I must add here that bureaucracy is not a bad word per se! It’s just a word meaning government, essentially—and particularly administration rather than elected representatives, and thus necessary. Weber said it is highly effective (although a threat to individual liberty if taken too far, obvs.) It has developed negative connotations largely for ideological reasons (small government; it’s kinda French-sounding etc.) It could be reclaimed. Government is one of our greatest inventions (if we were to tally up all of its achievements), and as you point out, there’s a danger that such ideological approaches lead to governments “putting themselves out of business”. I think that’d be disastrous. We need to reshape and reinvent, for sure, but we may even find we need more government in future; just working in different ways. As Marco Steinberg said, we have 19th century institutions facing 21st century problems. I’d say the answer—again, as you note—is that we need 21st century institutions—as opposed to no institutions at all. Or we might even say ‘21st century bureaucracy’. That would be interesting to sketch out (as we did a bit, earlier this year!)

Designer, urbanist, etc. Director of Strategic Design at Vinnova, Swedish govt’s innovation agency. Visiting prof UCL Bartlett IIPP + Design Academy Eindhoven

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