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Bureaucracies and Democracy in Conflict

Bureaucracies and Democracy in Conflict

By Edith Flores (3/23/14)

Editor's Note: This is a student's final paper in Classical Sociological Theory, Winter 2014.

For an individual to truly understand politics they have to go through extensive training, the type of training and preparation that most Americans never receive. It is very difficult for an individual to fully participate in governmental decision-making if they lack the skills and the knowledge that are necessary to make an informative choice. The United States is essentially telling its citizens to run before learning how to crawl.

The government is unwilling to teach its citizens the very basics. Even adults with college degrees do not know how to analyze something as simple as a president’s speech. An example of this is when the president says we are at war in order to protect our people and everyone cheers, but in reality our troops are risking their lives and some are losing their lives, and all the while the majority of us do not even know the true reason of why we are still at war in the first place. Instead of questioning the president and demanding the war to end, we simply agree with him and believe him. The United States blames the individuals for their lack of knowledge and involvement instead of recognizing that our government and educational system are failing us.

They lie by saying that the majority rule, when in reality the majority remains oppressed and are the least benefited. A true democracy is supposed to bring with it equality; what Americans have is the complete opposite of that. In order to have a better understanding of governmental power one must know the relationship between bureaucracy and democracy, the nature of both, and the prospects for change.

Max Weber stated, “We must remember this fact - which we have encountered several times and which we shall have to discuss repeatedly: that ‘democracy’ as such is opposed to the ‘rule’ of bureaucracy, in spite and perhaps because of its unavoidable yet unintended promotion of bureaucratization” (Ian McIntosh, Classical Sociological Theory, p. 151). Clearly, if democracy stands for majority rule and transparency so that the people can know what is going on, it cannot go hand in hand with a bureaucracy which gives power over information and over actions only to a few.

Weber noted that bureaucracies would triumph, as bureaucracies are an ensemble of the most efficient, predictable, dependable, and controllable way to run things. According to Lenin, a Marxist, market forces and free enterprise lead to a monopoly; monopoly capital is the same as imperialism and in order for imperialism to exist there needs to be the most highly developed bureaucracy.

The United States has a democracy, but because one cannot deny that bureaucracies exist and thrive in the country, it is evident that the people have been misinformed and misguided about the true nature of their “democracy.” It has created an illusion that the majority holds power and makes the ultimate decisions, when in reality only the rich and powerful rule; the heads of bureaucracies are the ones who have political authority. They are the ones with access to the big weapons, figuratively speaking and literally. They have power over the state, the state has the power over the military, and as long as the military shows loyalty to the government the people will never stand a chance against the government.

There is a huge gap and a huge difference between the majority, 99%, and the few, 1%. Frederick Engels recognized this by stating, “The contradiction between socialized production and capitalistic appropriation now presents itself as an antagonism between the organization of production in the individual workshop and the anarchy of production in society generally” (Engels, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, p. 80-81). Capitalism isn’t based on addressing public needs but rather the anarchic pursuit of profit by competing capitalists. Their ultimate goal is to stay powerful and enjoy their success; the idea of sharing that power and allowing the proletariat to be equal to them is out of the question. I have stated this from their subjective perspective. Objectively, the capitalist class personifies capitalism’s fundamental law of the relentless and endless pursuit of profit.

Democracy understood as an end in itself is where participation from the people is what truly matters. Majority rules on decisions are made regardless of the outcome. This is the type of democracy that we have today, one where the people’s engagement is solely based on their voting. There are many problems with this type of democracy, but one major problem is that people make decisions based on inaccurate information. Keeping the people in a state of ignorance is beneficial to a bureaucracy. It is to their advantage to have people that do not fully understand what is really going on and therefore will not question the bureaucracy’s actions.

“Democratic theory’s premise is that public officials and the media are the servants of the people; they are supposed to be, therefore they are. This is, of course, circular reasoning and reasoning by assertion rather than by evidence. The truth is far more complicated. Underlying the question of whether democracy is possible or not rests on a deeper dynamic between leadership and those they lead” (Loo, Globalization and the Demolition of Society, p. 228).

