Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Quotes about bureaucracy

As most of you know, I am preoccupied these days with bureaucracy and its fallout, especially in the workplace where it threatens to strangle the very efficiency it proclaims as its sworn goal (efficiency and productivity, which shall be dissected and measured down to their minutest details). 

Bureaucracy is defined as (definition from Merriam Webster online dictionary):

1) a body of nonelective government officials; an administrative policy-making group
2) government characterized by specialization of functions, adherence to fixed rules, and a hierarchy of authority
3) a system of administration marked by officialism, red tape, and proliferation

So I thought I would post some interesting quotes about bureaucracy as today's post. Interesting to consider that some of them were written many years ago. For example, the first quote from The Screwtape Letters, is from 1942. That tells you that these 'systems' have been around for a while. Some bureaucracy is of course necessary to get things basically organized. But at present, it seems that it exists for itself and itself alone--to make itself bigger, better and irreplaceable. We must need it, for without it we are nothing. And I have real problems with this way of thinking. 

“I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of "Admin." The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid "dens of crime" that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices. Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the office of a thoroughly nasty business concern."
― C.S. Lewis, from the Preface of The Screwtape Letters

“Remove the document—and you remove the man.”
― Mikhail Bulgakov

“I sighed. I hated the maze of bureaucracy with a passion, but I've found the best way to deal with it is to smile and act stupid. That way, no one gets confused.”
― Kim Harrison, Dead Witch Walking

 “Bureaucracy destroys initiative. There is little that bureaucrats hate more than innovation, especially innovation that produces better results than the old routines. Improvements always make those at the top of the heap look inept. Who enjoys appearing inept?”
― Frank Herbert, Heretics of Dune

 “In our time... a man whose enemies are faceless bureaucrats almost never wins. It is our equivalent to the anger of the gods in ancient times. But those gods you must understand were far more imaginative than our tiny bureaucrats. They spoke from mountaintops not from tiny airless offices. They rode clouds. They were possessed of passion. They had voices and names. Six thousand years of civilization have brought us to this.”
― Chaim Potok, Davita's Harp

 “Bureaucracies force us to practice nonsense. And if you rehearse nonsense, you may one day find yourself the victim of it.”
― Laurence Gonzales, Everyday Survival: Why Smart People Do Stupid Things

“If you are going to sin, sin against God, not the bureaucracy. God will forgive you but the bureaucracy won't.”
― Hyman G. Rickover

 “The true nature of bureaucracy may be nowhere more obvious to the observer than in a developing country, for only there will it still be made manifest by the full complement of documents, files, veneered desks and cabinets - which convey the strict and inverse relationship between productivity and paperwork.”
― Alain de Botton, The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work

 “Some third person decides your fate: this is the whole essence of bureaucracy.”
― Kollontai Alexandra, La OposiciĆ³n Obrera

“In any bureaucracy, the people devoted to the benefit of the bureaucracy itself always get in control, and those dedicated to the goals the bureaucracy is supposed to accomplish have less and less influence, and sometimes are eliminated entirely.[Pournelle's law of Bureaucracy]”
― Jerry Pournelle

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