The modern age has brought us some wonderful things. It also has given us the omnicompetent, centralised state and its necessary correlate, bureaucracy. States, governments and corporations can exert power beyond the wildest dreams of ancient or medieval man. Bureaucracy is one of the means of exerting this power. It is the creation of the modern world, and is typified by regimentation, hierarchy, unified control, impersonality and rationalisation of relations. A bureaucracy is a vehicle and nothing more; it serves a further end laid out by the organisation and its mission.
Ability to Project Power
The ability to project power in a unified and consistent fashion is the primary purpose and benefit of bureaucracy. This is a value neutral idea in that it does not consider who the bureaucracy serves, or its ultimate end. Bureaucracies are tools, means to promote the values of a firm or a government in a rationalised way.
Bureaucracies are marked by their systematic design and function. Each office links with the others in either a vertical chain of command or a horizontal differentiation of specialised functions. Usually, both modes of action work together. Bureaucracies are effective methods of control. They have made large-scale production and government possible. There could be no modern capitalism, socialism, mass production, police work, technology or government without the institution of bureaucracy as a vehicle of coordination and cooperation.
The bureaucratic mode of organisation is often found to be rigid and inflexible. Bureaucracies develop their own "corporate cultures" in either the private or state sector that often render them resistant to change or adaptation. In many instances, especially in government, bureaucratic positions can be used to further private ends, especially when run by powerful, well-connected or unusually competent people. Even more, there is no guarantee that bureaucratic positions will not be given out to political loyalists, who can then use the organisation for the personal projects of their patrons.
Disadvantages of Bureaucracy's Corporate Culture
The corporate culture of bureaucracy often forgets its original purpose. Rules, procedures and regulations are separated from their purpose and treated as ends in themselves. Academic bureaucracies are excellent examples. Their primary purpose is to educate students and to coordinate research. In reality, academic bureaucracies serve to feather the nests of professors, keep out inconvenient criticisms, maintain "in-group" mentalities, and enforce ideological and methodological uniformity and conformism. In many bureaucracies in all sectors, routine becomes a substitute for effort, self-promotion becomes a substitute for cooperation and morality is reduced to institutional efficiency.