No theory forbids me to say "Ah!" or "Ugh!", but it forbids me the bogus theorization of my "Ah!" and "Ugh!" - the value judgments. - Theodor Julius Geiger (1960)

Economy and Society

Below, you can firstly read my application of Weber's theory to safety management in organizations. Secondly, you can read my summary about legal-bureaucratic rule. This of course does not cover Weber's 950 pages...

Legal-bureaucratic rule can be beneficial in ensuring that procedures for maintaining safety are standardized, clearly regulated, and based on objective criteria. The hierarchical structure of bureaucratic rule allows for clear lines of authority and accountability for safety management. Additionally, the use of specialist knowledge and official knowledge in administration can lead to a relatively immune entity which can be beneficial for maintaining safety in the organization.

The emphasis on means-end rationality and efficiency in bureaucratic rule, though, may lead to a lack of flexibility in responding to unique safety concerns or situations. Adding to this, the focus on formal procedures and rules may lead to a lack of personal engagement and commitment to safety among employees.

Bureaucracy can be both a benefit and a hindrance, depending on the specific circumstances and implementation, so it's important to strike a balance between bureaucracy and flexibility.

Characteristics of legal-bureaucratic rule

Weber's analysis of legal-bureaucratic rule as the most rational form to ensure workflow in this book has become groundbreaking for organizational research. Legal-bureaucratic rule serves to make the modern state system and capitalist society more scientific, just as it proves to be indispensable for modern large entities such as armies, interest groups and international organizations. Its characteristics are historically specific to Europe and America. In contrast to patrimonial or charismatic forms of rule, legal-bureaucratic rule is characterized by a deliberately set system of rules; its drafters strive to have it complete and free of contradictions, in order to replace arbitrariness with predictability. The  impersonal order is ensured, in combined with increased effectiveness for high legitimacy.

Weber elaborates ten criteria of bureaucracy:

  1. Tasks regulated by law: bureaucracy puts order in rules so that task fulfillment develops in a standardized way;
  2. Hierarchical order: the superiority and subordination of tasks is clearly regulated and with that, order can be demanded;
  3. Bureaucratic administration rules by virtue of knowledge; 
  4. Specialist knowledge combined with official knowledge (knowledge of facts on file) make the administration a relatively immune entity - Despite all the changes in masters the ruling apparatus remains essentially the same;
  5. Selection of functionaries according to technical competence: Objective promotion criteria such as exams, diplomas, achievements outweigh subjective ones;
  6. Formal social relationships: achievements are not based on personal commitment, but measures "without anger and passion";
  7. Regular payment depending on the nature of the tasks guarantees the security of the staff;
  8. Separation of ownership and function: civil servants do not own the factors of production, nor do they own their jobs;
  9. The work of the functionaries is carried out full-time; Regular career steps ensure control and trust;
  10. Organization is based on the division of labour: The specialization in individual tasks leads to high standardization of the technical procedures and the exercise of power.

Benefits of Bureaucratic Rule

The benefits of bureaucratic rule are in:

  • Means-end rationality, precision, speed, unambiguousness and uniformity of the procedures;
  • Discipline, control, and coordination of social relationships;
  • Formality of the order compels members of the organization to codify the rules for efficiency increases;
  • Rationalized exercise of power is also the guarantee of obedience to orders.

Countering criticism

Weber's portrayal of rational administration has often been countered with the argument that this form of rationality not only serves to better weigh ends and means, but also tends to become an end in itself. Weber used his ideal-typical method though, and recognized the unstructured multiplicity of facts. Weber's observation remains correct that organization and bureaucracy, with their tendency towards objectification or depersonalization, tends to come into conflict with the possibilities of shaping one's own life.