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Administrative Theory

  Administrative theory should be distinguished from administrative doctrines. Administrative theory encompasses a wide variety of ideas about how organizations should be run, especially public administration. Administrative theorists develop explanatory and normative accounts of the roles bureaucracies do and should play in our social systems.

Classical administrative theory emphasized that bureaucracies should be organized according to the functional or purpose principle, and in clear scalar hierarchies which would facilitate political accountability. This idea was developed by the German sociologist Max Weber (1864 - 1920), who argued that modern or rational bureaucracies, as opposed to traditional or patrimonial bureaucracies, were distinguished by a clear hierarchical division of offices, impersonality in recruitment and procedure, continuity in form and files, and the primacy of functional expertise. These features guaranteed efficiency and inhibited corruption.

Recent administrative theorists have criticized the classical and Weberian defence of ‘machine models of bureaucracy’. Marxists and élite theorists maintain that Weberian bureaucracies are agencies of domination and inhibit a more thoroughgoing democratization of society. Public choice critics argue that classical bureaux will be captured and bent to the will of ‘budget-maximizing bureaucrats’; that bureaux should be exposed to competition from private sector agencies; and that the ‘contracting-out’ of public functions may be necessary to ensure efficient administration.

Organization theorists suggest that classical or ‘line bureaucracies’ are unsuited for turbulent and uncertain environments, and that professional organizations of a more collegial kind are essential for certain kinds of administrative task. BO\'L

See also pluralism.Further reading Patrick Dunleavy, Democracy, Bureaucracy and Public Choice; , Stephen Robbins, Organization Theory.



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