Max Weber, a German social historian, is considered to be the founding father of bureaucracy and defines bureaucracy as the ideal and rational method of organisation, hence the most efficient way of conducting business. Weber built his model on four factors: functional specialisation, hierarchy of authority, a system of rules and impersonality (Weber, 1947) and formulated the concept of bureaucracy as a response to the inadequacies found in earlier forms of organisational structure. Weber believed that these were unable to provide precision, continuity and efficiency and therefore unsuited to adapt to the rise of a capitalist market economy (Shepard, 2010). The general public does not share Weber’s view, instead bureaucracy has become synonymous with something that is inefficient, inflexible, rigid and old (Grey, 2007). As Weber perceives bureaucracy as rational one needs to understand the concept of rationality and its relationship with bureaucracy. In a very simplistic definition rational is something that is is considered logical, sensible and efficient whereas the antonym irrational is something unreasonable (www1; www2).
This present work attempts to answer the complex question whether bureaucracy is irrational, however in order to do so one needs to consider the advantages and disadvantages of bureaucracy as well as the different dimensions of rationality.
The case for bureaucracy
Max Weber argues that authority is what holds society together and increasingly modern…