The original French word bureau denoted the baize material used to cover the top of a desk. The Greek suffixes kratia and kratos mean “power” or “rule.” Thus, bureaucracy literally means to rule from a desk or office to conduct governmental affairs. Alternatively, bureaucracy is an instrument used by big business to define means of production. As a sociological concept, bureaucracy specifies the objective discharge of business, through hierarchical administrative structures, according to calculable rules without regard for personal prerogatives or preferences, transforming social inclinations into rationally organized action. This entry briefly describes how bureaucracy works and then looks at the most prominent explanatory theories.

How Bureaucracy Works

In bureaucracies, complex tasks are broken into individual activities and assigned as official duties that clearly define the responsibilities, ...

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