Democratic elitist theorists regard Weber’s definition of Bureaucracy as “the conventional wisdom of public administration in liberal democracies” (Dunleavy and O’leary 1987, p170). However if this is the case then state administrators should be neutral however it is suggested that bureaucrats are “directly controlled by an external business elite” (Dunleavy and O’leary 1987, p170). This has dangerous implications for Liberal Democracy because it could lead to bureaucrats making policy that suits those who they are connected with and not the majority of the population as it is supposed to do.
State administrators have, under Weber’s definition, job security in most western states. This can have implications to liberal democracy. Firstly the decisions that bureaucrats make are made by “limited search” (Mosely 1984, p183). This means that they will make decisions that are “most familiar to decision-makers or deviating least from existing practice” (Dunleavy and O’leary 1987, p173). This means that they become complacent and unwilling to look for new decisions. This has grave implications for liberal democracy, as the public interest is not pivotal in administrator’s minds.
This has further implications for Liberal democracy as this method of decision-making means that decisions are likely to be made “in sequence rather than according to a grand plan” (Dunleavy and O’leary 1987, p173). The majority on the basis of a manifesto elects representatives, if policy decisions are made through sequence then representative democracy is not working correctly. Weber also believes that his definition of bureaucracy would lead to bureaucrats being promoted through merit (Hague and Harrop 2001, p 254).
This he believed would lead to the best and most able people being in the highest positions to aid the efficiency of state administration. However this is not the case as the civil servants in the highest offices are mostly well educated and from similar middle class backgrounds (Meny and Knapp1998, p264), “Elite cadres are selected by their predecessors from the same educational institutions: the old boy network” (Sedgemore, 1980; Benn, 1981). The implications of this to liberal democracies in western states means that the mass population are not represented when policy is being made as bureaucrats become “implicitly biased…
to defend the social interests of people with similar backgrounds, incomes and interests to themselves. ” (Dunleavy and O’leary 1987, p174). Bureaucrats are seen to be delivering policy to all social groups. However due to bureaucrats being linked closely to the “external business elite” they may have a tendency to “lean to the right” (Dunleavy and O’leary 1987, p. 175) favouring the economic market when making important policy decisions. This is of course bad for liberal democracy, as it does not reflect all of the population.
Bureaucrats are portrayed by Western States as being united, with one clear goal of implementing policy. This Weber believed would help the administration work efficiently. However it is claimed, “the administration is extremely heterogeneous” (Meny and Knapp 1998, p 264). Bureaucracies are seen as “a severely divided world of separate departments in which much energy is devoted to pre-empting one’s neighbours, empire building, angling for judicial guarantees for organizational or functional claims of one kind or another, and defending one’s own responsibilities and prerogatives.
” (Meny and Knapp 1998, p 264). This has grave implications for liberal democracy as it means that state administrators are not always acting in the population’s best interests. Although there are a number of implications that show bureaucracy as being bad for liberal democracy, it has been claimed that bureaucracy has been “tied to the growth of liberal democracy and socialism” (Dunleavy and O’leary 1987, p176). With this in mind it could be argued that bureaucracy is the result of liberal democracy.
It has also been argued, “The bureaucracy is indispensable to modern government” (Hague and Harrop 2001, p254). This is due to the immense rise in population making it impossible for the government to implement policy without the help of the administration. A major concern of western states is that the growth of bureaucracy is undemocratic (Held 2002, p 76). This was a concern for Max Weber “although he did not consider oppressive dominance by bureaucracy inescapable, modern politics must, he thought, find strategies for containing and limiting its development.
” (Held 2002, p 162) This became a particular issue in the late twentieth century for politicians such as Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. They both “called for, and to an extent delivered, not just a reduced role for the state but also a changing style of bureaucratic operation away from strict Weberian guidelines. ” (Hague and Harrop 2001, p 256) This shows that Western States recognise the power of the bureaucrats and are attempting to restructure in the representatives favour. It is then true that western states have become largely democratic.
There are a number of implications of bureaucracy that suggest that it threatens liberal democracy. Perhaps the most influential of these being that top bureaucrats hold a large amount of power considering they are un-elected. However bureaucrats play a crucial role in liberal democracy and so help invariably to protect our freedom. It is however important that western states continue to monitor the growth of the bureaucracy and try to limit it, as well as finding ways to make the bureaucracy more accountable.
Bibliography Dunleavy, P and O’Leary, B. (1987) Theories of the State, London: Macmillan press ltd.Gill, G. (2003) The Nature and Development of the Modern State, London: Palgrave Macmillan. Hague, R. and Harrop, M. (2001) Comparative Government and Politics, New York: Palgrave Held, D. (2002) Models of Democracy, Cambridge: Blackwell Publishing Company. Meny, Y and Knapp, A. (1998) Government and Politics in Western Europe, New York: Oxford University Press Moseley, P. (1984) The Making of Economic Policy: Theory and evidence from Britain and the U. S. since 1945, Brighton: Harvester. Weber, M. (1923) General Economic History, London: Allen and Unwin.