BUREAUPATHOLOGY Sociology Help

BUREAUPATHOLOGY

Although bureaucratic organization performs needed services, it also tends to develop certain types of problems. Sometimes lateraled “bureau pathology” [Thompson, 1977, p~. 153], these problems include professionalization, aloofness and invidious status, “grade creep” [Samuelson, 1976], and. undue assumption of policy-making authority [Cooper, 1981, p. 139J. . Excessive rationalization leads to “buck passing,” in which officials handle a request by simply referring it to some higher authority. so that it is hard to know who, if anyone, is really making a decision.

This practice leads to charges that the office is bound up in “red tape” and more concerned with official forms than with meeting human needs. The problem of invidious status arises when bureaucrats exalt their own importance in comparison to those they are supposed to serve. This is especially galling when the bureaucrat gives distasteful news to the citizen who is nominally the bureaucrat’s employer. For example, when the tax assessor says taxes must be raised or when the claims officer denies an application for unemployment compensation, citizens. are annoyed. Negative decisions are difficult to accept under any circumstances and are much more distasteful when given . by one who appears pompous and self-righteous. “Grade creep” does not refer to academic marks (although it might also apply!) but to the; classification of jobs and pay in which grade one is low-paid, grade two, a little hikher, and so on. Samuelson [1976] points out that there is constant pressure to shift j6bs to higher and higher classifications. Thus the typist becomes a stenographer; the stenographer, a private secretary: the secretary, -an administrative assistant; and the administrative assistant, a bureau chief. Since the pressure. of employees for a higher classification is constant and the governmental or corporate personnel office exerts little pressure for economy, this upward pressure is hard to resist. Finally, it is charged. that governmental bureaucracies do not restrict themselves to . administration but become involved in policy making which should be done by the legislature or the executive.

The charge is that bureaucratic officials either distort the acts of the’ legislature or make rules which exceed legislative authorizations. Such charges formed a. major part of Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign in 1980. His efforts to cut back on bureaucratic authority apparently had some success; since .the new regulations in 1981 were 25 percent fewer than in the previous year [Paulyet a1., 1982]. However, the legislature cannot spell out the rules to be applied in each of-thousands of different situations.

This is done by the bureaucracy. This creates endless argument over whether a particular bureaucratic decision is undermining, fulfilling, or exceeding a legislative policy. A new administration may use bureaucratic rulings to overturn the policies and nullify the legislation of an earlier administration. An extreme example is the effort of Secretary of the Interior James Watt to change conservation policies .to permit oil drilling on federal wilderness areas. This so incensed the Congress that it passed a resolution against ‘Watt’s ruling [Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report, August 14, 1982.]

Posted on September 3, 2014 in Social and Institutions

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