Example Of Classical Theory Of Management: Bureaucracy During The Industrial Revolution Period Research Paper

Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: Government, Max Weber, Bureaucracy, Theory, Management, Organization, Workplace, Business

Pages: 6

Words: 1650

Published: 2020/11/14


After the industrial revolution, a huge number of industries started its operation within a span of few years. However, due to the lack of automation at that time, most of the jobs were manual done by humans. Efficiency was dependent on the efficiency of the workers. During the late 19th century, industries were run like a family. It was often referred to as the “mom and pop” way of running business. The power of the organization was on individuals rather than on the organization. Employees worked for individuals and not for an organization. Also, in many cases, managers were highly dependent on their workers. Most of the managers were only concerned about white collar office matters and were ignorant of the shop-floor operations. Frederick Taylor, the father of scientific management theory, was one of the first to point out the inefficiency of running business operations in such environment. Taylor’s theory became very popular and began to be used by many industries to improve upon productivity.
Max Weber was a German sociologist who was contemporary to Frederick Taylor. He worked and researched on many ideal-typical government, public administration and business operations, and published his seminal work in 1922 in the book Economy and Society (Meier and Krause, 2013). Around the same time when Taylor proposed his scientific management theory, Weber proposed another theory of management called the Theory of Bureaucracy. His extensive work on bureaucracy made this term popular. Weber defined bureaucracy as “the means of carrying community action over into rationally ordered social action” and he also defined the relationship between bureaucracy and power as “bureaucracy as an instrument for socializing relations of power” (West, 1997). His theory is still in practice in many public administration offices, also known as the “Weberian Civil Service”. This essay will discuss the preconditions of the theory, principles of the theory, implementation of the theory and its limitations.

Weber’s Bureaucratic Theory: Pre-conditions

Upon doing an extensive research on several organizations, Weber concluded that the society was shaping in such a way that bureaucracy would become the main means for an organization to efficiently function and increase productivity. There were some preconditions that must hold true for the bureaucratic theory to work. Weber listed several pre-conditions as mentioned below:

The growth in size of the population should be administered.

The growth in the complexity of the administrative job. This would make sure that the highly technical people were working at higher levels, while people with low technical skills were working at the lowest level as shop floor workers that involved little to no skill.

Existence of a monetary economy was important as it would have pushed the economy towards a more efficient administrative system.

In Weber’s bureaucracy theory, the legitimacy of authority came from rational-legal means. Kinship gave the authority in case of traditional hierarchies, but not in Weber’s bureaucracy (Meier and Krause, 2013).

Principles of Weber’s Bureaucratic Theory

Weber felt that the “mom and pop” way of running the industries was inefficient, and a more rigid, formalized structure is required to gain maximum efficiency. Weber was the first of the theorists to have proposed a non-personal view of the organization. Weber’s bureaucratic organization was mainly characterized by formal structure with rules, competence, and formal legitimate authority. He believed that an individual’s power should be based on his position in the organization, individual’s adherence to explicit rules and regulations and his or her professional competence (West, 1997).

Six principles of Weber’s management theory are as below:

Job Specialization: Weber stated that jobs should be divided into simple, routine, functional specialization and fixed category based on competence. This would make sure that the workers did not require any skill, and it would be enough if they just followed the instructions decided by the management. The main job of a manager was to align the employees in the jobs for which they were most suited. Aligning employees with the jobs would make sure that the total organizational efficiency was improved. This would not only provide greater power in the hands of the managers, but would also ensure that the productivity of the workers were improved and could be easily monitored. For example, suppose Ryan is a sales manager in an organization. Out of his four sales representatives, two have several years of experience of working in the western region of the country. Ryan will put those two employees in the western region and put the other two in other regions to maximize employee effectiveness as per specialization (Meier and Krause, 2013).
Authority Hierarchy: In Weber’s bureaucratic organization, a well-defined hierarchy and chain of command should distinguish the authority. Individuals holding higher authority should supervise and direct the lower level of supervisors, managers or workers. For example, Ryan is the sales manager for a team of four sales representatives. In a bureaucratic organization, Ryan will have an absolute authority to direct and control the actions of the four sales representatives to ensure that organizational goals are met.
Impersonality: When Weber was creating his theory, there were a lot of favoritism and nepotism in the industry. In fact, most of the managers had their own favorites and these favorite employees enjoyed huge personal benefits while others suffered. To reduce this, Weber proposed impersonality in his theory. Rules and controls should be applied uniformly to all the employees and managers (Wasim, 2011).
Career Orientation: Weber, unlike his predecessors, who mostly proposed hire and fire model for better efficiency, proposed that managers should be given career building opportunity. Lifelong employment opportunity and protection of managers against arbitrary dismissal from jobs should be guaranteed in an organization which is following Weber’s Bureaucratic model. For Example, if Dave is working in a Bureaucratic organization, he should have the visibility about his long term career path in the organization, and this will motivate him (Meier and Krause, 2013).

