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Waldo Symposium

Modernity and Bureaucracy

Fred W. Riggs, University of Hawaii

In this article, Fred Riggs examines the concept of modernity (particularly in the context of industrialization, democratization, and
nationalism), and how it has helped shape the administrative
states we know today.
Industrialization has vastly expanded both the tasks assigned to
all contemporary governments and the resources (domestic and
international) placed at their disposal. This has not only
increased the needfor efficient and humane public administration, but it has also magnified the necessity fir bureaucratic
power in order to ensure competent and impartial management of
public affairs but, regrettably, it also enhances opportunities for
corruption and mismanagement.
The effect of democratization has been to replace monarchs with
representative institutions capable of controlling and directing
increasingly complex bureaucracies while ensuring officials the
autonomy and stable guidelines they need. When these institutions fail to function effectively, as they often do, public administration can collapse and, in many cases, angered public officials,
led by military officers, seize power and establish bureaucratic
polities marked by corruption and even greater inefficiency.
Nationalism has played a fiindamental role in the creation of
modern democracies. Unfortunately, however, in many countries,
including the United States, strains generated by imperial conquests and mass migrations have now created a host of inter-ethnic tensions andpitijully weak states where traditional concepts of
public administration based on assumed national unity are put to
severe tests.

Public Administration Review July/August 1997, Vol, 57, No, 4

Bureaucracy has been a fundamental institution of
government for several thousand years. All traditional empires and many premodern kingdoms developed more or less elaborate bureaucraciesthose of
the Chinese, Roman, and Ottoman Empires are
among the most familiar. As hierarchies of appointed
officials, bureaucracies were never democratic in
structure or purposethey were designed to enable
monarchs to administer domains under their authority, to expand those domains, and to protect them
from aggressive neighboring peoples. To these
ancient functions, modern democracies have added
many new tasks driven by the requisites of representative governance, industrialization, and nationalism.
Modernity, therefore, has vastly expanded the
functions of traditional bureaucracies, transforming
them into formidable dragons. The dragon of modern bureaucracy resembles traditional bureaucracy as
a form of hierarchic organization designed to dominate and control subject populations and to do so
efficiently. Its new forms evolved in the context of
modern imperialism: In order to rule their empires,
even the most democratic of the modern states developed mechanisms of colonial administration that
permitted far-away metropoles to maintain longterm domination over conquered peoples. In short,
no bureaucracies, modern or traditional, are democratic; they are instead administrative and hierarchic.
However, democratizing countries were able to
import bureaucratic structures and bring them under
popular control. Under such control, representative
governments could use bureaucracies to provide public services that have become increasingly necessary
for the populations of all modern states. However,
modern bureaucracies can also function as organs of
domination and exploitation, as we can easily see in
many countries where arbitrary and oppressive
even totalitarianregimes rely on bureaucracies to
sustain and maintain their ruthless domination. The
key variable has not been any fundamental transformation in the structure of bureaucratic organizationrather, it has involved the establishment of
new political structures able to maintain popular
control over the conduct and performance of
appointed public officials.


My purpose, here is to describe how three aspects of modernityindtistrialism, democracy, and nationalismhave impinged
on bureaucracy in the world today, especially in the liberated new
states that have emerged on the ashes of collapsed empires.


expansion was an inevitable

consequence of industrialization because it added new
tasks to the traditionalfunctions of governance.

The historical and interlocking dynamics of industrialization,

democratization, and nationalism are explored in Riggs (1994) and
I shall not repeat that discussion here. Instead, I shall focus on the
implications of each of these aspects of modernity for bureaucracy
and public administration. Let me start with the industrial revolution, whose direct implications for modern bureaucracy are obvious and stunning.
First of all, the need for complex and highly technical public
services has been vastly increased by industrialization, as has the
capacity of appointed officials to organize and arm themselves for
collective actionlet me emphasize the point that military officers
as well as civil servants are appointed officials, bureaucrats. The
growing need for their services conjoined with the new resources
(including weapons) that industrialization offers has greatly
increased the potential political power of bureaucrats, giving them
the capacity to destroy as well as to sustain the life of fragile socioeconomic systems.
One can argue that capital and capitalism (especially in city
states) is quite ancient, but industrialization, involving large-scale
production using inanimate sources of energy (coal, oil, electricity), is a modern phenomenon that requires much more than capitalism. Capitalists could only risk investing in the costly processes
of large-scale production after they had secured enough political
influence to protect their investments and to safeguard the
required means of production, sources of raw materials, and access
to widespread markets. Until the eighteenth century or even later,
they were unable to exercise such power except in their trading
cities, which land-based imperial powers tolerated in order to
secure luxury goods from remote places (Polanyi, Arensberg, and
Pearson, 1957), Industrialization could evolve only after alliances
arose between ambitious kings and merchants living in such cities.
Even the urban empires created by trading cities such as Carthage,
Venice, and Genoa lacked the mass base needed for industrializa-

