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This paper will look at Max Weber’s bureaucracy theory of administration, which insists on administration with reference to “the book”. While still on administration, it will also try to argue out why the public administrators should have some level of discretion while executing their roles as administrators. The paper will lastly look at the merits and demerits put across by different scholars on both Max Weber’s bureaucracy administrative theory on one hand, and allowing administrators some discretion on the other.
According to Simon, Smithburg and Thompson, “Administration is concerned with all patterns of cooperative behavior .It thus becomes obvious for any body involved in any form of activity with cooperation of others to be referred to as one engaged in administration” (Simon, Smithburg and Thompson, 1991).While Naidu simply define administration “as a cooperative group effort to accomplish the common goals. It is thus a goal-oriented, purposive and co-operative activity undertaken by a group of people in order to realize some common goal or goals” (Naidu 2005).
Public Administration on the other hand according to Naidu, “occupies a central place in the complex and fast changing modern society. For good or ill, its vast amount of activity affects everyone everywhere. The benefits conferred by it on society have been growing in importance with the passage of time” .Naidu also quotes L.D White’s sentiments on public administration, “as consisting of all those operations having for their purpose the fulfillment or enforcement of public policy” (Naidu 2005).Public Administration is the implementation of policy by civil servants within an official government's executive framework. Public administrators carry out the role of management in almost all the state, public service and local levels and thus try all endeavors to formulate policies redress current and future social economical abnormalities.
Administrator discretion is the judgment freedom to make decisions on behalf of the organization according to their own judgment. Around 1930s, Max Weber, a Sociologist from German came up with a six point’s rationale of bureaucracy as the best and only ideal way of administering government and private agencies (Busting bureaucracy).. He looked at bureaucracy as that impersonal operating system based on staffed and rules culculatable by appointed full time officials. According to Naidu, Weber discussed bureaucracy in relation to authority. Max at the same time distinguished between power and authority, he looked at power as simply the use of coercion. On the other hand, he looked at authority his major concern as that right bestowed upon a person to issue orders expecting voluntary adherence by their recipient’s .Legitimacy is thus the underlining principle behind authority. Weber goes a head to give examples of authority as Traditional, Rational-legal and Charismatic (Naidu 2005).
First of all Weber brought in the “formal hierarchical structure”, by this in every organization he suggested a laid down procedure of reporting .The bottom most person was answerable to the person next to him or her in seniority and the trend continued to the upper senior most person. This is the basing of centralized planning and decision-making (Busting bureaucracy). This rationale despite putting everybody accountable to the decisions they make at their level of jurisdiction. Weber views structural hierarchy as the best type of Rational- legal authority for effective governance of organizations ((Naidu 2005).)
Secondly, Weber talks about “Management by rules”. He talks about administration following formally set up rules. Accept the decision made at the higher most authority without any questions by all in the organization (Busting bureaucracy). Third, organization based on functional specialty (Busting bureaucracy). According to Naidu, “the officials are selected on the basis of technical qualifications as determined by the diplomas or examinations”. In these case officials have the freedom to resign at any point, as they are on a free contract appointments and not elected into office (Naidu 2005).
Fourth Weber talks about the adherence to the Organizations’ mission, “in-focused or out -focused”. If in-focused, all employees to ensure it gains market share serve the organization, produce cash stream or produces high profits .While on the contrary if out-focused the employees serve the interests of the stakeholders including any authority that owns the organization. The best example of this is Government parastatals that serve the government interests first (Busting bureaucracy).
According to Busting bureaucracy, “Predisposition to grow in staff "above the line."Weber failed to notice this, but C. Northolt Parkinson found it so common that he made it the basis of his humorous "Parkinson's law." Parkinson demonstrated that the management and professional staff tends to grow at predictable rates (Busting bureaucracy).
While looking at the merits of bureaucracy, Weber is quoted as follows on the superiority of bureaucracy over other forms of administration. “Bureaucracy is superior to any other form in precision, in stability, in the stringency of its discipline, and in its reliability” (Naidu 2005).
Secondly, “bureaucracy could achieve high rationality levels, calculability and efficiency in administration for it operates with accordance to calculatable rules, and without regards to persons (Naidu 2005). As opposed to Weber,Marton criticized bureaucracy arguing that “bureaucracy emphasis on control through rules and hierarchies authority relation-ship leads to behavioral rigidity, ritualism ,defensiveness and an unwillingness to make risky decisions” (Naidu 2005).This argument looks at bureaucracy as closing organizations to change.
Further still bureaucracy is a “twin” of corruption. Since decision-making takes a longer time, tendencies of corruption are bound to emerge. People who want speedy solutions to their problems bribe government officials for quick action. In conclusion, as opposed to bureaucracy, the management should allow some form of discretion to administrators in organizations. This will break down the stringent bureaucratic tendencies common in the public organizations, an aspect that has hindered their quick growth due to the slow and inefficient decision-making and implementation.
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