Mats Alvesson and Paul Thompson

in The Oxford Handbook of Work and Organization

Published in print May 2006 | ISBN: 9780199299249
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Business and Management C


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The traditional commentary and critique of bureaucracy is a well-trodden territory. Critics of the nature of bureaucracy are still around, their ranks having been swelled by some feminist academics. However, the main development in critique has seen a shift from the limits and dysfunctions of bureaucratic structure and action, to a claim of systemic dysfunctionality — that bureaucracy no longer works or is ceasing to be the prime coordination mechanism in a contemporary economy and society. This article argues that a broad set of changes have meant that the days of stable structures and fine-tuning of bureaucratic models are over and those of post-bureaucracies have arrived. It reviews the nature of these claims and examines the evidence across key territories of change. It accepts that bureaucracy is one of a number of competing coordination mechanisms, alongside markets and trust, and that the balance between such mechanisms changes over time and territory.

Keywords: commentary of bureaucracy; critique of bureaucracy; coordination mechanism; systemic dysfunctionality; post-bureaucracies

Article.  9397 words. 

Subjects: Business and Management ; Organizational Theory and Behaviour ; Business History

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