long run. As national production grew, rising incomes not only

would benefit the ruling elite but also would finance growing
Bureaucratic expansion was an inevitable consequence of industrialization because it added new tasks to the traditional functions of
governance. New roles and relationships evolved in all modern
bureaucracies, including the replacement of old norms based on
honor and status with new ones oriented to efficiency and performance. Increasingly, industrialization generated new tasks for public
policy and added technological tools to the repertoire available to
public officials, provided they cotild be held accountable to reasonable standards of integrity and prevented from oppressing the growing body of wealthy and increasingly powerful industrialists. The
shift from traditional to modern modes of bureaucratic organization
and responsibility, however, was not easy and never a sure thing.

In all traditional empires, I believe, capitalists were politically
marginalized in preference to other groups whose values were
shared by the ruling elites. But as a bourgeoisie gained power, it
also gained wealth by means of the technological innovations and
investments required for large-scale production. Concurrently, the
organization of corporations protected by political allies, legal
sanctions, and social acceptance (Riggs, 1994) protected industrialists from the tendency of all preindustrial rulers and officials to
extract wealth from merchants by confiscating their goods, imposing tributes, and, above all, blocking their access to power.

Industrialization involved much more than changes in the technology of production; it also required a revolution in its organization and management. The use of modern budgeting, accounting,
and auditing methods in both private enterprise and public service
evolved interactively in the public and private sectors. Moreover,
the higher levels of production resulting from industrialization
made salaried bureaucracies feasible by raising the levels of national
income and thereby providing the necessary taxable resources. To
maintain a salaried bureaucracy, it was also necessary to establish
payroll systems outside the control of any officer's immediate superiors. Traditionally, governments often paid superiors who, in turn,
paid their subordinates part of what they received, retaining the
surplus for themselves. To sustain a payroll system, by contrast, it
became necessary to budget and plan, to improve tax collection, to
audit and evaluate performance, to determine salary scales, and to
establish all the staff (overhead) services typical of modern public

State power was needed both to protect private property and to

restrain officials from burdening entrepreneurs. The bourgeois project married public accountability to private accumulation, a project that continues to work in our own times. It involved selfrestraint by power-holders who needed to learn that by not killing
the goose that laid the golden egg they would become richer in the


In modern bureaucracies public service has come to be seen as

analogous to employment in private corporations: officials became
employees, status and honor were replaced by competence and performance. In exchange for their services, public employees were
offered more adequate wages and salaries, while prebends were outlawed. As salaries replaced prebends, bureaucrats became hired
hands. In exchange for salaries that were supposed to provide an
adequate livelihood for all incumbents, officials were to dedicate
themselves to the public service and reject supplementary sources
of income such as gifts, fees, bribes, and rents. This fundamental
transformation in the dynamics of modern bureaucracies may be
seen as a product of the industrial revolution and the new concepts
and practices of large-scale, complex organization that it created,
including the employment of many workers disciplined to carry
out complicated technological functions. The increasing productivity generated by industrialization also permitted government
revenues to increase enough to cover the rising cost of salaried state

