A bureaucrat is a member of a bureaucracy and can comprise the administration of any organization of any size, though the term usually connotes someone within an institution of a government or corporation. Bureaucrat jobs were often "desk jobs" (the French for "desk" being bureau, though bureau can also be translated as "office"), though the modern bureaucrat may be found "in the field" as well as in an office.



German sociologist Max Weber defined a bureaucratic official as the following:[1]

  • He is personally free and appointed to his position on the basis of conduct.
  • He exercises the authority delegated to him in accordance with impersonal rules, and his loyalty is enlisted on behalf of the faithful execution of his official duties.
  • His appointment and job placement are dependent upon his technical qualifications.
  • His administrative work is a full-time occupation.
  • His work is rewarded by a regular salary and prospects of advancement in a lifetime career.
  • He must exercise his judgment and his skills, but his duty is to place these at the service of a higher authority. Ultimately he is responsible only for the impartial execution of assigned tasks and must sacrifice his personal judgment if it runs counter to his official duties.
  • Bureaucratic control is the use of rules, regulations, and formal authority to guide performance. It includes such things as budgets, statistical reports, and performance appraisals to regulate behavior and results.

As an academic, Woodrow Wilson professed:[2]

But to fear the creation of a domineering, illiberal officialism as a result of the studies I am here proposing is to miss altogether the principle upon which I wish most to insist. That principle is, that administration in the United States must be at all points sensitive to public opinion. A body of thoroughly trained officials serving during good behavior we must have in any case: that is a plain business necessity. But the apprehension that such a body will be anything un-American clears away the moment it is asked. What is to constitute good behavior? For that question obviously carries its own answer on its face. Steady, hearty allegiance to the policy of the government they serve will constitute good behavior. That policy will have no taint of officialism about it. It will not be the creation of permanent officials, but of statesmen whose responsibility to public opinion will be direct and inevitable. Bureaucracy can exist only where the whole service of the state is removed from the common political life of the people, its chiefs as well as its rank and file. Its motives, its objects, its policy, its standards, must be bureaucratic. It would be difficult to point out any examples of impudent exclusiveness and arbitrariness on the part of officials doing service under a chief of department who really served the people, as all our chiefs of departments must be made to do. It would be easy, on the other hand, to adduce other instances like that of the influence of Stein in Prussia, where the leadership of one statesman imbued with true public spirit transformed arrogant and perfunctory bureaux into public-spirited instruments of just government.

Bureaucrats of the EU are frequently termed "eurocrats" in the English language in Europe – a portmanteau of the European Union (or Europe), and bureaucrat.

In Imperial China, bureaucrats largely composed the social elite. Known in Europe as Mandarins, after the Portuguese word for 'councillor', this variety of bureaucrats passed a set of complicated examinations and were posted throughout the empire.

As depicted in the arts

See also


  1. ^ Max Weber. Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft. pp. 650–78. 
  2. ^ Woodrow Wilson (June 1887). "The Study of Administration". 2. Political Science Quarterly. pp. 197–222. http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/index.asp?document=465. Retrieved 2008-03-25. 

External links

  • John Kilcullen, Mq.edu.au, Lecture—Max Weber: On Bureaucracy
  • Ludwig von Mises, Mises.org, Bureaucracy

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  • bureaucrat — bu‧reau‧crat [ˈbjʊərəkræt ǁ ˈbjʊr ] noun [countable] an official working in a bureaucracy, especially one who obeys the rules very strictly: • the politicians and bureaucrats who run the EU * * * bureaucrat UK US /ˈbjʊərəʊkræt/ noun [C] WORKPLACE …   Financial and business terms

  • bureaucrat — 1839, from Fr. bureaucrate (19c.); see BUREAUCRACY (Cf. bureaucracy). bureaucrat, &c. The formation is so barbarous that all attempt at self respect in pronunciation may perhaps as well be abandoned. [Fowler] …   Etymology dictionary

  • Bureaucrat — Bu*reau crat, n. An official of a bureau; esp. an official confirmed in a narrow and arbitrary routine. C. Kingsley. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • bureaucrat — index functionary, incumbent, official Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • bureaucrat — [n] government official administrator, civil servant, desk jockey*, functionary, office holder, pencil pusher*, politician, public servant; concepts 347,354 …   New thesaurus

  • bureaucrat — ► NOUN ▪ an official perceived as being overly concerned with procedural correctness. DERIVATIVES bureaucratic adjective …   English terms dictionary

  • bureaucrat — [byoor′ə krat΄] n. an official in a bureaucracy, esp. one who follows a routine in a mechanical, unimaginative way, insisting on proper forms, petty rules, etc. bureaucratic adj. bureaucratically adv …   English World dictionary

  • bureaucrat */ — UK [ˈbjʊərəˌkræt] / US [ˈbjʊrəˌkræt] noun [countable] Word forms bureaucrat : singular bureaucrat plural bureaucrats showing disapproval someone who is employed to help run an office or government department. This word can suggest that you do not …   English dictionary

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  • bureaucrat — noun Date: 1839 a member of a bureaucracy …   New Collegiate Dictionary

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