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Best books about bureaucracy

News Political theory Best books about bureaucracy Recommended Links Bureaucracy as a Political Coalition The Fiefdom Syndrome
Military Bureaucracy Bureaucratic inertia Iron law of oligarchy Absurdity of bureaucracies Bureauactic ritualism The authoritarian personality
 Mayberry Machiavellians Lysenkoism The Peter Principle Parkinson Law Humor Etc

Bureaucracy is an organizational model rationally designed to perform complex tasks efficiently. Although the vices of bureaucracy are self-evident and huge volume of literature exists about perversions of bureaucracies, especially military bureaucracies (you should read immortal The Good Soldier Švejk ) this form of organization is not totally bad. In other words, benefits to the proverbial “red tape” associated with bureaucracy do exist. For example, bureaucratic regulations and rules help ensure that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) takes appropriate precautions to safeguard the health of Americans when it is in the process of approving a new medication. It does not work perfectly it is often perverted but it is better then nothing and might be even better then alternatives. The proverbial "red tape" associated with truckload of useless documents actually also serves positive role documenting pretty complex things so that multiple players have common vision and if problems arise, data exists for analysis and correction.

Sturmtruppen's is an interesting cinematographic analisis of buereacries. There are two films:

Bonvi had a small part as a German officer. The quality of the two movies was uneven, albeit some ideas and situations (such as the Captain abusing a life-size plush toy with Karl Marx features -- only to be assaulted and bitten by it -- or the Pope offering a poisoned wafer to the angelic soldier who came from heaven to usher in a new age of Peace) are very biting and sarcastic, on par with the best anti-military bureaucracies works.

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[Sep 10, 2011] The Politics of Bureaucracy -- An Introduction to Comparative Public Administration

Tansu Demir (Springfield, IL) - See all my reviews

This book is really a "comprehensive" (in the literal meaning of the word), clearly written, richly supported by concrete cases (mostly, federal agencies) guide about government bureaucracy mainly in the United States. From introduction to the end, Wilson clearly and convincingly demonstrates the reasons what the government agencies do and why they do that in the way they do.

The book is organized into six parts: Organizations, Operators, Managers, Executives, Context, and Change. In the first part, Wilson's thesis is simply that organization matters. Organization must be in accordance with the objectives of the agency. In the second part, the author examines the operators' behavior (say, street-level bureaucrats) and how their culture is shaped by the imperatives of the situation they encounter in a daily basis. The third part deals with the issues peculiar to managers of public agencies. In this part, attention is focused upon the constraints that put the mangers in a stalemate (see chapter 7, this chapter is completely insightful!!). The fourth part is devoted to the Executives. This part clearly illustrates why the executives of government agencies compete with other departments and which strategies are used in the process of competition and/or cooperation (especially see the 10th chapter about Turf, insightful!!). In the fifth part, Wilson focuses on the context in which public agencies do their business (Congress, Presidents and Courts). In the last part, Wilson summarizes the problems and examines alternative solutions (the market alternatives to the bureaucracy) and concludes with reasonable and "little" propositions.

In the book, I found especially some points very insightful to me. One of them is concerned with the distinction between government agencies. According to the typology Wilson forms the government agencies are classified into four groups. That is,

This distinction is chiefly based upon the visibility/measurability of the organizations' outputs and procedures. In this logic, the "production organization" is defined as having both measurable processes and visible/understandable outputs (i.e., Social Security Administration). "Procedural organizations" perform measurable processes, but they have no visible or easily measurable outputs. The "craft organization" is characterized by having immeasurable processes and visible outputs (i.e., the armies). However, the "coping organization" has neither measurable/controllable processes nor visible outputs (i.e., the Police Department, the Department of Education). This taxonomy is put forward and used in the rest of the book as one of the main determinants of the problems (and also successes) in the public sector.

