideration of informal and personal factors: what matters in this model is the impersonal rule to which individuals refer. All powers or the parallel hierarchy that do not fit in with the formalisation of the administration are also set aside. In the reality of public administration, there may be powers and alliances that do not fit in with the logic of the organizational chart that Weber does not take into account.
  5. absence of any treatment of the decision-making process: for Weber, there are impersonal rules enacted which must then be applied. A structure is needed that will ensure that individuals will apply these rules. Weber would have a vision of the administration which would rule out any form of power that the administration could play and which would also be a static vision.

Taylor: Scientific management[edit | edit source]

The notion of "steel cage" was very much present in a reflection on public administration at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. The aim was to find effective ways of achieving the objectives given to the public administration.

App1 Taylor le management scientifique 1.png

Taylor had an approach based on private companies with a question on how to increase the efficiency of private companies. For Taylor, if companies are inefficient, it is because the working methods are decided by the workers. The management would have nothing to say about the worker's way of working. The autonomy accorded to the worker, the trust placed in the worker is, according to Taylor, the cause of business inefficiency and inefficiency. It is because workers control the production process that firms produce less than they could produce.

These modes of operation must be changed and a specific power structure imposed. Taylor will promote the idea of scientific organization of work. The working methods will not be left to the workers, but to the engineers. The spirit of controlling the worker, of controlling the civil servant can be found as much in Weber as in Taylor.

Fayol: the principles of administration[edit | edit source]

Henri Fayol goes in the same direction as Weber. Fayol is a French management theorist. If a human organization is to be effective, efficient and achieve its objectives, it must comply with the fourteen principles identified. Compliance with these principles should be a guarantee of effectiveness and efficiency. Four main principles can be distinguished: hierarchy and order, motivation pay and discipline, on the basis of which fourteen principles are derived:

App1 fayol principes hierarchique 1.png
  1. division of labour: to produce better with less effort requires specialization of functions
  2. authority - responsibility: persons order and can sanction.
  3. discipline: respect for command and a number of conventions
  4. command unit: an officer should receive orders from only one leader. This refers to the pyramid organisation of the organisation.
  5. unit of management: a single leader and a single programme for a set of operations with the same goal -> unit of action
  6. subordination of the special interest to the general interest: it is the hierarchy interest, e. g. of chiefs, fair agreements, supervision.
  7. staff remuneration: price of the service rendered per day, per task, per piece, payment of bonuses, profit-sharing, shares and symbolic and honorary bonuses.
  8. (de)centralization: it is a model that is extremely centralized, with a lot of room for the centre and the hierarchy.
  9. hierarchy: the chain of command imposed by the need to transmit information and organises command units. When transmitting information, it is always necessary to go through the chain of command.
  10. order: a place for everything and everything in its place, i. e."the right man at the right place" is good organisation and good recruitment.
  11. equity: benevolence and justice.
  12. staff stability: training time.
  13. initiative: to propose and implement.
  14. Staff union: do not divide staff, do not abuse written communications.

According to Fayol, if we respect all these principles, we would have an "administrative code" that would allow us to effectively manage the administration.

References[edit | edit source]