Karl Marx on bureaucracy


Bureaucracy counts in its own eyes as the final aim of the state...The aims of the state are transformed into the aims of the bureau and the aims of the bureau into the aims of the state. Bureaucracy is a circle from which no one can escape. Its hierarchy is a hierarchy of knowledge. The apex entrusts the lower echelon with insight into the individual while the lower echelon leaves insight into the universal to the apex, and so each deceives the other.

Bureaucracy constitutes an imaginary state alongside the real state and is the spiritualism of the real state. Thus every object has a dual meaning -- a real one and a bureaucratic one, just as knowledge is dual - real and bureaucratic (and it is the same with the will). But the real thing is treated according to its bureaucratic essence, its other-worldly spiritual essence. Bureaucracy holds in its possession the essence of the state - the spiritual essence of society; the state is its private property. The general ethos of bureaucracy is secrecy, mystery, safeguarded within by hierarchy and without by its nature as a closed corporation. Thus public political spirit and also political mentality appear to bureaucracy as a betrayal of its secret. The principal of its knowledge is therefore authority, and its mentality is the idolatry of authority. But within bureaucracy the spiritualism turns into a crass materialism, the materialism of passive obedience, faith in authority, the mechanism of fixed and formal behavior, fixed principals, attitudes and traditions. As far as the individual bureaucrat is concerned, the aim of the state becomes his private aim in the form of competition for higher posts -- careerism. He considers the real life as a material one, for the spirit of this life has its own separate existence in bureaucracy.

~ Ḥujjat al-Milla wa’l-Millatin Shaykh Karl Marx (ر)

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