Jaques 1976 GeneralTheoryOfBureaucracy

Jaques, Elliiot, A General Theory of Bureaucracy, Heinemann, ISBN 0-435-82478-3. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/48905354

Prolegomenon: Metamorphosis of Bureaucracy and the Question of Values (pp. 1-2)

Social and political thought in industrial societies remains polarized between two conflicting ideologies: that of the centralized State and that of the pluralist society. Centralization, in the tradition of the Encyclopaedists, Rousseau and Marx, emphasizes the interaction between rational man -- the individualist freed from the bonds of traditional authority -- and the centralized state controlled by public opinion. Pluralism, in the sociological tradition(1) of de Tocqueville, Weber, Durkheim, Simmel, Tonnies, with an equal concern for the growth of industrial democracy, sees the need, if individual freedom is genuinely to be preserved, for the power of the central State to be balanced by an authority sub-structure in society distributed in true communities in the intermediate zone between the individual and the State.

Of the two points of view, centralization -- in spite of its superficial attractiveness -- leads, as bitter experience has shown, to the totalitarian State with bureaucratic domination. Pluralism, on the other hand, with a prima facie strong case in its favour, has been the harder view to argue. For it is difficult to discover where substantial and effective intermediate institutions, capable of supporting a sense of gemeinschaft or immediate community, are to be found under the conditions of urbanized industrialism which are an integral part of modern life. Durkheim's vision of corporations based upon occupational community has never come to pass. Neither have new ways readily been found of reviving or strengthening the authority of the family, the Church, the local community, the co-operative association, the trade union or professional association, without somehow regressing to outmoded and archaic social forms at best served up in a new guise.

In the controversy between centralism and pluralism, the rise of bureaucracy has almost invariably been seen as the handmaiden of autocratic centralized governmental power, and, indeed, as continually threatening to arrogate that power to itself as in the final stages of the autocratic coup or revolution. There is thus a strong tendency for most writers on bureaucracy to end up with a pessimistic view of bureaucracy's eventual effects upon democratic society. This pessimism is forcefully illustrated by Michels, for example, who wrote that "bureaucracy is the sworn enemy of individual liberty, and of all bold initiative in matters of internal policy. The dependence upon superior authorities characteristic of the average employee suppresses individuality and gives to the society in which employees predominate a narrow petty-bourgeois and philistine stamp. The bureaucratic spirit corrupts character and engenders moral poverty."(2) And the question as Weber saw it was whether democratic institutions would be able to contain and constrain their bureaucratic instruments, or whether the bureaucracies would succeed in dehumanizing the democratic world.

The argument I shall purse is that, contrary to general opinion, bureaucracies per se are neither centralilzing nor localizing powers, neither humanizing nor dehaumanizing. They are dependent institutions, social instruments, taking their initial objectives and characteristics from the associations which employ them. The powers of central government of any society should never be handed over to its bureaucrats. Those powers must remain in the hands of the governmental and other employing associations in the society. It is essential that this distinction between bureaucrats and the associations which employ them be widely understood in all industrial democracies.

  1. Described by R. A. Nisbet (1966) in his scholarly The Sociological Tradition.
  2. R Michels (1946), Political Parties, p. 191.

Role, Social Structure, and other Social Things; Pages 37 - 42

Individuals and Conflict Between Social Groups

No two individuals or groups in interaction are ever likely to desire to move in precisely the same direction, any more than any two forces are likely to by found in nature acting in precisely the same direction. Conflict is as much an ordinary and inevitable feature of social interaction as opposing forces are an inevitable feature of fields of force in the physical world.

In the social world, conflict may exist at three different levels. Intra-psychic conflict is the situation within the individual seeking two or more incompatible goals at the same time. Interpersonal conflict arises wherever two individuals interact in seeking to fulfill incompatible goals. Such conflict may occur, for example, when two people seek to possess the same object; competition consists of just such conflict. Or it may arise as a result of two people in role relationship being determined to go in different directions but required by the role relationship to find a common direction.

Social group conflict arises whenever two or more institutionalized groups (associations or nations) find themselves involved in interaction with respect to incompatible objectives as formulated by their governing bodies. As with interpersonal conflict, so in social conflict the incompatibility of objective may arise in attempts to possess the same object (conflict over pay or over territory, for example); or as a result of differences between power groups within the same social system desiring to go in different directions (espousing incompatible policies, for example).

The distinction is made between interpersonal conflict and social conflict for the following reason. In any social system it is inevitable that all kinds of interpersonal conflicts will continually occur. There will also continually be individuals within the system who are dissatisfied to greater or lesser degree with its policies, its functioning, its value to them. But these individual dissatisfactions and interpersonal conflicts within a social system do not singly or in aggregate constitute social conflict. For social conflict to occur there must be a confluence of dissatisfactions around which groups associate with the common aim of taking action as a group to mitigate the problem. It is when organized group acts against organized group that social conflict may be said to exist.

