Explore chapter themes further with these carefully selected weblinks

Late in the nineteenth century, armed with a checklist and a stopwatch, F. W. Taylor (1967 [1911]) developed and popularized scientific management around a set of principles for making people’s work more visible. He observed and timed work and then redesigned it, so that tasks could be done more efficiently.

Max Weber noted that bureaucracy, modelled unambiguously on the military was the dominant organizational model. Weber put it succinctly: ‘No special proof is necessary to show that military discipline is the ideal model for the modern capitalist factory’.

Many arguments have been advanced against bureaucracy. Some of Weber’s contemporaries thought market principles were much better at organizing human affairs than bureaucracies. An Austrian economist, Ludwig von Mises, a near contemporary of Weber, was an initial source of these views.

In contemporary times, governments promise to reduce bureaucracy (but rarely do); consultants claim to be able to change bureaucracy (but rarely do), while ordinary citizens rail against bureaucracy and its entrapment.

President Xi Jinping has set himself up with an impossible task: to keep the economy humming under state domination, while trying to eradicate corruption. Xi’s sweeping anti-corruption campaign has stalled economic growth.