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When is a Novel not a Novel: When It is Used to Teach Political Science
Unformatted Document Text:  stable, more or less exhaustive, and which can be learned.” He argues further that, in addition to substantive knowledge, “[k]nowledge of these rules represents a special technical expertise which the officials possess.” Foreshadowing an all-to-familiar contemporary complaint, Weber suggests that “[t]he reduction of modern office management to rules is deeply embedded in its very nature” (958). In addition to these six basic characteristics of bureaucracy, Weber addresses the concept of loyalty, which also has particular relevance for Vonnegut’s Player Piano. In contrast to popular contemporary conceptions of bureaucracy, Weber argues that “modern loyalty to an office does not establish a relationship to a person.” Emphasizing that organizational loyalty is more important than personal loyalty, he states that “entrance into an office is considered an acceptance of a specific duty of fealty to the secure purpose of the office” (959). In analyzing Weber’s writings on bureaucracy, it is also important to remember that he held “paradoxical opinions” on the subject. Weber possessed a “pride in bureaucracy, ‘in spite of all,’” because he noted that “nothing [was] more efficient and more precise than bureaucratic management.” Nevertheless, Weber identified “bureaucracy with rationality, and the process of rationalization with mechanism, depersonalization, and oppressive routine.” What was “enlightening and provocative” about Weber for Waldo, however, can be exceptionally daunting for students. Player Piano comes to the students’ rescue in that all aspects of Weber’s theory, both his rationally efficient bureaucracy and his depersonalizing bureaucracy, find an “enlightening and provocative” voice in Vonnegut’s dystopia. Vonnegut and Weberian Bureaucracy

Authors: Connor, George.
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stable, more or less exhaustive, and which can be learned.” He argues further that, in
addition to substantive knowledge, “[k]nowledge of these rules represents a special
technical expertise which the officials possess.” Foreshadowing an all-to-familiar
contemporary complaint, Weber suggests that “[t]he reduction of modern office
management to rules is deeply embedded in its very nature” (958).
In addition to these six basic characteristics of bureaucracy, Weber addresses the
concept of loyalty, which also has particular relevance for Vonnegut’s Player Piano. In
contrast to popular contemporary conceptions of bureaucracy, Weber argues that
“modern loyalty to an office does not establish a relationship to a person.” Emphasizing
that organizational loyalty is more important than personal loyalty, he states that
“entrance into an office is considered an acceptance of a specific duty of fealty to the
secure purpose of the office” (959).
In analyzing Weber’s writings on bureaucracy, it is also important to remember
that he held “paradoxical opinions” on the subject. Weber possessed a “pride in
bureaucracy, ‘in spite of all,’” because he noted that “nothing [was] more efficient and
more precise than bureaucratic management.” Nevertheless, Weber identified
“bureaucracy with rationality, and the process of rationalization with mechanism,
depersonalization, and oppressive routine.” What was “enlightening and provocative”
about Weber for Waldo, however, can be exceptionally daunting for students. Player
Piano comes to the students’ rescue in that all aspects of Weber’s theory, both his
rationally efficient bureaucracy and his depersonalizing bureaucracy, find an
“enlightening and provocative” voice in Vonnegut’s dystopia.
Vonnegut and Weberian Bureaucracy


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