Weber’s analysis is filled with overwhelming support for bureaucracy
His standpoint is that bureaucracy has “purely technical superiority over any other form of organization (H page21).” This position of bureaucracy exudes a somewhat unreal optimism. Weber faces opposition because yes, bureaucracy is as the only way. In fact, Edwards and Kunda offer alternatives to bureaucracy. They do, however, acknowledge bureaucracy as a key part in formal organization, but they also present other elements that are contributing factors. Edwards outright say that “each type of control (simple, technical, and bureaucratic) represents alternate methods of organizing work; so long as uneven development produces disparate circumstances, alternate methods will coexist (H page 415).” This
paper will present these alternatives and compare them to the ideals of Weber’s bureaucracy. Thus, establishing an argument and validity for the alternatives.
Weber designs his arguments for bureaucracy around authority and the right to it. Therefore, making bureaucracy a perfect solution for him. In contrast, Edwards presents an earlier form of organization used. Simple control is an alternative to bureaucratic control in the small-business sector. Simple control is not based on authority or structure. In fact it is small, charismatic, informal, and personal. Edwards describes simple control as one of the first methods of organizing firms. The managers under simple control “exercised power personally, intervening in the labor process often to bully and threaten them, reward good performance, and generally act as despots, benevolent or otherwise (H page 413-414).” Because managers have control with out any structure, the discipline in simple control is often arbitrary, unsystematic, and idiosyncratic. Also, because simple control is embedded in small firms, it is unable to meet the coordination needs of complex or large scales of production. Thus, as the firm grows larger, simple control become more and more outdated. Although, simple control has striking limitations, it is still considered an important alternative to bureaucratic control in the small-business sector where it is still used today.
The limitations of simple control “have produced a second type of work organization… in large firms work is subject to technical control (H page 415).” Technical control is seen as an important alternative to bureaucratic organization because it is a system of control that maximizes the physical based possibilities for achieving efficiency. It emerged from the problems of simple control, with employers trying to subject production workers to more strict control. “Internally technical control turned the tide of conflict… externally the system strengthened the employer’s hands by expanding the number of potential substitute workers (H page 414-415).” Technical control differs from Weber’s bureaucracy because it is embedded in the physical structure rather then the social structure. Technical control is evaluated simply and personally whereas; bureaucratic control is evaluated formally and impersonally. Furthermore, it involves the entire production process. Because technical control is based on the physical production side, it serves as an alternative to bureaucratic control in a continuous flow production. Its limitations may not be suitable for all industries. Therefore, in industries where a balance of social structure and physical structure are required, employees are unhappy. Typically, their unhappiness leads to the establishment of unions and later the adoption of bureaucratic control.
In a bureaucracy, rules are what define the roles and responsibilities of the people in its system. Both Weber and Edwards agree that a written rule is one of the most important characteristics of bureaucracy. It is a rule bound and worker bound system. In order to have legal authority over workers, in a bureaucracy, the owners must have some kind of consistent system of rules. This is where bureaucracy comes in. Embedded in the social structure and social relations of the workplace, bureaucracy evolved from the mistakes of simple and physical control. Edwards describes bureaucracy as the “institutionalization of hierarchical power (H page 415).” Within this definition solves the problems of inconsistency by establishing a structure that applies to supervisors and workers, production jobs and non-production jobs. Bureaucratic control also increases job mobility though internal labor markets. It is apparent that bureaucratic control is among the most important systems of organization. However, there are limitations for it as well. Increases in bureaucratic control leads to alienation of workers. With a specified minimum level of acceptable performance, many employees know the amount of work to still be secure. Therefore, they have no motivation to work beyond that minimum point. Also, bureaucracy is inflexible in its rules and costs a lot in downturns. However, it still represents the majority of big businesses in a capitalist society.
According to Edward’s the alternatives to bureaucratic organizations will coexist with each other. This is possible through Edwards segmented labor markets. The secondary, subordinate primary, and independent primary markets each have a control that is commonly used within the market segment. The secondary market is the “preserve of casual labor (H page 416).” It includes jobs that are low skill, nonunion manufacturing, and service. Also, the secondary market has a “lack of worker rights or elaborate employer imposed work structures (H page 416).” Therefore, under these circumstances simple control is the alternative used most commonly. The subordinate primary market offers jobs are “better paying than secondary employment, and they generally involve long-term, stable work with prospects for advancement and some job guarantees (H page 417).” The large group of jobs within the subordinate primary market includes production type positions. Under these circumstances technical control is used. The independent primary market “differ from the subordinate primary jobs in that they typically involve general, rather than firm-specific, skill (H page 418).” Like the subordinate primary market, the jobs are offer stability and security, but the average level of pay is higher. Under these circumstances Edwards points out that bureaucracy would be most commonly used.
Gideon Kunda explores the cultural aspect of organizations. His alternative to bureaucratic organizations is with normative control. “Normative control is the attempt to elicit and direct the required efforts of members by controlling the underlying experiences, thoughts, and feelings that guide their actions (H page 356).” Gideon’s ideals of normative control are similar to Weber’s bureaucracy in that both are based on social structure; however, normative control emphasizes socializing values and ideals. Normative control gets people to want to do for the company; whereas, bureaucratic control pushes workers to pursue their self interest individually. Normative control operates through commitment, identification, and satisfaction. Normative control, if accomplished offers “increased
freedom and autonomy rather than tyranny, creativity rather than conformity (H page 357).” Each element is a motivational factor that perpetuates normative control. However, while normative control is effectively an employers dream, it requires considerable investment of resources and time. The rituals performed in normative control are symbolic to the specific organization. Some may include training workshops, speeches, meeting, parties, and presentations, but each are worthless unless the employee experiences “role embracement (H page 365).” Role embracement is generally “submitting to the company’s definition of one’s self. Such submission, however, is typically presented as a form of voluntary exchange with the company (H page 366).” Kunda identifies factors that lead many employees to submit themselves and voluntarily embrace their roles. For example, company’s treating employees well helps to gain role embracement. On the other hand, it is not always simple to get all employees under normative control. Sometimes rituals alone cannot get it done. Therefore, normative control should not be used alone because the human brain is never a guarantee. However, when working effectively, normative control includes all the strengths and advantages of bureaucratic control, as well as new strengths mentioned above. Normative control seems to be the next step up from bureaucratic control. Therefore, it serves as an appropriate alternative.
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