Q. 4. Write a short not on Pluralist theory of Bureaucracy?
Ans. The pluralist school of thought has made considerable contributions in recent times or our understanding of the politics of democracy and bureaucracy. Pluralism views the state and bureaucracy
as disjointed in structure and blundering in performance. It has been popular in the United States for several years especially in the 1950s and 1960s. In recent years some new versions of pluralism like pluralism in bureaucracy, governmental overload, and ungovernability have come to be accepted.
Pluralism in Bureaucracy
Pluralism holds bureaucrats as one of the several veto groups which function in a political system. Like other groups, it is engaged in competition for power and is a part of the pluralist structure of the state. The pluralist logic applies to the American political system the greatest of which is based on its particular tradition of checks and balances, but it is also valid in all industrialized democratic countries.
The pluralist argues that bureaucrats are unable to rule alone, and yet no one else can rule without them. They cannot always achieve their goals, but they can prevent others from achieving theirs. “They are constrained by political elites, but they are influenced by private interests and are constrained by them too; and they, for their part then constrain others.”
Power in the administration does not flow exclusively from the top. It also flows from structures of interests that enclose the administration. Thus there is no single source of power in the administration. Moreover, the relevant bureaucratic agencies must create sufficient consensus, when political parties that come to power fails to do so, to permit policies to be moulded and executed. Therefore, a bureaucratic agency has a large share of responsibility for building and maintaining political support for its own programmes. Sometimes it has to organise and build up that support for its own survival and growth. Hence the legislature, clientele and interest groups, media and even the general public are important whose support or lack of it can significantly affect a bureaucratic agency. These agencies are “thus boxed in by intricately related and opposing interests and in order to survive, they have to take into account and be responsive to all politically effective groups who promote those interests and even the public at large.” Clearly, this system is not conducive to the creation of overall coordinated policies by the political echelon.
The political system is pluralist in its very structure also. The complexity of the state structure affords interest groups multiple access points at which to exert their influence. Also, state institutions provide
arenas for the interplay of contending internal factions which are fully exploited by the interest groups.
Therefore, contrary to its image, the bureaucracy is not a monolithic hierarchy, say the pluralists. Rather, it is a highly fragmented set of agencies that are partly interdependent but are also in competition
within and among themselves for survival and primacy.
Another pluralist approach is the thesis of governmental overload. It is advocated by scholars like D. Bell, M. Crozier, S.P. Huntington, A. King. R. Rose and others. It is argued that recently there has been
a growth of pressure on governments to meet a large number of newly defined and vastly expanded demands, which result from what has been described by Bell and Crozier as a revolution of entitlements. Hence the range of matters for which governments are held responsible is vastly increasing. As A. King puts it, now all grievances get dumped into the lap of government …..“Once upon a time, then, man looked to God to order the world. Then he looked to the market. Now he looks to Government.”
But the capacity of the governments to exercise their increasing responsibilities has declined. This is proved by the fact that most government programmes do not work well.
The increased demands made on government, the vastly dependent role of the government in the economy and society and the increasing complexity of the tasks involved create an increasing overload of demands on the decision making bodies. The more decisions the modern state has to handle, the more helpless it becomes. As a consequence, there is a decrease in its power because it has been believed that the power of government depends on the number of decisions it takes.
The escalating demands and responsibilities of the government have created an imbalance between government commitments and government resources. The cost of public policy has been growing
rapidly. “The overload of demands has therefore been coupled with a fiscal overload of the system.”
In decision-making, a democratic government cannot act in a partisan fashion. Its task is to balance out the various pressures. It must countervail the power of the more powerful interests by acceding to the demands of opposing and less powerful interests.
This is particularly true of bureaucracy. The bureaucracy has become a forum for the representation of all major popular interests and is recognized as such by interest groups. In administration, the policy is determined by weighing the relevant pressures. “The plurality of pressures tames the power of the bureaucracy and minimizes its threat, for it ensures that bureaucracy cannot gain ascendancy over
democratically elected institutions and that no one interest group can gain ascendancy through it.”
Evaluation of the Pluralist Theory
The Pluralist theory has many merits but it also suffers from several flaws. Its merits are:
(1) It brings interest groups into the orbit of political analysis and focuses on the power of such groups as countervailing that of the modern state.
(2) It emphasizes that not only governments and political elites but bureaucracies and bureaucratic elites, too, are boxed in between divergent and intricately related interests pressures, which they must placate in order to survive.
(3) It clarifies the internal complexity and interplay of contending forces within the modern state and bureaucracy.
(4) It convincingly makes out the case that the modern state, including the bureaucracy, is not as systematic and rational as it might have widely been thought to be. “It thus includes an implicit, and perhaps inadvertent, but largely well-taken criticism of Weber’s model, together with a shift to a more down to earth image and a more realistic appraisal of the limits of bureaucratic effectiveness.”
The pluralist theory is criticized on the ground that:
(1) It is somewhat one-sided in its approach because its validity is mainly limited to the analysis of the American political system. Even here it is doubtful whether it adequately reflects the American system itself.
(2) It is pointed out that interest group leaders do not necessarily represent the interests of their rank and file members, while the groups themselves do not usually represent all parts of the population.
