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Bureaucracy: in the structures or people (or both?)

Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru

The above is just an example of the debate I'm starting here.

There has been a recurring theme in posts of late about the state of British society, and in particular structures of governance (be they councils, local authorities, private insitutions, the Police) that have lost all capability of reason. Put simply, in situations that require judgement they reach for the (often non-existent) rule book and apply absurd levels of rule following to situations manifestly calling for a discretionary approach.

My questions on this are as follows;

1) Do you believe that British society is too technocratic/buereaucratic and why?

2) If so What do you think is driving this?

My answers:

1) I believe that this technocratic control has extended in Britain to the point where the majority of Britains come into contact with it as a matter of course. I also believe that as structures of power (such as laws and forms of monitoring) have extended further, this has affected people's ability and willingness to extend their own judgement. The present government has been greatly responsible for this, but they have only been extending and continuing a trend which runs through virtually all governments in British history (Labour and Conservative).

2) I believe that it is heavily linked to the rise of insurance, where such protection which originally protected traders against economic risks, is now an arbiter of what can and cannot be done by individuals and groups that is in effect a second or shadow prohibitive legal system. The sale of risk as a commodity, coupled with it's profit potential for those working in the legal sector, have resulted in a situation where even if there is not a significant risk of harm and resulting litigation, people act by default as if there were.

It is also not a new phenomenon, but globalisation and new technologies have driven forward a trend which has crept through states since at least the nineteenth century.

The sociologist Max Weber famously predicted that the modern world would increasingly be marked by what he called the 'Iron Cage of Bureaucracy' - a system of rules and rationalisations, prescribed, that attempted to account for and control every possible outcome. This is a self perpetuating system - one that keeps going as new rules and prescriptions are added to take account of new discoveries or events, and so it becomes ever harder to go back and question it's first principles, or remember why people started making the rule in the first place (i.e. what it's original purpose was).

Over to you.


  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    I use common sense and discretion quite regularly at work, I often make allowances for people depending on their circumstances or the circumstances they present. The difficulty is that an increasing number of people are just blatant liars or who see your chance as a moment of weakness on your part and take advantage of it, all the time it's getting more difficult to judge who might be telling the truth or who might be telling a lie. The difficulty for me and others is that I might give someone a chance when perhaps I shouldn't.

    As an example, I recieved a complaint about 2 young lads damaging a car. The person who owned the car only wanted the damage put right. So I arranged for both sets of parents to halve the repair cost and put it right themselves, about £100 each in total. One parent paid immediately, the other.....let's say if she didn't pay it would mean me having to refund the other parents' money and have both lads arrested, they would have both gotten criminal records and I would have been raked over the coals.

    Why should I continue sticking my neck out for people when it's so, so easier just to stick to the uncaring rules and procedures and apply them, blanket like to everyone regardless of circumstance?
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Media mainly

    Bit of reading between the lines on this one is that the Council acted because of an agreement with the Church. Many vicars don't like things like teddies in graveyards as they feel it makes the place less like a place of interrment than a picnic place - you can agree or disagree, but it may not be as simple as Council jobsworths.

    frankly every story in the media, where I have had background knowledge, about officialdom gone mad tends actually to be a lot more complex than the media say it is.

    Now there is too much bureacracy, but it never gets mentioned in the papers because its the boring stuff of how long it takes to get planning permission for a new development or the hoops you need to go through when looking at redundancy or the Govt funds from different pots which may go into the same building (sometimes from the same dept)
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    I think it's men. The organisation of the structures you name, police etc all follow the gendered hierarchy of male dominance, white male dominance, switch that up and we'll have a social revolution.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Sociology student? I was idealistic once ;)
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
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