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Cages of Reason

The Rise of the Rational State in France, Japan, the United States, and Great Britain

Blending political, historical, and sociological analysis, Bernard S. Silberman offers a provocative explanation for the bureaucratic development of the modern state. The study of modern state bureaucracy has its origins in Max Weber’s analysis of the modes of social domination, which Silberman takes as his starting point.

Whereas Weber contends that the administration of all modern nation-states would eventually converge in one form characterized by rationality and legal authority, Silberman argues that the process of bureaucratic rationalization took, in fact, two courses. One path is characterized by permeable organizational boundaries and the allocation of information by "professionals." The other features well-defined boundaries and the allocation of information by organizational rules. Through case studies of France, Japan, the United States, and Great Britain, Silberman demonstrates that this divergence stems from differences in leadership structure and in levels of uncertainty about leadership succession in the nineteenth century.

Silberman concludes that the rise of bureacratic rationality was primarily a response to political problems rather than social and economic concerns. Cages of Reason demonstrates how rationalization can have occurred over a wide range of cultures at various levels of economic development. It will be of considerable interest to readers in a number of disciplines: political science, sociology, history, and public administration.

"Silberman has produced an invaluable, densely packed work that those with deep knowledge of public administrative development will find extremely rewarding." —David H. Rosenbloom, American Political Science Review

"An erudite, incisive, and vibrant book, the product of intensive study and careful reflection. Given its innovative theoretical framework and the wealth of historical materials contained in it, this study will generate debate and stimulate research in sociology, political science, and organizational theory. It is undoubtedly the best book on the comparative evolution of the modern state published in the last decade."—Mauro F. Guillen, Contemporary Sociology

495 pages | 31 tables | 6 x 9 | © 1993

Political Science: Comparative Politics

Sociology: Individual, State and Society

Table of Contents

Pt. 1: Bureaucratic Structure as a Contingent Problem
1: Organization Theory and Bureaucratic Structure
2: Political Uncertainty, Leadership Succession, and the Modes of Administration
3: The Strategies of Uncertainty
Pt. 2: Strategies of High Uncertainty
4: Revolutionary Change and Structural Ambiguity: The Revolutionary and Napoleonic Transformations
5: The Post-Napoleonic Period
6: The Meiji Restoration as the Revolutionary Moment
7: The Resolution of Revolutionary Uncertainty and the Imperial State
Pt. 3: Strategies of Low Uncertainty
The United States
8: Political Parties, Patronage, and Administration
9: Political Leadership, Party Contestation, and Reform: 1865-1925
Great Britain
10: Parliament, the Crown, and the Problem of Patronage
11: Patronage, Representation, and Administrative Reform
12: "The Efficient Secret": Administrative Rationalization and the Executive

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