Bureaucracy in the Twenty-First Century

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Although numerous pundits claim the eminent demise of bureaucracy (Lane 2000; Osborne and Gaebler 1992; Handler 1996; Kanter 1989), in this chapter we argue that bureaucracy will not only survive in the twenty-first century but will flourish. The core of the argument is that the large-scale tasks that government must perform - national defense, a social welfare system, political monitoring of the economy, etc. - will remain key functions of governments in the twenty-first century and that bureaucracies, likely public but possibly private, will continue to be the most effective way to do these tasks. Bureaucracy has weathered other calls for its demise before (Bennis 1966; Marini 1971; Thayer 1973); current efforts are likely to meet similar fates. After a brief discussion of definitions and the meaning of bureaucracy, the major sections of this chapter will deal with six challenges to bureaucracy. Some of these challenges are intellectual; others are part of real-world ongoing reform efforts in a variety of countries.

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