Worth Noting

“Bureaucracy is not in principle a social institution; nor are all institutions that reduce information by excluding some kinds or sources necessarily bureaucracies. Schools may exclude dianetics and astrology; courts exclude hearsay evidence. They do so for substantive reasons having to do with the theories on which these institutions are based. But bureaucracy has no intellectual, political, or moral theory — except for its implicit assumption that efficiency is the principal aim of all social institutions and that other goals are essentially less worthy, if not irrelevant. That is why John Stuart Mill thought bureaucracy a “tyranny” and C.S. Lewis identified it with Hell.
The transformation of bureaucracy from a set of techniques designed to serve social institutions to an autonomous meta-institution that largely serves itself came as a result of several developments in the mid- and late-nineteenth century: rapid industrial growth, improvements in transportation and communication, the extension of government into ever-larger realms of public and business affairs, the increasing centralization of governmental structures. To these were added, in the twentieth century, the information explosion and what we might call the “bureaucracy effect”: as techniques for managing information became more necessary, extensive and complex, the number of people and structures required to manage those techniques grew, and so did the amount of information generated by bureaucratic techniques. This created the need for bureaucracies to manage and coordinate bureaucracies, then for additional structures and techniques to manage the bureaucracies that coordinated bureaucracies, and so on — until bureaucracy became, to borrow … Karl Kraus’s comment on psychoanalysis, the disease for which it was purported to be the cure. Along the way, it ceased to be merely the servant of social institutions and became their master.”

— Neil Postman, Technopoly, 1992

 

Share This Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>