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The social foundations of the bureaucratic order

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This article views the bureaucratic form of organization as both an agent and an expression of key modern social innovations that are most clearly manifested in the non-inclusive terms by which individuals are involved in organizations. Modern human involvement in organizations epitomizes and institutionally embeds the crucial yet often overlooked cultural orientation of modernity whereby humans undertake ac-tion along well-specified and delimited paths thanks to their capacity to isolate and suspend other personal or social considerations. The organizational involvement of humans qua role agents rather than qua persons helps unleash formal organizing from being tied to the indolence of the human body and the languish process of per-sonal or psychological reorientation. Thanks to the loosening of these ties, the bu-reaucratic organization is rendered capable to address the shifting contingencies un-derlying modern life by reshuffling and re-assembling the roles and role patterns by which it is made. The historically unique adaptive capacity of bureaucracy remains though hidden behind the ubiquitous presence of routines and standard operating procedures –requirements for the standardization of roles– that are mistakenly ex-changed for the essence of the bureaucratic form.

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