Bureaucracy defination

Bureaucracy is one of the essential part of any country’s administrative setup but do you know? What is Bureaucracy? if you want to answer this question you are at best place right now.

What is Bureaucracy? In early twentieth century one of the influential sociologist “Max Weber” defined a way to govern complex and large societies through an efficient method of Bureaucracy. According to him there are four features of an ideal bureaucracy;

  1. “A rational division of labor into specialized offices with fixed jurisdictions”
  2. “Employees chosen for their skills, knowledge, or experience, not for their politics”
  3. “A chain of command wherein officials report to higher-ups”
  4. “Impersonal reliance on written rules to limit arbitrary variation from one case to the next”. (Warwick, 1975)

Evolution of Bureaucracy; In USA, their is no lay out of federal bureaucracy in the Constitution. Over the period of time and by accretion of tasks and agencies it evolves. It means there is no proper planning behind this evolution.

About three thousand civil servants were employed in administrative section of federal government in 1801, when Thomas Jefferson was president. According to Van Riper, 1958, “One third were part time employees while nine- tenth were working outside of Washington, DC”.

Spoil System and Bureaucracy; The practice of rewarding your friends and other allies in terms of providing them jobs and other grants was started since era of development of political parties. This was an action which was associated to this era, when aristocrats were running the bureaucracy. In 1829, Andrew Jackson set a principle of political patronage. He was of the view that; every federal employee must be accountable to Executives. “To the victors belong the spoils” was the response of his Senator William Marcy. Due to this statement of the Senator, a term Spoil System was introduced i.e. a full scale officials replacement was carried out by those persons and fellows who invested in party fund.

After the Civil War, the federal government grew enormously. Presidents and legislators were overwhelmed with finding jobs for party members. Representative James Garfield griped in 1870, “[O]ne-third of the working hours of senators and representatives is hardly sufficient to meet the demands made upon them in reference to appointments of office” (Johnson & Libecap, 1994). Garfield was elected president ten years later, during which time the federal government workforce almost doubled (from 51,020 in 1870 to 100,020 in 1880).

As president, Garfield was besieged with requests for patronage. He did not satisfy everyone. In 1881, Charles Guiteau, frustrated in his bid for a high-ranking appointment, shot Garfield in a Washington train station. Garfield’s long agony, eventual death, and state funeral made for a dramatic continuing story for newspapers and magazines seeking a mass audience. The media frenzy pushed Congress to reform and restrict the spoils system.

An enormous growth was seen in federal government, after Civil War. Jobs search for party members was than become main task of legislators and presidents. Another reason that justify this was the facts that one third of senators or representatives working hours were not enough to meet the demands of their responsibilities. Later on in 1881, Garfield was assassinated by Charles Guiteau who was willing to obtain high rank in federal government. The assassination of Garfield remain a top story for media soon after his funeral and obtain attention of huge number of audiences. But media over the period of time forced the authorities to reform and restrict the spoil system.

Merit System; Pendleton Act was passed by Congress in 1883. According to this system to categories were defined by the Congress: Patronage and Merit. According to Merit System the selection and appointments were made on the basis of performance which was determined by conducting several exams and training. In the beginning, only 10% of civil servants were appointed on the basis of merit system, but later on with several legislation the numbers were extended. Later on 80% of positions were held by civil servants who were elected on the basis of Merit System.

Since 1920s the system of merit has shrunk. The number of civilian merit employees is just half today. “A notable reform in 1978 instituted the Senior Executive Service, a merit pool of highly trained, highly experienced, highly educated, and highly paid officers that managers can move and transfer at will.”


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