Bureaucracy and Democracy in Literature

It is the wish of everyone to receive services in the shortest time possible. Unfortunately, that is not the case as most services involve unnecessary procedures that require one to fill in numerous forms. Furthermore, service providers might also not help to fasten the process as they follow orders and they cannot go against them. Thus, the following of rules has led to people doing inhuman actions without guilt.

Hannah Arendt in her Book Eichmann in Jerusalem

A Report on the Banality of Evil and David Graeber in The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy reflect on bureaucracy in different ways. However, both writers think that bureaucracy has led to more evils than good in society. Leaders cannot dictate their decisions as they have to follow a particular procedure. In the end, bureaucracy makes people act in a wrong way and delay service delivery while blaming the actions of the system rather than to individuals. The essay aims at looking at how bureaucracy has compromised democracy based on the reflection made by Arendt and Graeber.

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Hannah Arendt in the book Eichmann in Jerusalem brings the concept of the banality of evil in society. She bases the story on the Nazi death camp where Adolph, the high-rank administrator, says he only follows the orders, and it is not his choice to decide who lives or dies (Arendt, 1971). In this camp, the process of execution is organized in such a way that there are different people to perform various tasks. For them, a job is just a job regardless of implications. A scientist in the lab says their work is to produce the types of machinery and the poisonous gasses for the work and they are grateful that they are not the ones to use them (Arendt, 1971). Such a system leads to the normalization of every activity. People will spray bullets on weak people and justify that they follows orders, and in the end, they will receive praises as brave soldiers who did what they could to defend their country. They no longer have the guilt of treating some people like lesser beings (Arendt, 1971). A job is just a job, and everyone says they have to make a living in whatever way. Many believe that someone else would have done what they did if it was not for them; therefore, they do not see the point of making money out of other things as they choose to focus on their current occupations. The author says that technology and science will always provide what power and money demand.

David Graeber Book

David Graeber reflected on bureaucracy with a personal experience as he had to undergo a process of filling in many forms. He had to endure a procedure as he had to place his mother in a nursing home because stroke had rendered incapacitated and she could not be independent anymore. He says all medical care systems in America are too bureaucratic, which is a reflection of every public facility (Graeber). It leaves service providers and help seekers to feeling helpless as they have to follow the policies of the state. Therefore, the person in need has to spend more time on following the procedure than receiving the services. The problem, as Graeber says, is the way the government insists on the market solution for all problems affecting society. Bureaucracy and capitalism are the worst nightmares that have ever happened to public facilities as they make services have less meaning than without it.

The two books reflect on administration and its evils in society. Bureaucracy is a body of policy making leaders in the government that non-elective leaders make. The government has a specific way of operatio,n and leaders follow fixed rules (Brodkin). There are many departments and many people who are administrators in the system. Each department has a specific function, but all of them aim at accomplishing one function. There is the hierarchy of power among the leaders. The system does not have a good reputation as it involves various unnecessary procedures and bureaucracy (Graeber). An individual has to fill in numerous forms, like Graeber’s case. The fact is that most of these forms are never used in the future, and seems like their aim is just to complicate the process only to be thrown into a dustbin to pollute the environment. It seems like a process of creating unnecessary work to create the employment for the jobless who sit behind their desks to ensure that an unnecessary procedure takes place. The system has brought more harm than good, and one might wonder what came with it. Worse, the system might call for a revolution where people will be forced to act against it even though it will mean war.

Bureaucracy Discontent in Delivering Sustainable Democracy

Most countries, including the USA, have a democratic governance system. In this system, citizens exercise their power to elect their leaders from the community who make the government (Feeney & Langer). Most countries use secret ballot in their elections. These elections are supposed to be free and fair since qualified experts count votes. The voting follows the rule of the tyranny of number, where the winner is the one who has more votes than other opponents. The elected leaders rule just for a period, and they are replaced by others who take the position via the same process. The opportunity is equal to all the citizens regardless of their gender or financial status. The only limit is the age that varies from one country to another. The elected priority is to safeguard the country and to protect citizens’ rights. They are accountable for every action they take when in office and they make major decisions concerning wars (Patterson). However, not many countries can deliver sustainable democracy. It is impossible for any country to provide all basic needs for its citizens. Not all people can access health care at an equal rate. Access to education also depends on how wealthy a citizen is, while all children should obtain the same level and quality of education regardless of their background and financial ability. There are also numerous cases of inhuman activities that are carried out by government officials sometimes.

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However, the elected leaders have to follow a set of rules and policies in governing. They also choose other leaders to fill other positions in various departments. Bureaucracy denies them the full freedom of exercising their power. They also have to seek the counsel of other elected leaders before carrying out major projects. They do not have the authority of making decisions and giving commands single-handedly. In some departments, non-elected leaders have more power than the elected ones do. In the end, they are unable to deliver the promises they give to citizens (Benish & Maron). For example, a leader may have pledged to upgrade healthcare facilities. However, for that to happen, a committee of governance and senators must approve the project. The Treasury must also authorize it and confirm that it has enough funds to carry out the project. There also many other departments like environmentalists, security agents, the board of medical practices, and many others that need to approve a project (Ford, Ihrke, Cherry, & Grasse). Eventually, so much money, which could have started the project already, is tied in the validation process.

