On Bureaucracy

On Bureaucracy

The Bureaucratization of the World, by Henry Jacoby. Translated by Eveline Kanes. Berkeley: University of California Press. 241 pp.

A good book on bureaucracy is yet to be written, and it is unfortunate that, despite the virtues of this essay, this is not the book. The virtues are considerable. Covering a vast range of literature, this is perhaps the best summary statement of the rise of bureaucracy in the West, more extensive than Reinhard Bendix’s short gem in the new edition of the Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, more detailed and historical than Martin Albrow’s fascinating small book, Bureaucracy, recently published in England by Pall Mall. Jacoby draws upon an immense range of material, quotes liberally, and manages to convey a feeling for the concrete, nitty-gritty growth of the centralized state out of feudalism, as well as broad generalizations that made this halting march of bureaucracy seem inevitable. Detailed and fascinating studies in French and German that are largely unknown to us in the U.S. are well summarized, e.g., Eberhard Kolb on the German Workers’ Councils in 1918 and 1919. The first part of the book treats the “birth of modern government,” primarily in France and Prussia; the second part treats bureaucracy, economy, and politics in the 19th century, part three the Russian example, and part four the problems of a contemporary administered world. Throughout, the writing is graceful, the quotes are a delight, the range and scope is wide and free-wheeling.

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