The Involvement of Bureaucracy in Politics

Two Opposite Views:

Let us now discuss a very controversial issue—the involvement of bureaucracy in politics. In between various political ideologies and conflicts of opinion the officials try to maintain their neutrality. But there is an opposite view—the top civil servants are not neutral at all, on the contrary they are very “hungry for power” and to satisfy their hunger they participate in politics. This view further states that top bureaucrats are not mere executants of policies, they run the country and also they are part of the politics of the state.

The neutrality of the top officials has been forcefully supported by the leaders of Britain and Japan. They argue that senior bureaucrats always try to maintain their non-involvement in political affairs. So we find that the controversy is about neutrality and direct involvement. Many top civil servants of advanced capitalist countries are of opinion that on many matters of state administration they observe their utmost neutrality and their “exclusive concern is to advance the business of the state under the direction of their political masters”.

Miliband has made a thorough investigative analysis about the real position of bureaucrats in advanced capitalist countries of USA, UK, France etc. and has arrived at the conclusion that the top bureaucrats are not really neutral. They are not politicians, but participate in politics.

Bureaucracy is not Neutral:

1. Opposes Radical Changes:

The bureaucracy always lends its whole-hearted support to the existing political system and if any radical changes in the economic and political system are introduced, the bureaucracy opposes it. Particularly the bureaucrats make all attempts to fail the revolutionary changes which are proposed.

This is mainly because of their strong attachment to the existing system and their conservativeness. Specially top officials and career advisers oppose all the radical reforms or proposals. Ralph Miliband is of opinion that officials of the upper echelons of civil service possess enormous power with the help of which they stop the implementation of radical reforms. The actual activities of the top bureaucrats reveal that they are far from being neutral.

2. Affinity to Class is Strong:

The affinity to class to which bureaucrats belong is deep and strong. Particularly, the bureaucrats come from the upper middle class and wealthiest section of the society and due to this they always want to see that the interests of their own classes are fully protected and whenever they find that the interests of their class are going to be affected, they utilise all the ways and use the state machinery to scuttle the attempts. Priority is always given to the class interests and then to the common interests.

This tendency encourages them to take part in political affairs. They try to influence the politicians and the representatives. Participation of the bureaucrats in politics may not be direct but indirect participation bears fruit.

3. Affinity to Ideology:

It is quite natural that since the civil servants are educated and politically conscious men they will cherish political and ideological weakness for and affinity to the ideology, and in this respect, Miliband observes, they are largely conservative. It means that once they (top bureaucrats) have started to show affinity to an ideology they do not withdraw it. This firm belief in ideology makes them participants in politics. State machinery is abundantly used by the top administrators for the protection and expansion of ideology and the bureaucrats are important actors.

4. Close Nexus between Bureaucracy and Large Scale Enterprise:

Today it is an open secret that in all the capitalist countries, especially in USA and UK, there has grown and developed an unholy alliance between bureaucracy and big corporations who almost completely control the economy. This has enormously benefited both. The bureaucrats receive financial help and other types of sustenance from the big business world.

Ralph Miliband writes, “More and more businessmen find their way into one part or the other of the state system at both political and administrative levels. But so do high civil servants even more regularly find their way into corporate enterprise”. In both USA and UK there is an interchangeability between government service of one kind or the other and business is particularly characteristic of the new breed of technocrats.

5. Indispensability of Technocracy:

The indispensability of technocrats for the formulation of policies and taking of decision has accelerated the interdependence between bureaucracy and politics. It is a known fact of today that state administration is gradually becoming dependent upon highly qualified technical persons—popularly called technocrats—this is chiefly due to the fact that it is not at all an easy task for the ordinary law-makers to enact a law on a highly complicated and technical subject.

The help of the technical experts or specialists is required. Once the help is taken this tends to rise in subsequent years. The technocrats take the opportunity fully. Besides tendering suggestions and giving advices the technocrats overtly or covertly take part in political matters. From the standpoint of impartiality and propriety the technocrats should not do this (to interfere in politics). But they do it and this practice has received endorsement from many corners.

6. Class Conflict and Bureaucracy:

In advanced capitalist societies there are number of classes and this finally leads to the conflict among classes. The officials never remain neutral in this conflict. They are very eager to protect the interests of the class/classes to which they belong and in order to do that they support the class.

This point has further been clarified by Miliband in the following words:

“As between contending classes and interests in advanced capitalist societies, civil servants are not “neutral”. They are the allies, whether they are aware of it or not, of capital against labour. The state bureaucracy, in all its parts, is not an impersonal, un-ideological, a-political element in society, above the conflicts in which classes, interests and groups engage. By virtue of its ideological dispositions, reinforced by its own interests that bureau­cracy, on the contrary, is crucially important and committed element in the main­tenance of defence .of the structure of power and privilege inherent in advanced capitalism”.

The important is that in a class society bureaucracy cannot remain neutral. It must be committed to a class. Every bureaucracy has been found to support the powerful group of various elite groups. Even in societies where the class distinctions are not clear the bureaucracy’s neutrality is not above suspicion. Bureaucracy has its own interests and for the protection of those interests it participates in politics.

SAKHRI Mohamed
SAKHRI Mohamed

I hold a bachelor's degree in political science and international relations as well as a Master's degree in international security studies, alongside a passion for web development. During my studies, I gained a strong understanding of key political concepts, theories in international relations, security and strategic studies, as well as the tools and research methods used in these fields.

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