A Pause in the Impatience of Things: Notes on Formal Organization, the Bureaucratic Ethos, and Speed

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review


This chapter argues that “speed,” or lack thereof, lies at the heart of much that has been written about bureaucracy generally, and about Max Weber’s theory of bureaucracy in particular. On the one hand, within sociology and social theory, Weber is regarded as one of the chief critics of bureaucracy’s inherent “dark side.” In this reading, formality, precision, efficiency, and speed, taken together, allow bureaucracy to subordinate everyday life to the diktats of instrumental rationalization. On the other, Weber is viewed as a misguided celebrant of bureaucracy because he pays too much attention to formal rationality and not enough to its inherent dysfunctions. Here, innovation, flexibility, and speed are on the side of the post-bureaucratic organization. This chapter interrogates these contrasting stories about bureaucracy and suggests a more complex account of the relationship between the ethos of bureaucratic office and “speed.”
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Sociology of Speed : Digital, Organizational, and Social Temporalities
EditorsJudy Wajcman, Nigel Dodd
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Publication date2017
ISBN (Print)9780198782858
ISBN (Electronic)9780198782865
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Bureaucracy
  • Speed
  • Weber
  • Organizations
  • Rationality

Cite this