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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

The Futures of Bureaucracy?


Bureaucracy is under attack and has been for some time, especially these past 30 years. In this paper I will outline the specific qualities of bureaucracy; the challenges to it that different critics have posed, and the possible futures of bureaucracy that are being imagined. In the 1980s, as a key part of an extremely liberal and influential critique of bureaucracy, new imaginings of how to organize corporations and public sector organizations began to emerge.  By the late 1990s these had morphed into a view of the network or hybrid organization as the way of the future. The paper will suggest that the global future of bureaucracy is not as simple as some of these criticisms suggest when they see it left behind in the emergence of innovative new forms. Instead, it is suggested, there is a spatial disaggregation of organizations occurring that heralds some unsettling new futures of organizations emerging.

Insights Paper