The second important and insightful point made by Wilson is concerned with the efficiency in the public sector. To Wilson, measuring efficiency is a difficult project in the public sector. Wilson approaches the efficiency from a different perspective that we are not so accustomed. His question is that if the efficiency is the ratio of input to the output, what are the outputs of the public agencies and can those outputs be measured/quantified? "Contextual goals" sought by public organizations in addition to their main objectives make the efficiency measurement problem more complex and elusive. If contextual goals are taken into consideration the efficiency of the public organization incredibly increases.

The third important point is concerned with the organization mission. Wilson sees organizational mission in the public sector radically different from how we learned it in the organization theory courses. To Wilson, organization mission is same with the public agency's culture if the culture is widely and heartily shared by the most of the organization's members. To connect organizational mission to the organization culture provides the author with another insight that in public sector, the culture of public agencies defines their mission (not congressional mandates or paper enactments!!). Culture is formed mainly according to the situational mandates of the work being done (and also many other factors such as leadership). That is, in addition to the "organization", also the "situation" matters.

Wilson does not neglect to touch another (susceptible) problem in the public sector: "red tape". To the author, the main reason behind the red tape can be explained with the fact that since there are high risks at stake when the rules are violated there is a "tendency" to multiply the rules, as (big or small) scandals occur, so as to impede the future scandals and violations that consume the trust capital generously in the eye of the common citizens.

Wilson also asks the question why public agencies are not given specific and well-defined goals. The reply to this question is "multiplication of interests". According to Wilson, as time pass, different interests find a place in the mission of the organization and accordingly new goals (for new interests [supported by politicians] to be satisfied by the agency) are added to the "objectives" list of the agency (mostly, contradictory to each other). You can discern this dynamic by comparing the total page number of the some enactments today in enforcement with the original page number when the enactment was first adopted (maybe ten years ago).

Having reviewed the government bureaucracy comprehensively, Wilson develops some "little" reform propositions. Wilson believes that if a reform is to be successful, it must take into account the situational imperatives of the public sector organizations, and the "reward systems" must be suitable to the output expected (this point can be summarized with the motto that DON'T REWARD THAT YOU DON'T WANT TO SEE).

Once you have finished the book will you likely to ask this question: Is really "bureaucracy" not a simple phenomenon? It has always been difficult to summarize the "great books", and this book is one of them. This book must be read in its entirety. Highly recommended.

Politics and the Bureaucracy

The Case For Bureaucracy A Public Administration Polemic, 4th Edition (9781568029078) Charles T Goodsell Books

Tansu Demir I Hate Bureaucracy, I Love Bureaucrats Syndrome, December 19, 2001

So far, much has been written about the evils of bureaucracy, but less has been written about the accomplishments of bureaucracy. Generally, the message given by popular literature regarding government bureaucracy was one-sided and too far from completeness. In this book, the author tries to draw a complete picture of government bureaucracy. In contrast to popular bureaucracy-bashing writing, Goodsell reaches surprisingly interesting conclusions that contradict long-held beliefs toward public bureaucracy. The overall characterization of government bureaucracy within popular culture reflects that government bureaucracy is overstaffed, inflexible, unresponsive and power hungry. In forming such an image, media and academia have played a crucial role, according to the author. The economists are hostile to government bureaucracy on the basis that competitive markets and profit incentives are feasible means to obtain efficiency; sociologists are concerned with pathologies of bureaucracy; and so on. However, generally, criticism of bureaucracy is not well supported by empirical data. As being different from those who attack bureaucracy based on unfounded assumptions most of the time, Goodsell supports his arguments with empirical data that have been obtained from citizen surveys. In my opinion, the reason for the case is very well presented and worthy of careful reading.

One of the arguments of the author is that critiques of government bureaucracy fall prey to the mistake of seeing bureaucracy as a whole (a form of abstraction), and ignoring the differences between different public agencies. Goodsell aptly illustrates how public agencies greatly differ from each other in terms of performance, conduct and so on. Also, citizen surveys support the fact that ordinary citizens are glad from their relationships with government bureaucracy in their local neighborhoods. However, as a general concept, bureaucracy is an oxymoron (this paradox, in literature, is called "the paradox of distance", that is, ordinary citizens are happy with their business with bureaucracy and bureaucrats, but they have negative attitudes toward `bureaucracy'-the more distant the bureaucracy the more the negative attitude is).