It will serve my purpose to distinguish between two categories of conflict. First, varying degrees of consensual conflict, in which each of the contenders aims to achieve as much of his objective as possible, but within an overall live-and-let-live framework and ending with mutual accommodation if not full-scale resolution of differences. Interactive or consensual conflict requires, and indeed thrives upon, debate, argument, reasoning, discussion, persuasion. It is among the most constructive of all social activities. It leads to the precipitation of possible decisions or policies and their formulation so that they can be considered, possibly accepted or even endorsed -- ranging from mundane family discussions and decisions through to far-reaching decisions of state. To move from conflict to discussion to pro tem resolution of conflict is a vivid enriching human experience, at the absolute core of democratic life. It acts as a centripetal force binding society together.(22)

The second type of conflict is a very different matter. It is that conflict which has passed the point of no return; that is to say, irreconcilable or dissensual conflict, in which the contenders cannot conceive of co-existence without sacrificing integrity, and the aim of each is either to get the other to submit completely to coercion or else to break the relationship by banishing the other or in the final analysis by annihilating him. Here we are dealing with social breakdown or potential breakdown, with an absence of the kind of dialogue which might lead to resolution. At best there may be truce for a time, but it is an uneasy truce likely to explode and disintegrate at any moment. Such conflicts act as centrifugal force, tearing social a systems apart.

Consensual conflict would fall into the category of what Dahrendorf calls regulated conflict. 'For effective conflict regulation to be possible, both parties to a conflict have to recognize the necessity and reality of the conflict situation and in this sense the fundamental justice of the cause of the opponent ... Wherever the attempt is made to dispute the case of the opponent by calling it "unrealistic" or denying the opponent the right to make a case at all, effective regulation is not possible.'(23)

For consensual conflict to occur there must be institutionalized procedures for the regulation of conflict. These procedures must be agreed upon by the potential parties to a conflict before the conflict occurs. That is to say, consensual conflict includes the mechanisms by which the conflict is to be regulated.

By contrast, dissensual conflict cannot be regulated. As Dahrendorf puts it,(24) it is dealt with by the suppression of one of the conflicting parties by the other. Where there is no agreement on the mode of regulating conflict. suppression by coercive power is the only possible outcome. The coercive force may be manifestly physical as in the case of police or military suppression. Or it may be indirectly physical, as in the case of the threat of unemployment to a group of strikers during an economic depression.

Power and Authority

I shall employ the terms power and authority in what is their common current usage in sociology. Power is the rate of the induction of behaviour in others. It is the quality of an individual (or a group) which enables him to influence other individuals either singly or collectively by channelling and directing their behaviour in such a way as to help him to fulfil his aims. It is that quality which gets others to act, to work, to do things on one's behalf. The power of individuals or groups may derive from many sources, physical strength, psychological ability, social prestige, collective action, economic wealth. Coercive power is that power deriving from the ability to force another to carry out instructions, by physically constraining and directing him or by physically detaining him.

Authority is an attribute of a role which gives the incumbent the right to exercise power within socially established limits, and to apply to others positive or negative sanctions (rewards or punishment) depending upon the quality of their behaviour. It is thus the exercise of power in a manner which others have said is allowable and are prepared to support. Authority is therefore the institutional transformation of power channelled and limited within a social system.

So defined, power may be authorized by anything from one other person to a whole nation through its government. The strength of authority will rest upon the power of the authorizing group. The greatest authority is that vested in a role by government on the part of the State, since to the State is reserved the right in extremis to exercise coercion, even to the point of deciding life or death.

It may be noted that authorization of power may be given by two very different groups: by the group towards whom the power is being used; or by some other group which sanctions the exercise of power against a third party. The use of power in these two circumstances will be experienced as very different by those subject to its influence. In the first instance they will not be surprised, because they will have agreed in advance to be influenced and will have agreed the sanctions to be used against themselves if they fail to react satisfactorily to the authorized power stimulus. In the second instance they will feel resentful, or feel themselves being subjected to attempted coercion -- the authority will not be acceptable to them.

The process by which those subjected to power may take part in setting its context and thereby authorizing it is the legitimation of power, and the resulting power is legitimate or authorized power. The governments of states have legitimate power in this sense towards all citizens, although those who would wish to overthrow the State would certainly not experience it as legitimate. It is in circumstances of deviance of this kind that governments may decide to exercise coercive power towards citizens who refuse to conform to legislated requirements.

Social systems on a smaller scale than the nation may contain roles which carry legitimate power -- for example, bureaucracies. The question of the legitimacy of the power is simply a matter of determining to what extent those subjected to power are able to take part in authorizing its use, and in circumscribing or removing the power if the authorized limits are exceeded.

