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Alfred de Grazia: Discovering National Elites





All elite members holding institutional positions as careers are called bureaucrats. They include all permanent officers of the state and political parties, and men of the top elite institutions that originate policy decisions. As with the political element, and other typical elements found among the elites, the bureaucrats may, in certain groups under survey, compose, in fact, the general elite because of peculiar historical and social circumstances. At other times they may form only one of the elite elements, and at another time may be either absent or not figure significantly in the important power decisions. Although no special attention is given to the army in this section, it should be realized that most armies are, in many ways, the most perfect of bureaucracies in a society, and that most principles regarding bureaucracy hold for the army or military. The exceptional trait of the army - its function of managing force - gives it special characteristics that deserve separate treatment.


XVII-1. Centralization-decentralization. The positioning of bureaucratic elements on this continuum differs from country to country and may often differ within the same nation or jurisdiction among the various agencies. The major question here concerns the identification of individual officers with national or localistic groups. How much local agency autonomy is present? Is it informal, arising out of the recruitment, origin, and informal social and political structure of the bureaucracy, or is it legally designed and sanctioned as would be a federal arrangement like the American? For example, in the U.S.A. state officials are frequently of contrasting social backgrounds and attitudes when compared with the federal officials in the same functional area, and at the same time have a number of legal powers that cannot be seized by federal officials. In countries such as China and India, there are great traditional resistences against centralization, even when the theory and presumed sanctions are in the direction of the central government and the officers are centrally appointed. Thus, when they go into the field to their tasks, the officers often revert to the traditional pattern and seek to establish local "baronies."

One recalls that even in countries where some control remains over local officials, there may be a constant conflict between field offices and central offices, or if conflict is absent, at least an independence of character is found among local officials that qualifies them as one’s targets along with their hierarchical superiors in the central offices of the government.

XVII-2. Integration, high and low. By integration is meant the intensity of control and coordination of the bureaucracy on the same level of power and function. Are the offices of the central government coordinated by a master planning group, or a political party, or a specially selected board of high officials or politicians? Is the integration legally sanctioned or informally accomplished? Are interdepartmental transfers on the same level a common occurrence, so that, for instance, a high military official may be experienced also in high level diplomatic work, and high level public works decisions, etc?

XVII-3 Extent of bureaucratic autonomy. This is the universal problem of bureaucracy, reflected in such phrases as "the bureaucratic state," "Government by bureaucrats" and the like. Does the bureaucratic element issue independently orders of great scope, intensity and domain. Are these orders becoming more and more common and are they beginning to envelop larger portions of the economy, more people, and do they possess greater intensity of effect (e.g. less exhortation and promotion of policy and more command and domination of policy)? The structure of all known bureaucracies promotes, against whatever resistences of psychological, localistic, or ideological natures may occur, the concentration of decision-making in smaller numbers of elite who permanently hold office.

The process enlarges into a mental tendency to treat all problems as deductive ones: that is, war, peace, government enterprise, and all other types of heated issues are regarded as matters of administration that can be deduced from the law (of course, as defined by the bureaucracy itself). And the tendency is to reject politics under its proper name and to call politics by the new name of administration or execution of policy, with an explitation of the symbols of hostility to politics that are always present in a society. The preferred channels of the bureaucracy, therefore, are anti-political in the conventional sense, and "pro-scientific." "pro-legal" and "pro-expertise."

XVII-4 Informal connections with politicians. The general politicians must maintain the prestige of politics in effect, even though they may see fit to join in the general denunciation of "politiking." They seek control over the bureaucracy through external sanctions, by placing their own members in the bureaucracy, and by assimilating the bureaucracy at the top to the general elite. It is well to determine which of these, techniques, or which combination of them, are being employed by the general political group in any given situation. Bureaucracies will always have some connections with the politicians. There would also be considerable separatism produced by different origins, modes of work, and techniques of power. The formal channels of the bureaucracy to power and the limits of these channels are often prescribed by law but are supplemented or even substituted for, in great measure, by informal arrangements. One should determine by interview, observation, and the study of the legislative process, to what extent informal relationships exist between individual politicians, politician as a group, or some faction of politicians, on the one hand, and the agencies of the bureaucracy on the other, and whether these outside connections are with some integrated bureaucratic elite, or with individuals or scattered agencies.

