Read Chapter 13 Patterson Book: The Federal Bureaucracy


“Bureau” is the French word for “office.”  Bureaucracy means rule by offices.


Figure 13.2 Textbook____________________________________

Bureaucracies are hierarchically organized, formal organizations based on a functional  division of labor.  Almost all very large organizations, both public and private, are bureaucratic.  One’s position within the organization is based on your title and rank.  Both together define your role within the organization.   There is a linkage between your job title and your pay scale. At the top of public bureaucracies are the political leaders, which, in democracies, are usually elected.  Below the top leadership, may be a group of politically appointed officials.  But most bureaucrats are selected on the basis of merit and are tenured in their jobs after a probationary period.

Bureaucracies are large, formal organizations.  They exist as both governmental and non-governmental (private) organizations. Private bureaucracies include both religious bodies like the Roman Catholic Church and business organizations like General Motors or IBM.  All modern business corporations are bureaucratically organized.

All modern states have a large bureaucratic components.  We usually refer to the governmental bureaucracies as the administration, which is usually under the direct supervision of the chief executive, the President in Presidential systems or the Prime Minister in Parliamentary systems.  In the United States, the bureaucracy refers to the Executive Branch of Government.  The U.S. President is the chief bureaucrat who rules both the civilian and the military agencies and departments of the executive branch of government.

Bureaucracies operate internally through written rules and procedures.  Positions within the bureaucracy are defined by law and attached to particular offices.  Individuals play the defined roles prescribed by their office.  There is a hierarchy of offices, which are usually functionally organized on the basis of some principle of specialization.  Office holders are ranked and their pay scale depends on their ranking.  They receive a regular salary and are generally prohibited from receiving favors (bribes) from their clients.  Positions are generally filled on the basis of merit and specialized training.  In public bureaucracies, a civil service system has been established.

Democratically elected leaders usually serve at the top of the bureaucratic hierarchy.  These elected leaders are usually assisted by a top group of politically appointed managers.  While the civil service bureaucrats are supposed to be politically neutral expert managers, the political managers pursue politically motivated goals.  There is often tension between the political top management and the career professionals:  between the democratic and the bureaucratic principles of management.

Source: (2011) Bureaucracy. Retrieved from


For this discussion, choose a current topic or story in the news that ties to an office in the US Federal bureaucracy.

  1. Provide a summary and an analysis of the topic in your own words (no cutting and pasting please)
  2. Tie the topic to this unit’s readings. Why is it relevant?
  3. Please share if you think your sources are more liberal, conservative or balanced.

Include in your post information from at least one source, being sure to correctly cite the source in the post. No Wikipedia. Please avoid cutting and pasting information from the Internet.


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