The procedure is the same problem people encounter when fighting against corruption and other injustices. Even if a leader may know that some people in his government are corrupt, he has to follow a particular procedure (Lassnigg). He takes them to court, presents evidence and the case with them. In the process, the corrupt leaders will still be in the office or work in another department. They have all the time to damage or switch the evidence against them. Court proceedings take years before they are complete. The accuser has to pay for a lawyer and convince the court that they have a case, and if that is not enough, they have to wait for years to have justice served. Some cases can take more than 20 years in some countries just because of various procedures in the judicial system. In the end, the victim of crime, who is the accuser, fails to see justice prevail because of delay in administration of justice. They lose the case and have to pay for all court expenses.

Politicians also engage in corrupt activities and fail to deliver their promises to citizens (Tidey). In such a situation, the blame is on bureaucracy rather than on the politician. It is hard to hear of a leader facing prosecution for being corrupt. Corruption widens the gap between the wealthy and the poor. Once there is the misappropriation of public funds, it will be hard to improve public facilities like hospitals and schools.

It should be noted that ordinary people also experience the same problems in all systems. It is even worse when one need compensation, especially with insurance companies. They use a long procedure to delay the benefit and hope that the client loses hope of getting this money or even dies before they can pay. Just like Arendt (1971) put it, they do what they have to so that they could earn a living even if it means to do it at the expense of others. The procedure also encourages corruption. A person with money pays for their system to move faster. The poor are left to struggle with the process. Therefore, the purpose of the long process is corrupted and it does not serve the intended mission. Democracy is also not observed as supposed. Hatred comes in for that, and the poor start planning their revenge against the wealthy (Graeber,). They also begin hating bureaucracy and thinking of how they can start a revolution to bring a simpler way of doing things.

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Most people have found themselves doing the wrong things without having to think about it since bureaucracy is about following rules and policies. At first, they do the wrong thing without knowing, but later, they might get into the system without guilt. For example, a junior accountant might make money transfers to a corrupt account at first because it is an order from the senior manager and they are paid for it. They will not even know who to report to and will be afraid of losing their job. Next time, this junior accountant will be willing to perform this procedure again and benefit from it (Tidey). They will not even care that they benefit at the expense of others (Graeber). They will no longer have the guilt of doing something corrupt.

Banality of Evil

A junior employee cannot refuse to obey orders of a senior officer in a bureaucracy system. The system encourages massacre and killing of people in any way in the name of self-defense. Some people had lost their lives because they were major witnesses in a case and someone did not want to take responsibility for their actions. Therefore, they sent some police officers to carry out an execution. In the system, the boss should not be questioned by a junior; hence, they do the job as authorized. Stable countries invade weaker ones, and they use the maximum force. Soldiers kill unarmed civilians because they have to follow orders. They go back to their country and receive congratulatory messages for a job well done. For them, killing people is not their fault as they only follow instructions. They are not worried that they have treated other people like lesser beings and have killed them like spraying insects with poison. All they know is that the number of people they kill counts for their success. The use of torture to get information from a suspect is also a form of bureaucracy. The actions are what Arendt (1971) refers to as banality of evil.

In banality of evil, there is a systematic way of carrying out terrible actions. It becomes a routine for people doing them. It is like they do not have a heart or feeling for any human being. They do not believe their cries, and in fact, they do not have any psychological problems (Arendt 1971). They are just ordinary people who started doing wrong things that became a routine for them. During the trial of Adolf Eichmann, which was in Jerusalem, the man insisted that he was not guilty as he only followed orders. He said he did not have the power to decide who lived or died. He even claimed that his command to deport Jews to different countries forcefully was a way of helping them so that they could escape the massacre (Arendt, 1971). One wonders why he had to run away after Hitler had been defeated if indeed, he believed he was not guilty. One may expect such a person not to fear death as he has ordered the killing of millions of them.

It is the same case with today’s wars. The government, through the President, declares a war to a country that they feel threatens them. The President orders the defense ministry to prepare soldiers and send them to war. Countries like Iran have also managed to develop very dangerous nuclear weapons that they can use against the enemy country without considering the many innocent people who could die. Scientist says they will not use the weapon, but those who use is claim that they have a command from someone else. Nobody is ready to take responsibility for their actions, and the blame is always on someone else (Polga-Hecimovich, & Trelles). If everyone can be responsible, so many inhuman will be reduced, and the government will achieve sustainable democracy. The current justice is very slow, which has led to bureaucracy. It could have been better if democracy allowed things to move faster.


Bureaucracy has complicated the process of doing business. People have to undergo a complicated process to access facilities. Bureaucracy has developed more due to the capitalization of private facilities where the government wants the minimum amount expenses, leading to the compromise of quality. Healthcare, which should be the fastest system, also involves great deal of filling many papers with the information that might not even be used in future. The system of bureaucracy entails following orders and a rigorous process. It has led to the banality of evil as people turned to doing wrong things without guilt of the action. People have treated others like lesser beings in the name of protecting their countries and justifying the action by saying they simply follow orders. The process has led to the delay in the delivery of services to citizens. Therefore, it has made it impossible to deliver sustainable democracy, which has sled to the widening of the gap between the rich and the poor since it has not helped to defeat social ills like corruption. The government should come up with a process that will eliminate the bureaucracy in the processes where it is not necessary.

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