The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Strategic Management

2018 Edition
| Editors: Mie Augier, David J. Teece


Reference work entry


This entry begins by describing the classical definition of bureaucracy developed by Max Weber, which is an organization where tasks are divided among technical specialists who devote their full working capacity to the organization and whose activities are coordinated by rational rules, hierarchy and written documents. It then discusses the causes and consequences of bureaucracy, with an emphasis on organizational performance, thus extending Weber’s definition to encompass two important but unanticipated consequences of bureaucracy: inertia and goal displacement.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Boulding, K.E. 1953. The organizational revolution. New York: Harper Brothers.Google Scholar
  2. Coser, L.A. 1974. Greedy institutions. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  3. Hannan, M.T., and J. Freeman. 1989. Organizational ecology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Jacoby, H. 1973. The bureaucratization of the world. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  5. Levitt, B., and J.G. March. 1988. Organizational learning. Annual Review of Sociology 14: 319–340.Google Scholar
  6. Merton, R.K. 1936. The unanticipated consequences of purposive social action. American Sociological Review 1: 894–904.Google Scholar
  7. Merton, R.K. 1940. Bureaucratic structure and personality. Social Forces 18: 560–568.Google Scholar
  8. Schor, J.B. 1991. The overworked American: The unexpected decline of leisure. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  9. Selznick, P. 1949. TVA and the grassroots. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  10. Smith, A. [1776] 1982. The wealth of nations: Books I–III. Harmondsworth: Penguin.Google Scholar
  11. Weber, M. 1978. Bureaucracy. In Economy and society: An outline of interpretive sociology. Trans. and ed. G. Roth and C. Wittich. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of California, Department of SociologyBerkeleyUSA