URGENT NEED FOR ADOPTION OF A STRATEGY TO TRANSFORM BUREAUCRACY – II


URGENT NEED FOR ADOPTION OF A STRATEGY TO TRANSFORM BUREAUCRACY IN THE BEST INTEREST OF THE NATION & THE “AAM AADMI” — ( PART TWO )

Rajendra Dhar
POLICE WATCH INDIA (Regd. NGO) 

Need to promote alternatives is very essential. Essential to any strategy to change bureaucracy is an alternative structure. What is the alternative? There are many experiences and ideas for self-managing organisational forms, including self-managing work groups, cooperatives, federations and the lot system, all as part of a society with much greater local autonomy and self-reliance. But in spite of the wealth of experience in non-bureaucratic structures, much more investigation and action is needed to develop stable, effective and attractive alternatives.

It is highly productive to formulate critiques of existing bureaucracies in conjunction with spelling out alternatives. Attention to self-managing systems increases awareness of the key systems of control in bureaucracies, while analysing bureaucracy stimulates awareness of the features of bureaucracy that the alternatives need to challenge and transcend. For example, a critique of bureaucracy might focus on the key role of interchangeability of members of the bureaucracy in allowing hierarchical control. This suggests the importance of allowing and encouraging people to develop and use a variety of skills in a self-managing alternative. Conversely, preference for a strong sense of community and personal support in a self-managing organisation can raise awareness of the way bureaucracy isolates people and fragments social relations through specialisation, hierarchy and working on problems formulated by others.

Formulating alternatives is essential in any bureaucracy campaign. If no alternative is offered, dissatisfaction will remain at the level of gripes or be siphoned off through cosmetic reforms. Alternatives help people see bureaucracy as a social product rather than as part of the inherent nature of society. But more than this, alternatives provide a concrete basis for challenges to bureaucracy. An alternative plan, for example including self-managing work groups or a limited introduction of the lot system, can be a rallying point for both outside critics and internal opponents. The aim here is to turn the alternative into a campaign. In this way the goal of moving from bureaucracy towards self-managing structures is much less likely to become sidetracked.

One way to turn the alternative into a campaign is to actually begin behaving according to the new model. A group of workers could decide to share their tasks and decide priorities cooperatively. The whole panoply of non-violent action can be called upon, and non-violent action training used to prepare for opposition as well as to practise the alternative. ‘Living the alternative’ is something that happens spontaneously and more or less openly throughout almost all bureaucracies, especially at the margins: workers sort out their own work-sharing arrangements, formal meeting procedure remains nominal while de-facto consensus procedures are used, individual non-conformists are allowed to go their own way. The introduction of technology for social control and of more refined work arrangements are part of a continuing process in which even these margins of freedom from bureaucratic control are controlled or eliminated. In order for the niches of self-management in bureaucracies to survive and grow, they need to be cultivated, understood and consciously promoted.

One key part of promoting alternatives to bureaucracy is spreading skills and knowledge. Bureaucratic elites obtain a great deal of power by controlling information and breaking up activities into narrow tasks. Any action which makes it possible for insiders or outsiders to understand what goes on inside particular bureaucracies, and to actually carry out the full range of tasks, is subversive of bureaucratic control. Spreading skills and knowledge might take the form of sharing job skills with workmates, describing patterns of decision-making to outsiders, writing exposes of bureaucratic functioning, and preparing manuals and training sessions for others who wish to be able to run or dismantle the bureaucratic machinery.

The solution to this dilemma lies in the hands of all those who take steps to transform bureaucracy. The transformation of the organisational form of bureaucracy and of the goals of particular bureaucracies can be carried out hand in hand. As members of bureaucracies and outsiders gain greater collective control and participation, they will be able to question the goals of the organisation. Faith in the social responsibility of self-managing groups of people must underlie any programme for changing bureaucracy from the grassroots. After all, the premise of bureaucracy is that such faith is unwarranted.

WE ARE HOPEFUL OR RATHER WE SHOULD SAY THAT WE ARE SURE, THE MEANINGFUL HAS BEEN CONVEYED TO ALL CONCERNED.

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