PurposeSmart governance ultimately relates to the ability of political administrations to elicit trust and public confidence. Political administrations normally generate rational policies that arise from their context-sensitive goals. The capability of an administration to develop and implement policies is measured as efficacy, which can influence the value and stability of an administration. However, policy development and implementation is not only an attribute of a political administration but also of its bureaucracy. The purpose of this paper is to explore the nature of bureaucracies, representing them as complex and dynamic.Design/methodology/approachA traditional blueprint model of a bureaucracy comes from Weber, seen to be a servicing body for the implementation of political policy decisions resulting from a process of governance. An alternative model arises from the fictional works of Kafka, which is underpinned by a firm conceptual basis of a bureaucracy that confronts that of Weber. Agency theory will be used to model bureaucracies, and comparisons will be made between the Weber and Kafka conceptualisation.FindingsThere are broad models of a bureaucracy that arise from different propositions such as a Weber and a Kafka model, the latter being more representative of administrations. Any attempts to measure comparative efficacy across political systems or administrations may well lead to failure due to the distinctions in the nature of the bureaucracies that they maintain. The paper argues that the Weber model is an unattainable boundary representation of a bureaucracy. In contrast, Kafka’s more pragmatic conceptualisation can be modelled as a pathological autonomous system that is both complex and adaptive. Such pathologies can be harmful to the implementation of socially improving policies.Practical implicationsThe paper shows that even where a political administration has policy initiatives that can improve society, these can be corrupted and misdirected by its bureaucracy, mistakenly believed (by the administration) to be dedicated to the service of the administration, rather than the bureaucracy’s own self-interests.Originality/valueNo other approach has been able to graphically represent the relative natures of different bureaucracies, or their pathologies.
Kybernetes – Emerald Publishing
Published: Jan 14, 2019
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