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The Sociology of SpeedDigital, Organizational, and Social Temporalities$
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Judy Wajcman and Nigel Dodd

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198782858

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198782858.001.0001

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“A Pause in the Impatience of Things”

“A Pause in the Impatience of Things”

Notes On Formal Organization, the Bureaucratic Ethos, and Speed

(p.86) 6 “A Pause in the Impatience of Things”
The Sociology of Speed

Paul du Gay

Oxford University Press

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.”

Keywords:   bureaucracy, speed, Weber, organizations, rationality

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