“Bureaucracy” with the Public Sector


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This week we are looking at some important theories that form the basis of how people have understood public administration and the key challenges that public administrators face. You are strongly encouraged to watch the video entitled “The Secret Life of the Office”, which presents a humorous and informative history of the two most important paradigms of administration: scientific management and human relations. Another very important observation that we need to make here is to note that many of the issues faced in public administration are not unique to the public sector but are also experienced in the private sector. Indeed, the term ‘bureaucracy’ is often used today as a synonym for the public service, but its original meaning was much broader – it referred to a specific type of organization, with strong emphasis on rules, hierarchy, and impersonal procedures. Max Weber’s definition is the most famous, and a great starting point. Why do you think we have come to associate “bureaucracy” with the public sector? When most people hear the term “bureaucracy”, they think of the reputed deficiencies of large organizations rather than the technical definition as identified above. What are these deficiencies? Are they inherent in bureaucracy? Can they be remedied?

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