Americans are exposed to certain ideas through manipulation. Rather than being presented with evidence, they are presented with words, stories that are distorted to be in the best interest of individuals who have a lot of money or are a part of the government. This is a continuous cycle, where the majority of people do not really know how their administration is truly exercising political power. For example, in Bush’s administration, Bush used Executive Orders to execute laws and policies regardless of Congress agreeing or disagreeing. These Executive Orders were being used freely as a means to take away the power from Congress which made Bush the ultimate decision maker (Bowley, Impeach the President, p. 165). Unless someone is deliberately digging for this type of information, most people today are unaware of this.

The fact that Bush issued four hundred Executive Orders by 2005, in comparison to other presidents who on average issued five Executive Orders per year, is truly significant (Bowley, ITP, p. 165). The American people are allowing this type of injustice to continue by electing these officials and then not questioning their actions. It is evident that inequality still exists, and the gaps between classes are getting larger. As long as there are social classes a People’s State cannot exist. And with the final eventual elimination of classes states themselves will no longer exist.

With classes there are conflicting material interests; otherwise we would be at a standstill. The dictatorship of the proletariat is devoted to bridging differences rather than increasing the differences. When the gap has been bridged between the classes, government itself will disappear. The very existence of a state is a reflection of classes, which is commonly viewed as a referee, but was seen by Marx and Lenin as a dictatorship in which the people have to go along. Frederick Engels writes that the state “withering away” will be with the abolition of the bourgeois class by a proletarian revolution that will not actually “wither away” the bourgeois class, but it will just put an end to it (Lenin, State and Revolution, p. 281). “As soon as there is no longer any social class to be held in subjection; as soon as class rule, and the individual struggle for existence based upon our present anarchy in production, with the collisions and excesses arising from these, are removed, nothing more remains to be repressed, and a special repressive force, a state, is no longer necessary” (Engels, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, p. 91). It is important to note that bureaucracies are very secretive. They repress information and hold themselves as the only experts, claiming to be the best at what they do and convinced that they know better than anyone.

In an ideal world, democracy would be a means to an end. Democracy as a means to an end is one where the truth is sought and comes to be progressively known. The people are educated enough to make informed decisions and the leaders share their insight with the people. The people are conscious beings who are actively involved in the decision-making process. The end that is being described is that all people should become conscious and aware of how society works. The people should be informed and trained to be informed of all and participate actively in decisions that will affect them. People are taught to be leaders because this is what this democracy expects, for people to be good self-taught leaders. The types of leaders that are needed are those who raise people’s consciousness and share the truth.

Unfortunately, this is neither the type of leadership nor the democracy that we exercise today. We are currently living in a society where everything is bourgeois ruled. People are kept uninformed of what is really going on behind closed doors. “What threatens our democracy today is, literally, the theocratic counter-movement with a vengeance, its members openly inclined to call black “white,” or break the laws of man and God, if that is what (they think) God wants” (Miller, ITP, p. 195). Presidents and other governmental officials who hide behind religion are cowards and not to be trusted. They will blame their mistakes on others instead of taking responsibility for their own actions and dealing with the consequences. One of the outcomes of separating the church from the state should be to hold officials responsible for their actions and decisions. It is wrong to fog people’s judgments by bringing religion into politics.

There are two philosophies that exist that form the foundation for these two views. Democracy as an end in itself is based on the philosophy of agnosticism. Agnosticism, when the truth cannot be determined, is based on the notion that if the truth is not known then one must vote on a decision: hence, majority rule. The philosophical basis for democracy as a means to an end is empiricism meaning that the truth and the reality can be known. If our democracy practiced more empiricism than agnosticism, we would surely have a society that would excel in all areas.     

There comes a point when people finally become aware of what is going on around them and the blindfolds are off. The deception will finally be evident and the lack of transparency from bureaucracies will be clear; but this will never happen if our society is more interested in keeping up with the Kardashians instead of keeping up with their nation. There has to be a different mindset than what we are used to. We must become experts at it. Having the right to vote is not enough. We must become involved in every aspect of it. We are living in a time where democracy is an end in itself, and the goal should be for democracy to be a means to an end.

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Elaine Brower 2

Elaine Brower of World Can't Wait speaking at the NYC Stop the War on Iran rally 2/4/12