XVII-5. Connections with the socio-economic elite. One of the most significant indicators of the place of the bureaucracy in the general elite, and of its response to general, as against functional, symbols, is its social-economic status when compared with other elements of the elite and of the population. By sampling and subsequent interview, or by press analysis and sometimes from a study of Who’s Who, or official publications, one can reconstruct a typical bureaucratic background and compare it with the background of politicians generally. One can assume relatively little about such similarities without self-conscious, systematic study. For instance, a comparison of American high level officials and high level businessmen reveals significant differences in origin that are responsible for a number of cleavages in attitude and differences in behavior and policies. Significant differences show up again when the comparison is extended to labor union leaders and general politicians, and, of course, with the population as a whole. To what extent does the top bureaucracy depend upon unearned income as well as its salary. To what extent does the high bureaucracy engage in off limits circulation and enterprise or literary activity?

XVII-6. Clannishness. Do nepotism, family connections, tribal or religious connections pervade the bureaucracy? Again hasty decisions should be avoided; yet when a decision is made, it will be important, because the type of bureaucracy as infiltrated by nepotistic elements and favoritism of a clannish nature, is far less vulnerable to rationalistic, scientific appeals, and much more to traditional symbols. Comparisons of names and biographical comparisons are useful in ascertaining these conditions. The press sometimes reports outbursts or news related to clannishness when it might least be expected to receive airing. Thus, in September of 1952, Nikita Khrushchev, then newly re-elected Secretary of the Moscow Communist Party, declared publicly that there were too many executives in the Moscow region selected on grounds of friendship, personal devotion and kinship, and called this a "big evil".

XVII-7. Connections with private groups. Does the bureaucracy create, or are there created for it by other authorities, numbers of formal advisory committees or commissions to assist or supervise its work? Is part of the administrative task or a number of agencies entrusted to representatives of interest groups? Is there an interchange of personnel between business and the bureaucracy? Is it customary for officials to move into business and vice versa? Are there any significant differences between the bureaucratic elements who are engaged in activities to promote private business, those who are charged with regulating private business, and those who are operating government business unrelated to private business? Which, if any, of these three elements gives a dominant characteristic to the bureaucracy and determines the general ideological atmosphere of the bureaucracy? Which of the three groups has the greatest prestige?

XVII-8. Recruitment methods. Some of the most revealing discoveries about a bureaucracy, as with any other group, can emerge from studying its recruitment. From what parts of the population is it drawn? How are thee parts selected? Is the kind of recruitment practiced in the state apparatus the same as among business institutions, the army, educational institutions? Obviously there is a great difference between the rationalized bureaucratic recruitment and the recruitment of politicians. The gap between such groups is manifested in the way leaders are recruited. Are career service examinations technical, general-academic, or entirely at the discretion of individual hiring officers? What kind of person applies as a result of the forms of examination? If technical, what kind of technique is favored by the examining system, and in general, what kind of skill is sought? The great difference here is between those skilled in human relations or in behavioral science, and those who are legally trained. The former are likely to be more plaint and more ruthless, whereas the latter are likely to be rigid. Is there a verbal examination behind the written one, so that a further screening of "undesirables" is a accomplished by informal and unregistered oral conversation? What trends are observable in recruitment? Are certain universities less and less the sources of recruits? Is there a switch from Western to Eastern schooling or vice versa? Often such trends can be discovered from a study of a sample of bureaucrats over a period of time, or by an account of background indicators and items in a series of Who’s Who.

XVII-9. Prestige measures. A good index to the prestige of the bureaucracy in relation to other elements of the elite is the extent to which its recruits are coming from the most privileged sections of the society. But also, not content with discovering whether the prestige of the bureaucracy is low or high because of the source of its recruits, one should know whether it is actually recruiting potential elite elements not hitherto represented in the upper strata. The bureaucracy may thus have high prestige among the most promising elements of society. The seating of bureaucrats in relation to others at social events publicity given them in the papers; the random, sporadic remarks and sayings about them that one encounters in normal social activity; the pride with which special uniforms, designations or decorations are worn by the bureaucrats; all are additional indications of the prestige of the bureaucracy.