(3) It has been observed that bureaucracy does not respond equally to the pressures of all interest groups. Less powerful, less articulate, not so well established and economically, socially and politically weak groups are apt to have their pressures disregarded. As E.E. Schattschneider has put it, “the flaw in the pluralist heaven is that the heavenly chorus sings with an upper-middle-class accent.”
(4) The pluralists greatly overstate the decline of the power of the modern state and bureaucracy. “A bureaucracy may well be doing no more than “muddling through and yet wield considerable power over the public because there are so many who are so greatly dependent on the bureaucracy’s ‘muddling through’ for their livelihood, their health and sometimes for their very lives.”
Q. 5. Write about the technocratic view of Bureaucracy in brief.
Ans. As opposed to pluralistic theory, the technocratic school holds that the determining influence in a political system belongs to technicians of the administration and of the economy. This school has some affinity with the elitist model as developed by Pareto, Mosca and Robert Michels, and in some ways can be traced back to James Burmaham’s thesis in The Managerial Revolution. Its central argument is that in Western countries the power of technocrats, and especially of bureaucrats, has recently grown at the expense of elected political bodies and that this poses a threat to democracy.
It is argued, that in theory, it is still correct that the minister issues the directives, and the bureaucrats carry them out. But in fact, the dividing line between policy and administration is by no means clear,
at the top level of the administration they tend to merge. The advice and feedback given by the administration limit and guide the directives issued by the political executive. “Hence, bureaucracy has never been totally under the control of the political leadership, and this control had tended to weaken even further in recent years, while the power of the officials has tended to increase correspondingly. The reality today at the top level of the administration is not of control but of mutual influence between the bureaucrats and the political executive.
It is also said that when decisions by the political executive are made ignoring or by-passing the advice of the bureaucracy, these decisions face open or passive resistance from the latter. The implementation of these decisions or policies may often be obstructed by delaying tactics in the name of technical difficulties. The political executive no doubt can assert its will if it chooses to do so, but obviously, it cannot be done in each case. Normally, the politicians are likely to get their way on measures important to them, and the civil servants get them on many others. In matters deeply affecting the public service, the latter usually has the last word. Halevy sums up the view of the technocratic theory thus: “although there is a habitual compromise or accommodation between the government and the bureaucracy, this compromise tends more in favor of the public service, and at present, the civil service is a mammoth organization whose movements are controlled much more effectively by its own chief than by political or governments.
The causes which have helped in the growth of the power of the top bureaucrats are :
(1) Increasing government intervention in the socioeconomic life results in the growing volume of governmental activities leading to the increase in the power of those who manage these activities.
(2) Not only has the work of the government increased, but also it has become more complex necessitating more staff, effective organization, expert knowledge and greater discretion to the
(3) The technical expertise of bureaucrats as against the lay status of the politicians is the most important factor for the growing power of bureaucracy. The politicians devoid of expert knowledge cannot really control their departments and become increasingly dependent on bureaucrats.
(4) Political leaders, to make decisions, are dependent on information provided to them by their departments. It is argued that “the political leadership may retain the right of making final decisions,
but it must choose between alternatives that have actually been mapped out by the administration. Under these circumstances, the choice may be more formal than real, because by monopolizing the relevant expertise and by shaping the relevant information, the bureaucrats define the options.”
(5) In contrast to the vast machine of the bureaucracy which the elected politicians formally control, the latter have shall resource in terms of time and numbers. Therefore, politicians can pay only sporadic attention to issues on which bureaucrats work for years.
(6) Elected politicians are not always interested in exercising control in all matters over their departments. They are apt to have some policies that they wish to carry through, whereas most policies are not only beyond their interest but beyond their knowledge as well.
(7) For various reasons, the powers of parliaments have declined in recent years. They are compelled to abandon detailed legislation to be made by the administration, themselves confining only to the framework of the legislation. Delegated legislation and wide measures of discretionary power which goes with it have greatly increased the power of bureaucracy. Even the initiative in matters of legislation has passed from the parliaments to the administration.
(8) Ministers are disadvantaged vis-a-vis the bureaucracy with regard to both post-experience and future perspectives. Ministers come and go, bureaucrats are the only ones who can draw up and follow through on long-term plans.
The secrecy maintained in policy formulation by the bureaucracy is a threat to democracy. Bertrand Russell summarized the problem thus: “The increased power of officials … has the drawback that it is apt to be irresponsible, behind the scenes power, like that of Emperor’s eunuchs and king’s mistresses in former times.”
In spite of this, however, it must be said in conclusion that it is very difficult for modern society to rid itself of it. Bureaucracy is still the most efficient way to get society’s business done. Strauss has said, “Modern man must live with modern Leviathan, and the question is not how to kill it but how to tame it.”
Evaluation of Technocratic View
The main importance of this theory lies in its serving as a counter-balance to the pluralist view. Halevy observes, “…. the technocratic view on the growth of bureaucracy’s power fits reality in Western societies are better than the pluralist view on the dissipation of that power.”
The technocratic view is criticized on the ground that :
(1) It is correct that the bureaucrat’s power lies in their knowledge. It is not the experts or specialists but generalists who hold the highest positions. Expertise may be an accessory to but not the main source of power. The basis of the power of civil servants is not their superior technical knowledge, but the institutions or organizations to which they belong.
(2) It has largely disregarded bureaucracy’s positive contribution to democracy.