Implementation and Limitation

Max Weber is one of the few classical management theorists whose work is still used in today’s organizations even after 90 years. For example, most of the military organizations across the world follow Weber’s bureaucratic hierarchical model even today. Almost all the organizations use the principles of Weber’s theory in some form or the other. For example, forms used to pay income taxes provide specific information and procedures that makes it easier for the taxpayer to fill it in (Meier and Krause, 2013).
However, there are a number of limitations of the Bureaucracy theory pinpointed by the sociologist of next generations. Robert Merton criticizes the concept of bureaucracy itself. He says that the concept of rationality in bureaucracy theory may improve efficiency, but in other cases, it may also increase inefficiency and irrationality (Wasim, 2011).
Weber’s Model of Bureaucracy seems idealistic and easily implementable in public administrations. However, a pure bureaucratic hierarchical model cannot meet the social needs and political-democratic rights of the citizens. Perfect bureaucratization is almost impossible to achieve, and therefore, there is a high chance of corruption in an imperfect bureaucratic system (Meier and Krause, 2013).
One of the major limitations of Weber’s model is that it does not take into account the interpersonal relationships in an organization. The model assumes the classical assumption that money is the sole motivating factor for an employee. Although the model talks about long term career goals of an employee in an organization, it never touches the role of team based relations and individual motivation achieved through interpersonal relationships and non-monetary awards. The model only focuses on formal elements like rules, specialization, hierarchy and so on. However, the model completely ignores informal elements of an industrial setup like leadership, communication networks, motivation, and relationships (Wasim, 2011).
It is reported by many researches that if a bureaucratic organization does business as usual, then managers become mechanistic technician devoid of emotion, humanity, and detached from the society. Bureaucracy replaces human identity and autonomous will of a person. Bureaucracy replaces individual’s sense of right and wrong while performing their daily tasks by decisions (Wasim, 2011).


Max Weber is one of the pioneering classical management theorists. His theory and the concept of bureaucracy gave a building block for many types of hierarchical organizational efficiency. For example, bureaucratic theory is applicable still today to public administrations, civil services, military services, and other government organizations. On the backdrop of industrial revolution and dependence on manual labor, Weber’s theory was well-accepted and many companies executed it for success. However, it became irrelevant as people started having more choice and job functions became varied. Typical hierarchical structure became not only irrational for many organizations, but also brought inefficiency in the system when implemented. Many modern managerial sociological theorists highly criticize the bureaucratic theory for its one dimensional thought process and the complete disregard to the interpersonal relationship, but even in the face of all its limitations, Weber’s theory continues to amaze the company and government heads. Max Weber’s theory will continue to be used fully or partially in many organizations for many years to come.


West, W. (1997). Searching for a Theory of Bureaucratic Structure. Journal Of Public Administration Research And Theory, 7(4), 591-614. doi:10.1093/oxfordjournals.jpart.a024367. Retrieved on 15th Feb, 2015 from < http://oied.ncsu.edu/selc/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Searching-for-a-Theory-of-Bureaucratic-Structure.pdf>
Jain, A. (2004). Using the lens of Max Weber's Theory of Bureaucracy to examine E-Government Research. Hawaii International Conference of Social Sciences. Retrieved on 15th Feb, 2015 from <http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=>
Meier, K and Krause G. (2013). The Scientific Study of Bureaucracy: An Overview. Retrieved on 15th Feb, 2015 from < http://www.pitt.edu/~gkrause/0472113178-ch1.pdf>
Wasim, A. (2011). Rationality and Irrationality of Max Weber’s Bureaucracies. The Islamic University, Gaza, Occupied Palestinian Territories. Retrieved on 15th Feb, 2015 from <http://www.ijmbs.com/14/wasim.pdf>

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