Multi-dimensional Analysis of Class and Status

A person's occupation and income are among the most powerful determinants of the class and status of himself and of his family. Since in industrial societies occupations and the distribution of income are provided mainly through the bureaucratic sector, the manner of functioning of bureaucracies is of considerable import in social class formation and the fixing of social status. At the same time the nature of class, status and power in a society are among the important external factors which influence the extent to which requisite bureaucratic organization is possible.

A social class, as in the original Marxian sense, is a group which through a common relationship to the means of production is led to organize to act to retain power or to seize it from some other group. In this sense 'the analysis of social class is concerned with an assessment of the chances that common economic conditions and common experiences of a group will lead to organized action.'(25)

This definition of social class differs sharply from a usage which began to some extent with Weber and has become widespread in sociology, in which class is simply one type of stratified social status, as in, for example, Lloyd Warner's six-stratum classification. The difference is important. The present definition leaves the concept of social class intact as a major element in the analysis of social conflict. As Dahrendorf has put it, "Class is a category for purposes of describing hierarchical systems at a given point in time."(26)

Social status, by contrast with social class, I shall use in the multidimensional sense current in sociology, to refer to a person's position on any of a series of different social scales which rank people in society. Such status include: economic status, including income and wealth; social position (in the Lloyd Warner sense of social class) both of individuals and of families; occupational status, referring to the prestige attaching to occupation but not necessarily to the true level of work of occupation; true level of-work status (as measured in time-span of discretion); prestige, honour and respect; caste. In addition, in certain circumstances religion, ethnic group, race, kinship and nationality may confer social status.

Status congruency exists to the extent that all of a person's social status rank at the same level. To the extent that they do not, status discrepancy may be said to occur.

Some status are ranked in a continuum of inequality; for example, the scale of income runs continuously from very low to very high without being divided or divisible by definable boundaries into any identifiable groupings. Some status (and social class as well) are divided into bounded groupings; that is to say, there are identifiable separations between groupings, as in the case, for example, of castes in a caste system. As I have indicated in my definitions of role and social structure, these boundaries have form and are dynamic. To cross a boundary implies a qualitative change in state, and not just a movement from one point to the next on a continuous scale.

Some status are not only organized and structured by boundaries, but may also be stratified; that is to say, they are divided by horizontal boun daries into a hierarchy of strata or layers, the social status being given by position in one or other stratum, rather than in a continuum of inequality as in the case of income; organizational levels (as I shall describe them) are stratified in this sense, as is the Lloyd Warner six-'class' (or strata) system.

Social stratification is often loosely and incorrectly used to refer to any status hierarchy. I believe it is important to separate scales of inequality from bounded groups and from stratified groups, because the dynamics of the relationships are different. Thus the 'working class' is a grouping but not a stratum, although it is often referred to as though social stratification could be applied to the analysis of class structure. Or, to take another example, many so-called class studies in Great Britain(27) adopt the Registrar General's classification in terms of strata based upon the drawing of a number of artificial boundaries through the income continuum and the occupational status continuum: such studies have a certain descriptive value and can be used for rough comparative purposes and studies of gross social trends; but they are of limited value from the point of view of social dynamics, and they serve to weaken both the concept of class and the concept of social stratification and to diminish their value.

The essence of a bounded group or a stratum is that its boundaries are socially real. To traverse the boundary requires force and a definable change in quality. To move from an income of £40 a week to an income of £41 a week does not of necessity demand any reorganization of the person or his outlook. To move from the working class into the capitalist class does of necessity imply an observable qualitative shift.


  1. Consensual conflict is consistent with the Zen concept of the dilemma, as against the tendency to regard conflict in terms of antinomies. This point is developed in an interesting manner by A. Low (1976) in Zen and Creative Management.
  2. R. Dahrendorf (1959), Class and Class Conflict in Industrial Society, p. 226.
  3. ibid., p. 225.
  4. S. M. Lipset and R. Bendix (1951), 'Social Status and Social Structure'; B. Bernstein (1971), Class, Codes and Control, Vol. I, p. 45.
  5. R. Dahrendorf (1959), Class and Class Conflict in Industrial Society, p. 76. W. G. Runciman (1973) in Relative Deprivation and Social Justice has made a reasonable attempt to make sense out of Weber's definitions. He tries to clarify and use Weber's distinction between class and status, but succeeds only in demonstrating that it is not possible in doing so to keep a clear distinction between the two. 'To speak of a person's "class"',' he writes, 'is to speak of his approximate, shared location in the economic hierarchy as opposed to the hierarchies of prestige or of power. "Status", by contrast, is concerned with social estimation and prestige, and although it is closely related to class, it is not synonymous with it'(p. 39). I prefer, with Dahrendorf and with Lipset and Bendix, to include the Runciman type of definition under economic status.

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