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The seminal analysis of bureaucracy lies in the work of Max Weber. Weber, among others (e.g., Simmel), offered a theory of the increasing rationalization of the world. He was especially interested in the structures and ideologies that fostered this growing rationalization, particularly in the West. For Weber, the bureaucracy represents the paradigm of rationalization.

Weber's discussion of the bureaucracy is grounded in his broader interest in authority structures. He outlines three ideal types of such structures based on different grounds for authority: charisma (based on the followers' view that the leader has a unique personality or personal characteristics), traditional (based on a long-standing custom), and rational-legal (based on a set of formal rules, regulations, and offices).

The rational-legal system of authority is the one most common in ...

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