Blog 7: “Bureaucracy” (Weber) & “The Iron Law of Oligarchy” (Michels)

Weber indicates that in society things are organized and this organization is part of modern society. The word bureaucracy is a term that I believe is something politically but Weber definition means “the means of transforming social action into rationally organized action” (Edles & Appelrouth, 218).The editors of the textbook that we have to read for this class states that this particular work of Weber is a critique of Marx’s perspective because Marx argues that capitalism is the source of alienation in modern society. However, Weber saw modern society Capitalism is the source lying in bureaucracies and the rational procedures they express.

The three elements that constitute bureaucratic society are the authority of hierarchically, selections of personnel is competitive and have an educational background, having specialize work force that makes work more efficient, and bureaucracy has to be govern formal with rules that regulate organization. In a bureaucracy world, people must be train to do their jobs and have experience (both in the educational and work experience) to achieve their job well and be productive for society.  

It is interesting to see that Weber ideas somewhat clashes of what Marx’s idea. I see both theories working in modern society though. I believe that everyone is train to do their job but in every job, there are other forces that can alienated you because of why you took the job or the reasons why you started not to like your job but must stay because of the needs. An example of a job could be a person working as a clerk or an assistance in a Food Stamps office, or someone who is a security guard and does not like it because the people within the work place or just the environment disinterest them but they have to work in the place due to their family needs (or their own).

On the other hand, Michels “argued that all large-scale organizations have a tendency to evolve into hierarchical bureaucracies regardless of their original formation and ultimate goals” (Edles & Appelrouth, 162). He states that organizations (could be any job ) always follow some type of formation or rules from some type of leadership (such as the owner or someone higher ups in the business world). Also, Michels ideas is part of disillusionment with the German Social Democratic Party (which he was an active member).  Also, it is hard to state that people can control what they want in life, yet they still have to in the line of following other people while not achieving their goals.

Michels states that Bureaucratization “transforms the party from a means to an end, to an end in itself” (Ibid, 163) which is very interesting because that is the “instrumental value” of Weber idea of social values. I think that people who work in any job that is similar to this idea is doing it form their family or for themselves.  I think being a student or working in any job has the same feeling too.



Edles, Laura and Appelrouth, Scott. 2010. Sociological Theory in the Classical Era: text and readings 2nd edition. Pine Forge Press Sage Publications


2 responses to “Blog 7: “Bureaucracy” (Weber) & “The Iron Law of Oligarchy” (Michels)

  1. I agree with Weber’s theories rather than Marx’s, He believes that the larger-scale an organization is the more prone they are to develop a bureaucracy. The “ladder” as it’s commonly known; the struggle to move upward often synonymous with the system. The word bureaucracy is plagued with negatives claiming that its a system that people can get lost in or lose interest to progress. Marx believes for the system to be flawed because of it’s core value of capitalism; this is natural for him since he believes that all are equal and share all commodities. The mobility of the “ladder” is another topic entirely and is often flawed but without this system there would be no concept of merit or gain.

  2. Outstanding presentation of Weber’s concept of bureaucracy and Michels’ “iron law of oligarchy.” Marx and Weber do have different perspectives on capitalism and society, but there’s a lot of common ground in their conceptualizations of *alienation* and the *iron cage*, respectively. They’d both be concerned about the fate of the clerk at the food stamp office or the security guard at a corporate office building — but they saw the sources of the problem differently. For Marx it was capitalism, for Weber, rationalization, which is conceptualized as a basic aspect of modern social life.

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