Capitalism’s secret love affair with bureaucracy

Error message

  • Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in similarterms_taxonomy_node_get_terms() (line 517 of /usr/local/www/apache24/htdocs/infoshopnews/sites/all/modules/similarterms/similarterms.module).
  • Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in similarterms_taxonomy_node_get_terms() (line 517 of /usr/local/www/apache24/htdocs/infoshopnews/sites/all/modules/similarterms/similarterms.module).
  • Notice: Undefined offset: 0 in similarterms_list() (line 221 of /usr/local/www/apache24/htdocs/infoshopnews/sites/all/modules/similarterms/similarterms.module).
  • Notice: Undefined offset: 1 in similarterms_list() (line 222 of /usr/local/www/apache24/htdocs/infoshopnews/sites/all/modules/similarterms/similarterms.module).
RSS icon
Reddit icon
e-mail icon

David Graeber
Financial Times
March 5, 2015

Nobody seems to like bureaucracy very much, and yet somehow we always seem to end up with more of it. One can see its effects in every aspect of our lives. Indeed, bureaucracy has become the water in which we swim. It fills our days with paperwork. Application forms get longer and more elaborate. Ordinary documents like bills or tickets or memberships come to be buttressed by pages of legalistic fine print.

At least since the 19th century, the idea that a market economy is opposed to and independent of government was used to justify laissez-faire economic policies designed to lessen the role of government, and yet they never actually have that effect. Nor, for example, did English liberalism lead to a reduction of state bureaucracy; instead, we ended up with a ballooning array of legal clerks, registrars, inspectors, notaries and police officials who made the liberal dream of a world of free contract between autonomous individuals possible. And there is little doubt that maintaining a market economy requires a thousand times more paperwork than a Louis XIV-style absolutist monarchy.

I’m going to call this the age of “total bureaucratisation”. I’d like to ask why that is and, particularly, to consider the possibility that many of the blanket condemnations of bureaucracy we hear are, in fact, somewhat disingenuous. Does the experience of operating within a system of formalised rules and regulations, under hierarchies of impersonal officials, hold a kind of covert appeal?

Read more

Article category: 
Rate this article: 
No votes yet