Six characteristics of bureaucracy Images

German sociologist and political economist Max Weber (1864 - 1920) famously noted six key characteristic of bureaucratic structures. Famous for his insights into capitalism and bureaucracies, Weber contributed significantly to the world of social science.

By definition an organizational form of a group of workers often characterised by inflexible routine and rigid power structure, bureaucracy introduced a shift in the paradigm of society prior to the 19th century.


The first principle of bureaucracy states that a formal hierarchy must exist. The hierarchy consists of power levels that control each subsequent level. The top person in power controls all levels. Common practice entails appointment by a superior rather than election.


The next characteristic of the bureaucratic form regards rules and decisions. The strict structure of power requires plenty of control by rules and regulations. The top power figures in the bureaucracy make the rules and decisions which must be followed consistently throughout all levels of the structure.


The third principle of bureaucracy relates to organisation and order. Organization remains key to proper functioning of a bureaucracy. This principle maintains that members organise by function and skill as to keep similar individuals together.


Defining the focus of the structure rests the fourth principle of bureaucracy as outlined by Weber. An "in focus" form serves to fulfil the needs of members. Goals of an in focus bureaucracy relate to market share and high profits. Opposed to in focus is up focus. An up focus structure serves to profit stockholders and similarly powerful people.


Weber's fifth characteristic relates to the treatment of all employees, members and clients of the bureaucracy. Impersonality rests paramount to the success of the structure. Equal treatment and uniform policies and procedures allow for uniformity and impersonality.


The final characteristic of bureaucracies relates to employment standards. Similar to impersonality, employment within the bureaucracy relies on qualifications rather than connections and relationships. This characteristic also relates to protection from dismissal without just cause.