Marxian Traditions and their Approach to Public Administration

Karl Marx has often been cited as the most powerful personality in the history of human civilization. He was a philosopher while being an economist, a socialist who was also a journalist and a historian who proposed the materialist conception of history. His views regarding his areas of work and interests are collectively termed as Marxian.

Karl Marx was a rebel in many ways which also contributed to his abilities to look and understand beyond the obvious. He firmly believed that the world cannot be changed just by generating ideas; changes can be brought in, only by real, physical activity.

Even as a student Marx was deeply influenced by the work of German philosopher G.W.F.Hegel. It was Hegel who inspired Marx to switch from legal studies to philosophy; a fact Marx admitted in a letter to his father, justifying his decision.

What is interesting is that, Hegel and his inspiration did not prevent Marx from comprehending the lacunae between the rational and the real in the philosophies of Hegel. One of his important works was his Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of the Right. It is advisable to the reader to do a little background study about the philosophy and works of G.W.F. Hegel, to understand the above discussion in a better light.

It would only make sense to point out to the readers at this stage is that Marx wrote very little about bureaucracy as such, and mostly after 1843. However whatever little he wrote gives a clear understanding of his stand regarding the need and relevance of bureaucracy in a modern State. Marx believed that understanding the functionalism and structuralism of bureaucracy was critical because it is the political expression of the division of labor.

In his The Eighteenth Brumaire, Marx calls France as the abode to bureaucracy as opposed to Germany which in his opinion, up until then was the supreme example of oppressive bureaucratic conditions in the states. He suggests that bureaucracy create conditions which subjects people to gross manipulations.

Another important deviation from the Hegel influence can be viewed in the manner Marx and Hegel understood bureaucracy. According to Hegel public administration was a bridge between the State and civil societies. The state through bureaucracy joined various particular interest to arrive at one general interest.

On the other hand Marx viewed that the State did not represent the general interest but the interests of the ruling or the dominant class. And obvious enough, this class was a part of the civil society. He went on to say that in a capitalist economy, the bureaucracy is aligned with the dominant class and it masquerades the interests of this dominant class as the general interest which is subsequently forced on the society.

While reading Marx on bureaucracy one can visualize it as an oppressive, mysterious system beyond the understanding or control of common people. It has certain symbols and secret ways of working and staunch traditions which makes it inherently incompetent in so many ways. Lenin was a follower of Marxian approach on bureaucracy and had ruled out any scope of it when the capitalism would be thrown out of Russian. But, after 1917, when he came into power, he could not help but rely on bureaucracy to help him run the State.

Marx was never oblivious to the growing popularity of bureaucracy and the need of public administration as an aspect of Government functioning, around the world. Nevertheless, this promulgation of bureaucracy did not prevent him to see the dangerous loopholes it carried.

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