Not only Goodsell examines accomplishments of government bureaucracy, but also he convincingly demonstrates the facts that impede the expected success of the government bureaucracy, including vague goals given to bureaucracy, the problems of coordination created by excessive outsourcing (administration by proxy), the complexity of social problems that government bureaucracy deals with, efficiency and equity conflict, and the like. In handling the subject, this book is very comprehensive, and the author files an excellent and convincing case. Not easy to summarize all the points, however all popular myths regarding government bureaucracy I (probably you) have heard are answered in the book with tremendous clearness.

Overall, I highly recommend this classic to anybody who is interested in government bureaucracy. I also recommend "The Spirit of Public Administration" by George Frederickson, and "Bureaucracy" by James Wilson. The case for bureaucracy is a case for bureaucracy, and you are the members of the Jury. The final decision is up to you.

A Customer

I never thought that I would find myself reading a book that was in favor of bureaucracy. Being a skeptic, I thought that every second spent reading this book would be a waste of time. However, I was surprised at how Charles T. Goodsell makes you want to jump on the bureaucracy bandwagon. Charles Goodsell has done a fair job on his book "A Case for Bureaucracy: A Public Administration Polemic." Goodsell looks at several of the preconceived notions that are held by the general population about the size, structure, hierarchy, and organization of the bureaucracy regardless whether it is in federal, state, or local governments. Goodsell begins each chapter with a great deal of enthusiasm but runs out of steam when it comes to making a solid argument for bureaucracy in some of the areas discussed. The author obviously has an affinity for statistics, which he uses throughout ninety percent of his book. Goodsell tries to rely on data that was collected some twenty to thirty years ago. The public sector has undergone numerous changes since some of these surveys were conducted. Some of the studies that he uses such as comparisons between Detroit and Delhi, I found somewhat irrelevant. Charles T. Goodsell makes a strong case for the bureaucracy in the United States. His unique approach will convince many that the bureaucracy is open, flexible, and even willing to change. However, I feel that because of his outdated and irrelevant surveys and studies, which he uses throughout his book, which these detract from rather than make the case in favor of bureaucracy. The book is a noble attempt to win citizens over to the idea that the bureaucracy is a polite, customer service oriented, friendly, and helpful group of 20 million individuals that are there to serve them. I am not sure that even the most well written defense of the bureaucracy will alleviate the notions that are held by most citizens.

A. Curtis (Salt Lake City, UT)

This is required reading my graduate-level public administration course. The books contains some good information, but the deceptively personable style at the beginning degenerates into a morass of facts, figures, and study summaries. The thoughts and ideas were good but the approach and voice seem inconsistent.

Confessions of a Government Man How to Succeed in Any Bureaucracy

Buy it for yourself or put it on your holiday gift list! Confessions is informative, entertaining and honest. Anyone who has ever listened to or read government communications will love Chapter 13, "The Language of Government." And all of us who have worked for someone will appreciate the chapter on "Care and Feeding of the Boss." The author writes hilarious stories about foolish, greedy and opportunistic people he's encountered, including a judge who threatened him with contempt of court when he'd inadvertently taken the judge's parking space. Along with the fun is some serious discussion and analysis. Don't miss this terrific book.

The Second Cycle Winning the War Against Bureaucracy

"The Second Cycle: Winning the War Against Bureaucracy," has a lot of variety and its title containing the term "bureaucracy" may be misleading to some. "Innovation" is in the title also, and much more prominent on the cover, and the book.


1. The first cycle: Why Success Breeds Failure
2. The Second Cycle: A New Paradign
3. Meaning
4. Partnership
5. From Hierarchy to Collaboration
6. Leadership
7. The Toolbox
8. Three Live Case Studies
9. Conclusion

Appendix: how Oticon entered The Second Cycle.

