Limits of The Weberian Model. Weber’s framework for bureaucracy was that of an undemocratic system that did not allow for election of fellow employees. Nevertheless, bureaucracies are inherently efficient organisations, which is why they are so central to modern organisations. As no alternatives to bureaucracies appeared evident for the efficient running of large scale organisations, Weber was fearful of legal-rational thought developing into an all encompassing ossified ‘iron cage’ of bureaucracy that thwarted the very values of freedom and liberty he desired.2 The English bureaucracy was a case in point for Weber.
So whilst Weber wants to celebrate the Western Culture heritage that has allowed such amazing progress, though in its last stages, we have created a new form of bureaucratic organisation which is much more rational, coherent and stable than anything before, the question remains as to how we can retain a social structure allowing mobility, with the tendency for bureaucracy
Weber says there is another trend at work called rationalisation, ‘the rationalisation and intellectualisation of the world is receding regardless of what we would like. We have institutionalised economic progress and scientific development to the extent that our culture has become totally dependent on making these advances in one form or another.
Weber believes the formal rationality of bureaucracy whilst facilitating the technical implementation of large-scale administrative tasks, substantially contravenes some of the most distinctive values of Western civilisation, in subordinating individuality and spontaneity. The question arises as to whether Weber says we should acquiesce to these principles, or rather, of whether the bureaucratic form is the most rational becomes the issue. Nevertheless, Weber sees no rational way to escape this, it being “the fate of the times”.3 Pusey captures this well, saying,
“In Weber’s often quoted view, “experience tends universally to show” that order of this type is: “from a purely technical point of view, capable of attaining the highest degree of efficiency and in this sense formally the most rational means of carrying out imperative from control over human beings. Is it superior to any other form in precision, in stability in the stringency of its discipline, and in its reliability.”4 Weber’s model has an inability to properly account for the informal structure within organisations; it is over rationalistic, has a tendency to persist in a firm inconsistent with the ideal structure of the bureaucracy. This issue remains an open question for me, and may be best outlined by Mikel Duffrenne’s words at the opening of the International symposium on ‘Rationality Today’.
The task of reason is not easy: to say No to the System is intellectually easy even if, on occasions, it takes some heroism. But how was we to say simultaneously both Yes and No? How does one invent a strategy without making a game of strategies? How are we to reconcile spontaneity and organisation? How can we want efficiency and renounce technocracy? And, further, how do we steer a course between a rationalism which identifies rationality with rationalisation and an irrationalism which leaves us without resources?1 Whilst Luhmann talks about the rise of horizontal connections within bureaucracies as an important connection here, therefore making it possible that the rationalisation of society will maintain a potential flexibility that will avoid the ‘iron cage’ effect, therefore not necessarily heading to total democracy but organisational life needed cover the entire social life, the discomfort that encroaching bureaucracy may bring to the liberal will probably still remain.