Prøveforelesning - Paul du Gay: 'A Pause in the Impatience of Things': Notes on Bureaucracy and Speed

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Paul du Gay. Foto: Copenhagen Business School

'Speed', or lack thereof, lies at the heart of much that has been written about bureaucracy generally and Max Weber's 'theory' of Bureaucracy, in particular, within sociology and social theory, and management and organisation studies. In certain forms of sociology and social theory, for instance, Weber is represented as one of the chief critics of bureaucracy, and his work is referenced with respect to what is considered to be his perceptive, even prophetic, analysis of bureaucracy's inherent ‘dark side¹. Formality, precision, efficiency and speed are key here because taken together they allow bureaucracy to subordinate everyday life to the dictats of instrumental rationalization. ‘Steel Hard Casing’, here we come. Within certain sections of management and organization studies, on the other hand, a rather different picture emerges. Here we find Weber positioned as a celebrant of bureaucracy as the most progressive form of organisation known to humanity. In this reading, Weber is represented as a well intentioned but ultimately misguided celebrant of bureaucracy; misguided because he pays too much attention to formal rationality and not enough to its inherent dysfunctions. Here the technical superiority of bureaucracy is held to be a fraud. Instead of precision and speed we get authoritarianism and arbitrariness, the impersonal blind violence of cold monsters, but also inefficiency and the squandering of resources. Bureaucracies are both inhuman and unviable. The discrediting of bureaucracy should, we are told, facilitate a return to a ‘more human’ modus operandi, in which people can give full vent to their emotions, intuition and creativity. Here, innovation, flexibility and speed are on the side of the post-bureaucratic.

In this talk, I seek to interrogate these and other stories about bureaucracy (and Weber on bureaucracy), and suggest a rather different account of the relationship between the ethos of bureaucratic office and ‘speed’.

Publisert 30. sep. 2015 07:46 - Sist endret 2. nov. 2015 09:33