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Beyond Weber and Kafka: Conceptualizing a Critical Realist Model of Bureaucracy
Administration & Society  (IF2.69),  Pub Date : 2021-06-15, DOI: 10.1177/00953997211024953
Yi Yang

Max Weber and Franz Kafka are seminal writers on bureaucracy and administration. While Weber suggests the technical superiority of a bureaucratic “iron cage,” Kafka speaks from within that cage, seeing its repressive rationality as being confounded by recalcitrant citizens searching for freedom. However, if individuals are embedded in a bureaucracy that limits the parameters of actions from which they can choose, how could they ever defy structural control? Articulating the conditions for human liberty, this article uses critical realism to reveal the potential emancipatory nature of bureaucracy as a way out of Kafka’s powerlessness and Weber’s iron cage via citizen engagement.