Bureaucracy in Public Service

Category: Bureaucracy
Last Updated: 27 Jan 2021
Essay type: Process
Pages: 4 Views: 605

As Weber noticed nearly a century ago, with the rationalization of society, bureaucracy becomes inevitable (Weber, 1968/1921) and in the contemporary society, bureaucracy – whether private or public – is ubiquitous. Without it, few of the routine features of our modern society would be possible; the collection of taxes and the production and distribution of goods and services, for example, would be difficult, if not impossible. (Dandeker, 1990) Bureaucracies control people by replacing human judgement with nonhuman technology, thus creating a formalistic impersonality of the system.

Even bureaucracy itself can be seen as a huge nonhuman technology that functions more or less automatically. Rules, regulations, and institutional structures replace the adaptability of human decisions, that is, employees of bureaucratic organizations generally follow the rules and regulations in a predetermined sequence instead of evaluating each case separately. They must get their jobs done in a certain way by a certain time without mistakes, and the role of informal systems of human action is diminished by the highly formalized structures.

Bureaucracy controls not only employees of an organization but her clients as well. An organization provides services and one must apply for the services on a specific form by a specific date. One will receive those services only in a certain way and under strict conditions. (Ritzer, 1998) Client categories used by organizations decide what information a client is supposed to provide, and this information will generate a denial or a grant of a specific requested service. Snellen, 1998) Although bureaucracy is present in both public and private organizations, there are large differences between the two types of organizations and the services they deliver. The first difference is the monopolistic character of public organizations, i. e. , often a citizen does not have a choice between different public organizations (as is the case with private organizations) because there is only one public organization that provides a particular service. A second difference is that a citizen is not always a voluntary ‘client’ of public organizations because the nation state is responsible for the collective goods.

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Public services will thus not only increase personal benefits and rights, but will also consist of activities that address the duties of citizens (e. g. , tax collection). Third, citizens have a voice in the determination of public service delivery through voting, referenda, and public hearings. (Lips, 1998) The citizen (as citoyen, carrier of democratic rights) enters into debates with political-administrative organizations. When consensus has been established, politicians instruct the public organizations who execute these instructions.

The citizen (now as client) uses the services provided by public organizations. (Zuurmond, 1996a; Zuurmond, 1996b) Fourth, public services are subject to specific norms and values, like legitimacy, legal certainty and equality of rights, as a consequence of the government’s responsibility for the collective good. This results in the fifth difference between public and private services: continuity in the deliverance of services to citizens and accessibility of public services to all citizens ought to be more important goals for public services than gaining profits.

The services provided to the citizen (as client of public organizations) thus have a different character than the services provided to the customer (as client of private organizations). The view of the citizen as client is not an old view. A few decades ago, the political process of determining the ‘business of government’ (i. e. , determination of public products, services, and information provided to citizens) was perceived as the most important part of the public service delivery.

The dominant focus was on the supplier- side of public service delivery; the government knew what was best for their citizens and the government decided what way and form of service provision was most appropriate to address these citizens. This focus shifted gradually to the production and delivery of public goods, services, and information. Standards like efficiency and effectiveness were introduced in public organizations and the functioning of the public organization became most important.

During this period, the view of the citizen as a client of public organizations came into being. (Lips, 1998) Recently, the focus shifted to the feedback of citizens on both wanted and received public products, services, and information. This is at least the case in the Netherlands (Lips, 1998), but it is likely to apply to other national governments as well. Where the government’s attitude initially was ‘we know what is good for you’, it has changed to ‘let us know what is good for you’.

This view is a result of increased attention to the spending of administrative organizations, and standards like efficiency and effectiveness have played a role as well. Also, concepts and methods with proven success in the private sector, like management, budgeting, marketing, but also service delivery itself, have been introduced in the public sector. This requires changes in the organization of public service provision. Governments perceive information and communication technologies (ICTs) as an important means to realize these changes.

ICT applications in public service delivery potentially bring about not only increased effectiveness, increased efficiency, an improved client-orientation, and a reduction of cost, but also an improved comprehensiveness of information processes of public service delivery between government and the citizen. (Lips, 1998) The efforts of public organizations to administer to each of many citizens their precise ‘due’ in terms of the organizational treatments they ‘deserve’, results in a bulk of demands for personal information. Rule, McAdam, Stearns, & Uglow, 1980) The large quantity of personal information does not take place solely for the benefit of the clients, but for the benefit of the organizations as well, for organizations are trying to manage risks by gathering personal information in order to establish the kind of person they are dealing with (Lyon, 2001). Today, one of the most obvious indicators of the pervasiveness of bureaucracy is the massive expansion of the personal information which is held by a range of public – and private – organizations. As Dandeker (1990) stated strikingly, “the age of bureaucracy is also the era of the information society”

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Bureaucracy in Public Service. (2017, Mar 23). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/bureaucracy-in-public-service/

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