Dissolving the iron cages? Tocqueville, michels, bureaucracy and the perpetuation of elite power

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Organization, 2006, 13 (3), pp. 319 - 343
Issue Date:
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Modern management theory often forgets more than it remembers. 'What's new?' is the refrain. Yet, we suggest, there is much that we should already know from which we might appropriately learn, 'Lest we forget'. The current paper takes its departure from two points of remembrance that bear on the sustained assaults on bureaucracy that have been unleashed by the critiques of recent years. These critiques include the new public management literature as well as its inspiration in the new literature of cultural entrepreneurialism. Both promise to dissolve bureaucracy's iron cage. We explain, using the classical political themes of oligarchy, democracy, and the production of elite power, why we should consider such transubstantiation alchemical by confronting contemporary discussions with the wisdom of an earlier, shrewder knowledge, whose insights we need to recall to understand the complexity of the hybridizations between supposedly opposite models of organizations. Copyright © 2006 SAGE.
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