Each chapter has sub-chapters that reinforce the chapter topic.

As a contemporary business book, it's for companies of all sizes and every industry. Author Lars Kolind provides numerous case studies, tables, some theory, and figures, for the work and business model of today where "most of those straightforward and well-defined jobs are gone" (Kolind, 67). These jobs have been relocated to countries with cheap labor. Robots and machines are now performing many of the tasks of what these low-cost workers are doing. This book also has a self-assessment profile and a questionnaire. Items detailed are the recruitment process, individual development of the employee, manager development, and org. development. Where is the best place for the innovative mentality to be nurtured and promoted today? Education: Kolind aptly notes it's the schools, and it starts with Primary Education. Focusing on individuality, finding strengths, creativity, and yes, "fun."

Enter the "Knowledge Worker." This worker's job isn't narrowly defined, tasks are less controlled by management, individuality, creativity, and flexibility is a must. And, for this knowledge based worker, we need the KBM: Knowledge Based Management. People- management is not always knowledge management based. Kolind also provides a case study on labor unions (although they're declining) and notes union importance in our knowledge-based society. As the worker becomes an independent contractor we are again reminded that:

"Employers are capitalists that look upon workers purely as production factor. Employers will use any means to maximize profit. They will hire and fire employees according to short-term need, and they will strive to pay minimum amounts per working hour" (Kolind, 161). And yes, the workers have their interests, also. It's a two-way relationship, but often not symbiotic in today's global world, that is flattening before us.

Kolind gives specific examples of changing organization styles starting with the old Line Staff Organization style of the U.S. auto industry in the early 20th Century. From heuristic bureaucratic theorist Max Weber, line staff separates employees and specialists in a hierarchical relationship. The benefits of line are: constant, high-quality output, minimal training cost, etc. Obviously in some industries this is most optimum. For other industries, it isn't. The 'Innovation and Mass Customization' style is for R&D, customer service, business development, and tech, today.

One concept in the Meaning Chapter was the "Acid Test." You ask, "what if our organization didn't exist." Another concept is the "Obituary Test." What would be written in your organization's obituary if: a) your customers wrote it? b) competitors wrote it? c) what would this industry be like if your org. died? d) has your company made a real difference to the people it affects?

Kolind notes the common perception that upward cycles inevitably lead to downward cycles not only in business but in civilization in general. The rise and fall of the Roman Empire, Soviet Union, British Car Industry, Enron, and other industries. There are reasons for these declines and subsequent extinction.

Large, older, established, and successful organizations that are declining often can show favorable financial statements because they downsize and do Mergers & Acquisitions. But when organizations are in this mind-set they can be maintaining their position instead of questioning it.

Informative, well-written, great read.

Sturmtruppen - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"Zis damned military service vill haff to end sometime. I've grown tired of hafing to say 'Yes, sir' to anyone with a higher ranken. I kan barely vait to return to being an anonymous civilian and being able to zay 'Yes, sir' to any of my superiors..."

Sturmtruppen's success spurred two cinema adaptations. The first one, Sturmtruppen (1976), was co-written by Bonvicini and directed by Salvatore Samperi. In 1982 a sequel, Sturmtruppen II, was released, again directed by Samperi and featuring Renato Pozzetto, Massimo Boldi and Teo Teocoli.

Bonvi had a small part as a German officer. The quality of the two movies was uneven, albeit some ideas and situations (such as the Captain abusing a life-size plush toy with Karl Marx features -- only to be assaulted and bitten by it -- or the Pope offering a poisoned wafer to the angelic soldier who came from heaven to usher in a new age of Peace) are very biting and sarcastic, on par with the best strips.

On August 16, 2006, Miramax moved forward with plans to create a live-action movie based on Sturmtruppen. It is not known if a script has been written, or who is slated to direct the movie.

Beating the System- Using Creativity to Outsmart Bureaucracies



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