XVII-10. Morale Measures. Morale is a measure of drive towards the goal of the group, and a group may have very different prestige with, say, the upper reaches of socialite society, and yet much greater morale than a group of high prestige in the same circles. One measure of morale is turnover and separation of personnel. Do men get out as fast as they can? If there a great deal of transferring about without valid administrative reasons? Does the group exhibit expansive, aggressive characteristics in its public behavior? Is it always demanding more money and new functions? Is its treatment of critics either very severe or quite aloof? That is, either extreme is perhaps a better measure of high morale than some middling or confused attitude towards hostile criticism. There are a large number of techniques for determining the condition of morale. The operator may refer to some of the standard works on industrial relations and personnel administration for those techniques, which are peripheral to the interests of this manual.

XVII-11. Capacity to act. Indicators of the capacity of the bureaucracy to act under different situations such as are presented by new policies, emergence of new elite membership in some other part of the elite, crisis or war, are useful. For example, the bureaucracy of the German social democratic party in the twenties and early thirties was quite competent to amass funds, organize the trade unions, conduct party warfare, and run a fairly stable bureaucratic government, but it was incapable of decisive hostilities against a group of Nazis who began weakly but became progressively stronger all the while, giving unmistakable evidences of planning the total destruction of the social democrats. One should ask and seek the same kind of answer for the bureaucracy of the government and of the elite institutions outside the government. Some bureaucratic organizations are very slow to act. Others can act rapidly. It would be presumptuous to declare what the particular structure is that invariably results in decisive action. Certainly the psychological question is paramount here: do the leaders, when faced with a new question, invariably resort to group thinking, prolonged committee sessions, accelerated exchange of correspondence and memoranda, and other inhibiting or escapist behavior, or do they fall very quickly into an action formation and make and execute a decision promptly?

XVII-12. Compulsiveness. Rigidity has been mentioned in several other suggested analysis. This is essentially what is meant by compulsiveness. Certain actions must be preformed in a habitual sequence, no matter what the external circumstances are, and not matter what the demand for a change may be. Indicators of compulsiveness or rigidity or bureaucratic habits are the extent to which the deductive form of thinking is employed; the extent to which written documents dominate the everyday lives of even the closest working partners; the veneration of formalities; peculiarities of dress; hyperconventionality, according to a norm set up within the bureaucratic element itself; and rigidity of holding to a given sphere of activity without expanding or contracting it.

XVII-13. Propaganda Machinery. It is customary and/or legal for bureaucratic agencies or elements to operate publicity or public relations machinery. One should look not only for lobbying or personal relations with politicians, though these are important as public relations devices, but also for the regular use of the media of influencing public opinion; public informative bulletins, helpful hints, voluminous correspondence, illustrated brochures, radio programs, friendship teams that go on tour, and a wide variety of educational devices. In addition, particularly through the press, bureaucrats sometimes disseminate their vies anonymously or under pseudonyms.

XVII-14. Personal documents. The operator may consider himself indeed fortunate if he has at his disposal any scrupulously recorded descriptions of the behavior of a high bureaucratic official as well as some other individual political elite members. The diary and case study can be full of the kinds of suggestions one received from reading a great novel such as Proust’s Memories of Times. A chance to persuade an official to provide an intimate record of daily work, or to collect such a piece done by somebody, else in published or unpublished form, should be taken up. The kinds of data useful for a complete understanding of executive action and for a considered judgment of his leadership include all contracts with persons and institutions, all techniques of communication, the nature of each question handled, and the kind of behavior of the individual under observation in the particular minute situation.

XVII-15. Group observation. Although few operators or observers have to be told that it is useful to observe a parliament or cabinet in session and operating, it does not often occur to them to attend smaller conferences, or less-publicized meetings of the leaders of the elite institutions. Practically every elite institution has some kind of collective meeting where non-security matters are being discussed and here the observer may become enlightened as to the procedures used in conducting the meeting, the form of arriving at decisions, the degree of collegiality and other peculiar characteristics that had not been imagined by one person in what seemed to be the universals of American small group behavior.

XVII-16. Organization charts and manuals. The simple reminder is in order that the U.S.A. government is not the only one employing organization charts and manuals, and that the formal structure of any organization, its goals, functions and responsibilities, are usually provided in such charts and manuals. These formal materials are limited but useful, first as reflections of the facts, and also as facts about the ideology of the organization, that is who should be doing what to who and why. Care should be exercised in exposing evidences of informal organization. Americans, who are matter-of-fact about forms of organization, cannot assume that others feel that way, too. Thus, sometimes propagandists, in their need to appear clever, describe the "inside dope" of the informal structure and power in an organization, not realizing that they are engaging in tabooed publicity.

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