The purpose of this paper is to provide a re‐examination of the Weberian corpus.
Discusses the Weberian corpus and the discrepancies and lacunae in Weber's accounts. Outlines “Weberian” bureacracy in the post‐bureacracy literature, the use and utility of ideal types and the problems of ideal typifications.
The so‐called “Weberian ideal type” which is the standard reference point in bureaucracy versus post‐bureaucracy discussion is only ambiguously related to what Weber himself wrote. Usually “Weberian” bureaucracy is equated with rule‐governed hierarchy. This is a gross over‐simplification of Weber's thought, but his “ideal type” demands radical re‐tooling in order to be usable. The components he itemized and the importance he attached to them are inconsistent, they are abstracted from exemplars which Weber privileged without explanation, and he gave no unambiguous criteria for deciding which components this ideal type should include or exclude. Moreover, he equated bureaucratic organization with modernity, when on his own account there were fully bureaucratic organizations centuries before “modernity”. His ideal type thus cannot yield a clear distinction between bureaucratic and “post”‐bureaucratic organizations, unless “bureaucracy” is flattened into “hierarchy”, and “post”‐bureaucratic into “non‐hierarchical”. But hierarchy cannot be eliminated from complex organizations, and bureaucracy can be re‐theorized to include any non‐contradictory attributes. Therefore, there can be adaptations of bureaucracy, but ex hypothesi there cannot be a “post‐bureaucratic era”.
The paper shows that Weber's ideal type can be re‐theorized to include any “non‐contradictory attributes”.
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