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Bureaucrats and Heretics
Växjö University, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, School of Management and Economics.
Växjö University, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, School of Management and Economics.
2007 (English)Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Ever since de Gournay in the 18th Century complained about the spirit of laws in France, “an illness… which bids fair to play havoc with us” and diagnosed this illness as bureaumania, the bureaucrat has been a contested character. In the 19th Century described by Balzac as “fussy and meddlesome… as a small shopkeeper’s wife”, and by vom Stein portrayed as nothing but a “lifeless machine”, the bureaucrat in the 21st Century is ridiculed under headings such as “the end of bureaucracy” and “post-bureaucracy”, as the very opposite to consecrated values such as flexibility, creativity, and entrepreneurship, and systematically replaced by all that is “anti-bureaucrat”, in theory, as well as in practice.

This attitude towards the bureaucrat has, of course, not stood unquestioned. The bureaucratic personality, or better yet ethos, has also been assigned many good qualities and sometimes even elevated as a foundation for democracy. Weber, for instance, approached bureaucracy from this entirely different angle and highlighted the conceptual coherence between bureaucracy and democracy. An idea that occasionally still holds fort, as for instance in du Gay’s writings where it is maintained that democracy needs the bureaucratic ethos in order to provide proper government.

In this paper these two seemingly incompatible versions of the bureaucrat are taken to form a mythology of good and evil, so ingrained into modernity and our everyday understanding that it is hard to even imagine a world, let alone an organization, without it. It is a mythology that nourishes upon, and upholds, organizational characters larger than life, and it is a mythology that nourishes upon, and upholds, certain dominant ontologies inasmuch as different power elites use the mythology according to their specific wills and interests.

Given this ideologically inclined present day anti-bureaucrat discourse our ambition here is not to, as some writers have tried to do, praise or resurrect bureaucracy. Our ambition is instead to outline the bureaucratic mythology of good and evil, and to this against the backdrop of a gender perspective. Drawing

attention to the gendered aspects of the bureaucratic mythology, we would like to raise some neglected issues regarding the way the bureaucratic mythology is enacted, and how these enactments might give rise to different consequences for men and women in their everyday organizational life.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2007.
National Category
Economics and Business
Research subject
Economy, Ledarskap, entreprenörskap och organisation
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:vxu:diva-2799OAI: oai:DiVA.org:vxu-2799DiVA, id: diva2:202755
Conference
The 19th Nordic Conference on Business Studies in Bergen, August, 2007
Available from: 2007-12-17 Created: 2007-12-17 Last updated: 2012-02-08Bibliographically approved

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Ericsson, DanielNilsson, Pernilla

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CiteExportLink to record
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Citation style
  • apa
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