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The Ups and Downs of Bureaucratic Organization

  • Johan P. Olsen
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    Why do democracies give birth to bureaucracies and bureaucrats? How and why has a seemingly undesirable and unviable organizational form weathered relentless criticism over many years and is possibly experiencing a renaissance? Normative democratic theory, theories of formal organizations, and Weber’s ideas are used for exploring de-bureaucratization efforts since the late 1970s and the most recent decade’s rediscovery of bureaucracy. One lesson is that there has not been a monotonic development towards bureaucratization, as argued by Weber, or de-bureaucratization, as argued by his critics. Several normative and organizational components have co-existed. Yet the significance of each component and their relationships has varied over time. While elements of a theoretical framework are suggested, no great optimism for a comprehensive theory of bureaucratization and de-bureaucratization is offered. Institutions, agency, and macro forces all matter, but there is no agreement regarding under which conditions one factor matters more than the others. A later version of this paper has been published in Annual Review of Political Science, Vol. 11, 2008, pp. 13-37

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    Paper provided by ARENA in its series ARENA Working Papers with number 14.

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    Date of creation: 17 Sep 2007
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    Handle: RePEc:erp:arenax:p0242
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