From the psychology of organizations, many theories have been put forward about the organization of work in companies. Today we will know one of them, Weber’s theory of bureaucracy .

This theory arose to overcome the limitations of the classical theory and the theory of human relations which, on the other hand, were opposed and contradictory to each other. Thus, Weber raised this theory of rationalist cut by means of an efficient approach, being this one applicable to factories and to the different forms of human organization.

Max Weber

Maximilian Weber (1864-1920) was a German philosopher, economist, jurist, historian, political scientist and sociologist . He is considered the founder of the modern study of sociology and public administration.

Weber initiated the systematic study of bureaucracy. He developed a series of observations in relation to it and shaped the conditions that contribute to it, with concepts such as the monetary economy, the capitalist system, the industrial revolution, etc.

Weber’s theory of bureaucracy

Weber’s theory of bureaucracy consists of a form of hierarchical labour organization where the officials or workers are specialized in their field and functions. For Weber, bureaucracy is an instrument of domination.

Weber establishes the conditions for a person with power to justify its legitimacy; furthermore, he explains how the subjects over whom such power is exercised are subject to it .

In addition to legitimizing power, a certain degree of administrative organization is necessary to make the exercise of power possible. The bureaucratic type of administrative organization proposed by Weber will provide the highest degree of efficiency in work and organization. The objective of such an organisation will be to solve the problems of society , and by extension those of the company.

As positive features of his theory of bureaucracy versus other types of work organization, Weber argues that it is: precise, fast and uniform, among others. In addition, he highlights that his organization saves objective and personal costs .

Company types

Within his theory of bureaucracy, Weber proposes 3 types of society according to their characteristics:

1. Traditional society

They highlight patriarchy and inheritance (e.g. family).

2. Charismatic Society

Mystical, arbitrary and personalistic characteristics (e.g. political parties) stand out.

3. Bureaucratic, rational or legal society

The impersonal rules and rationality (e.g. large companies) stand out . From it he explains his theory of bureaucracy.

Types of legitimate authority

Weber also defines three types of legitimate authority:

  • Traditional authority.
  • Charismatic authority.
  • Legal, rational or bureaucratic authority, proper to your theory.

Main ideas of his theory

Weber’s theory of bureaucracy raises three fundamental ideas characteristic of bureaucracy :

1. Legal nature of rules and regulations

There are a number of written rules and regulations in the bureaucracy, which are elaborated in a detailed and rational manner. These are consistent with the objectives of the bureaucracy.

Thus, the bureaucracy is based on its own legislation that defines its functioning.

2. Impersonality

All rules, decisions and administrative matters shall be formulated and recorded in writing .

The worker will fulfill his task in an impersonal way.

3. Hierarchy of authority

The above-mentioned legislation is composed of a series of abstract rules established rationally and intentionally.

The subject with authority has a number of functions, rights and duties . This subject has power by reason of his office.

On the other hand, the subject who obeys authority does so because it is determined by law, and not so much because he obeys the will of the boss.

4. Professionalization and rationality

Each professional will be selected for his degree of preparation and specialization in the subject .

The work to be developed will be considered as a career where one can be promoted (promoted) according to his/her seniority, capacity and technical knowledge.

5. Maximum division of labour

There are a number of positions of power within the bureaucratic organization. Each position of power obeys a series of competences , which are delimited by a series of rules.

The positions are organized in a hierarchical manner; thus, each position is under the control and supervision of a superior officer. Each subject will be responsible for his decisions and actions, as well as those of his subordinates.

6. Determination of rules

Rules and regulations govern the conduct of workers . Each one of them is applied to each case and situation in a coherent way.

Effects of Bureaucracy

Weber suggests a number of effects arising from its bureaucratic organization: on the one hand, bureaucratic organization will help to anticipate human behavior, and on the other, it will facilitate the standardization of worker performance.

As mentioned above, the ultimate objective will be to have greater efficiency in all processes and positions developed in the company , i.e. the maximum efficiency of the organisation.

Bibliographic references:

  • Weber, M. (1993). Economy and society. Madrid: S.L. Fondo de cultura económica de España.
  • Hogg, M. and Graham, V. (2010). Social psychology. Pan-American.