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Chapter 3

Political Science 2246E Chapter Notes - Chapter 3: Class Conflict, For Marx, Belongingness


Department
Political Science
Course Code
Political Science 2246E
Professor
Joseph Lyons
Chapter
3

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Ch.3. Theories of Organization
PERSPECTIVES ON BUREACRATIC ORGANIZATION
o Public bureaucracy is the organizing principle of government
it is nonetheless central to the study of public administration
o bureaucratic organizations exist everywhere
o most organization theory originated from studies about how to improve
the management of private sector organizations, particularly large
corporations
KARL MARX
o The first major figure in the classic school of thought
o Marx was influenced in his ideas about bureaucracy by the German
philosopher, G.W.F. Hegel
For Hegel, the bureaucracy represented a bridge between the
state and civil society
The state represented the overall general or common interest
For Hegel, the bureaucracy was in fact the “universal class” par
excellence because it represented the generalized communal
interest of all
o For Marx, bureaucracy was not some kind of ideal representation of the
general will of society. It was more concrete than that: it was real people
involved in a particular set of social relationships involving the exercise of
power
o According to Marx, the bureaucracy was nothing more than a special
interest in itself. Whereas in society, various interests struggled for
possession of private property, within the bureaucracy the struggle was
over positions
o The hierarchal structure of government meant that abuse by lower
officials could be redressed by their superiors
Marx argued that hierarchy leads only to the punishment of officials
who commit offences against the hierarchy itself
Hierarchy, then, was far more likely to abuse citizens than were the
petty actions of lower officials
o In a capitalist society, Marx said, the role of the bureaucracy was to
maintain the class distinctions and domination that sustained the rule of
the business class. At the same time, the bureaucracy must mask this
domination by presenting itself as representing the general interest
To maintain this façade, it must retain a certain degree of
autonomy (freedom of action)
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Because of this autonomy, the bureaucracy occasionally acts in a
way that may appear to counter the interests if the business class
o The conception of alienation is a major aspect of Marx’s views; he saw
bureaucracy as one of the primary institutions responsible for it
Bureaucracy is felt by most citizens as a distant, impersonal and
oppressive force
Alienation occurs not just between citizens and the bureaucracy,
but also within the bureaucracy itself
o Marx concluded that during the transition from feudalism to capitalism
(the transition from rule by the aristocracy to rule by the bourgeoisie),
there was a contest for political power in which the state took a
“relatively autonomous” position
The bureaucracy helped pave the way for capitalism
o Marx’s hope for society was for the triumph of communism over capitalism
o Marx argued the following:
1. Capitalist society is marked by class conflict in which the capitalist
oppresses and exploits the working class in the pursuit of profitability
2. The state is “relatively autonomous” from the capitalist class but
ultimately serves its long-term interests
3. The bureaucracy also has interests of its own, focused on its own
survival and the career-building activities of its employees
4. Both society at large and bureaucrats suffer from alienation derived
from the hierarchal nature of bureaucracy
5. Class struggle will result in revolution, leading to a classless society in
which the state will gradually wither away
THE NEO-MARXISTS
o Accumulation
Meaning that the state passes policies that make it possible for
capitalist enterprises to make profits (these may include low
corporate tax rates, subsidies, grants)
The second meaning is to ensure that the working class does not rise
up and revolt against the dominant class. Thus, the state passes
policies of legitimation to appease the working class without
interfering with the accumulation of profits by capitalists (i.e. social
welfare policies)
o Neo-Marxists agree that the modern bureaucratic state is a threat to
democracy. They contend that it has grown so powerful that it is no
longer as responsible to elected legislatures as it should be
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CRITICISMS OF MARXIST THEORY
o Neo-Marxists have been criticized for trying to have their cake and eat it
too
o Neo-Marxists are criticized for arguing that the bureaucracy is merely a
tool of the capitalist class, while at the same time arguing that the
bureaucracy has become too powerful in its own right
MAX WEBER
o Weber argued that bureaucracy was essentially a system of
administration carried out on a continuous basis by trained professionals
1. Hierarchy
Where everyone has a clearly defined role within a division of
labour and answers to a superior
2. Continuity
In the sense of full-time salaried occupations and career
structures
3. Impersonality
Work is based on prescribed rules and a written record
4. Expertise
Personnel, selected on the basis of what they know rather
than who they know, are trained and control access to
knowledge stored in files
o Weber identified bureaucracy with efficiency since its central feature is
rationality
Rationality is reflected in bureaucracy’s complex division of
labour
o Weber saw bureaucracy as central to modernization
Its source of power was the monopolization of knowledge
and organization, and the concentration of this power was
within the political domain
o He argued that people and societies were guided in their actions and
behaviors by tradition, habit and instincts
o An ideally rational organization in the Weberian sense was an
organization performing its tasks with maximum efficiency
o Bureaucracy’s tendency toward impersonality depersonalizes individuals
CRISTICIMS OF THE WEBERIAN MODEL
o While impersonal rules may protect individuals from arbitrary treatment at
the hands of officials, they may also be used to frustrate popular demands
for social justice
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