BS3914          Public Service Delivery


Lecture 1.          Weber’s ideal type of bureaucracy


1.   Conceptions of bureaucracy


  1. Pejorative use of the term bureaucracy – write down typical phrases!

  2. Consider the case of  a lack of bureaucracy (early ‘Apple’ for the Beatles would employ anybody/everybody and the whole imploded)

  3. Military bureaucracies highly efficient (Roman army deployed a ‘tortuga’ or ‘tortoise’)

2.   Ideal type used by Weber as a ‘measuring instrument’ i.e. a theoretical concept


3.  Characteristics of bureaucracy (read Weber’s definition)      


4.   A more extended account can be found in Max Weber: On Bureaucracy.


5.   Schematically, Weber’s view (with some criticisms and developments can be found in the Britannica excerpt ‘Bureaucracy’           


6.   Modern day application of Weber can be found in the concept of McDonaldisation      

Seminar Discussion points



Think of 3 situations in which:


(a)   a bureaucracy worked well

(b)   A bureaucracy should have worked well but failed to

(c)    A bureaucracy (formally defined) was not appropriate



Web version


Research (e.g. Google) and write a short para on each of the following:


  1. Definition of an ‘ideal type’
  2. Are ‘traditional’, ‘charismatic’ and ‘rational-legal’ types of authority ever combined?
  3. What is ‘trained incapacity’?
  4. Parkinson’s Law(s)
  5. Michel’s Iron Law of Oligarchy
  6. Informal structures encouraging ‘rate-busting’
  7. Negotiated order
  8. Protection of the Inept
  9. The Peter Principle
  10. Goal Displacement