What’s a Bureaucracy and Why Should We Care? Part 1/3

One can use any dictionary to look up ‘bureaucrat’. A quick on-line favorite of mine is Dictionary.com. I like them because they include extra background, in today’s case a ‘Cultural Definition’.

Their definition of bureaucrat is: “1) An official of a bureaucracy. 2.) An official who is rigidly devoted to the details of administrative procedure.”

In a sub-section titled “Cultural Dictionary” they offer: “Someone who works in or controls a bureaucracy. The term is often used negatively to describe a petty, narrow-minded person. (See also conformity and organization man.)”

Now, as reader, stop and notice what kind of individual you are imagining. Does your imagined bureaucrat work for the government, for a corporation? Both? What kind of bureaucrat are you thinking of? (Your image may indicate a bias, or not, of definition.) 

Now, shift from an individual bureaucrat to bureaucratic structure. How does bureaucratic structure serve your/our interests (or not serve them, as we are inclined to believe.)

Bureaucratic policies can be extremely annoying, and even unfair at times.

Retail stores of large corporate chains operate by policy set at high management level. Sometimes “corporate headquarters”, sometimes “regional headquarters.”

From employee wages, benefits, and working conditions, to flexibility toward consumer interest, it’s all “planned”. Local management may or may not be free to special order a product for you. I live in a region with limited local ‘large retail’ shopping. Groceries, for example are only available from two outlets, both large corporate enterprises. There are some food-type products I purchase on-line, or not at all. (I do speak first to local corporate retailers, fill out suggestion forms, and so on. When they have freedom to accommodate my interests, or if enough demonstrate interest, a new product may be stocked.)

Companies offering all kinds of insurance are driven by bureaucratic administrative policy.(This is why one claim on your vehicle policy, or one claim on your health insurance can result in a changed policy of the issuing company toward you as an enrollee; you may be dropped altogether or shifted into a higher risk category, with higher premiums to show for it.)

We already know, and name ‘government’ as highly bureaucratic in its operation.

We are mentally prepared to be offended by policy stances of either corporate or governmental bureaucracy, but we are especially watchful for excess and outrage from government policy. Our statement about the difference between the two is that we have “choice” with corporate bureaucracy, and “no choice” with government bureaucracy.

At the sidewalk level, it is true that we appear to have more choice on which corporate policies will affect us, and less choice about government policy. Yet we have no “vote” on who runs the corporations, and if we live in a region with low population numbers, may have extremely limited choice in which corporations offer to serve us.

We can exercise vote on who runs the government. Most government agencies are required to offer some presence, however limited, to even very small communities.

Popular usage of “bureaucratic”, these days at least, seems especially “anti-governmental”. Because we are so strongly, even fiercely, passionate about the concept of “freedom”, and because we focus on a perceived risk that “governmental bureaucracy”, might overpower our freedom, we are inclined to overlook “corporate bureaucracy”.

We are also inclined to overlook the possibility of ‘cartel’.


About maggieannthoeni

A description once given of me was "rooted in the earth while roaming the stars" - and this has felt 'right'. I believe in something akin to this for each of us. I am a passionate supporter of discovering the autonomous self while serving the whole as primary intent. I believe in discovery of innate principles, clearing the overlay of socialization that obscures this from us. I believe it is our responsibility to leave no one behind - most particularly to respond to suffering as best we can whereever we find it, whenever we are made aware. I believe in this for the insect as well as the most magnificent form of humanity. I believe in brother/sisterhood without boundary. I believe in righteous indignation when it is appropriate, but do not believe in an enemy. I believe in consciousness, in intelligence, in logic, in rationality, in emotion, in transcendence - and am convinced until we generally practice explore and honor all this in ourselves, we remain profoundly immature. (I believe real maturity is known and practiced by many young children, and not enough adults!)
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