Public Administtation Review July/August 1997, Vol, 57, No, 4

We need to understand how the institutions of

representative government can most effectively be organized
and used to impose accountability on public bureaucracies.
There is, of course, a downside to this processthe negative
aspects of modernization. Bureaucrats found that, under close
supervision and salary dependence, modern governments could
exploit them more easily than premodern regimes could. However,
they could also fight back: When officials were not well enough
rewarded for their efforts (in their own eyes) they could rebel if
they acted in concert with each other. Sometimes they organized
trade unions and demanded rights based on bargaining or striking.
When regimes denied such rights to ofFicials, they could respond
with sabotage, threatening those in power and demanding more
recognition and compensation in exchange for better performance.
When such efforts failed, they could sometimes "moonlight,"
engaging in nongovernmental activities to supplement their
incomes, even when the resulting conflicts of interest caused poorer performance of their official duties or even brought about
sinecurism based on pro forma but noneffective compliance with
their official responsibilities.
Instead of working as obedient nonpolitical public servants, a
group of bureaucratsalways headed by military officers who, of
course, monopolize the means of violence required to stage a coup
d'etatcan seize power and establish a bureaucratic polity, (i.e., a
regime dominated by appointed officials rather than by elected
representatives of the people or even by hereditary monarchs). We
typically think of such regimes as a form of military authoritarianism, but this term is misleading. Military officers are unable to
manage a government without the active support of some civil servants. Because all bureaucrats (military and civil) are vulnerable to
the same complaints and grievances when they feel abused by the
state, most coup groups include some civil servants as well as military officers. In any bureaucratic polity where, by definition,
appointed officials dominate the state, those who choose to engage
in corruption, oppression, and laziness cannot be disciplined. Thus
the quality of public administration declines even further, spurring
a vicious circle that can scarcely be arrested.
In order to make certain that modern bureaucracies serve the
needs of a whole population in a responsible way, they must not be
allowed to monopolize power, and the institutions that control
bureaucracies must not be authoritarian. Instead, responsible political institutions are needed that can effectively impose accountability on all the appointed officials of government. This leads to the
second major aspect of modernity: the rise of democratic institutions, without which modern forms of bureaucratic power permit
abuses that could not be imagined in premodern societies.

Since modern public administration is symbiotic with industrialization rather than with democracy, and since it can be used to
oppress people as well as to serve them, we need to understand
how the institutions of representative government can most effec-

Waldo Symposium: Modernity and Bureaucracy

tively be organized and used to impose accountability on public

bureaucracies. These institutions center on elected assemblies, popular elections, political parties, responsible heads of government,
and the rule of law. For students of public administration, therefore, knowledge of the requisites for successful democratic control
of a bureaucracy is just as important as understanding the internal
dynamics and management of bureaucratic institutions.
The transformation of monarchic authoritarianism into democracy, fueled by notions of popular sovereignty, majority rule, and
safeguards for minorities occurred concurrently with the rise of
industrialism and as a second leg of the triad of modernity.
Although the internal structure of bureaucracy cannot in any fundamental sense be democratized, the ability of any democratic system of government to work depends on its capacity to maintain
and control a body of officials able and willing to implement fundamental policies made outside the bureaucracy. To say this is not
to deny officials an important role in the processes of policy development and implementation: their expertise and experience is
needed if general policies are to be implemented wisely and effectively.

The basic principle of democracy as an aspect of modernity
involves the replacement of top-down monarchic authority with
bottom-up representationdominated subjects were to be
replaced by free citizens able to participate in governance and
choose their governors. However, this process rarely involved a
comprehensive political transformation. At best, many people
under a state's control were never given equal rights as citizens
they remained unrepresented. The familiar slogan of the American
Revolution (no taxation without representation) persists as an
expression of the stubborn resentment of those who are nominally
but not actually represented in the power structures of most modern so-called democracies. In the American case, conquered peoples,
imported slaves, women, and the poor were not enfranchised when
the Constitution was proclaimed, and the greatest modern powers
(including the United States) as they extended their imperial conquests, brought large numbers of subjects under their control. We
need, I think, a concept that includes the semi-democracies that
extend the rights of citizenship and representation in government
to some people but deny them to others. I use the word oligocracy
to refer to this composite form of democracy with oligarchy.
The bureaucracies serving any oligocracy experience a kind of
political schizophrenia. On the one hand, they are compelled to
respect the interests and rights of citizens who are, in principle,
their "masters." On the other hand, they can govern more or less
arbitrarily the "subjects" who are unrepresented in the polity. The
oligocratic context means that in even the most democratic polities, complete control over bureaucratic performance is never possible. Actually, even within the heartlands of modern democracies,
cynicism about the role and functions of bureaucracy often prevails. In this context, think about the New Public Administration
movement: it sought to democratize bureaucracy by inducing officials to be more responsive to the clienteles they affected and had
to work with. No doubt these efforts were extremely high-minded,
but how successful were they?


I mention this nnovement as evidence that even among specialists in American public administration, feelings of disillusionment
and despair about bureaucratic conduct are widespread in America.
How much more pervasive must antibureaucratic sentiment be
among dominated peoples, whether they are subject to imperial
control, or, after independence they fall under the rule of authoritarians, including bureaucrats (both civil servants and military officers). The fundamental problem confronting all the liberated states
was not how to redesign their modernized bureaucracies but rather
how to bring them under the effective control of responsible and
representative political institutions. How to transform domineering bureaucrats into responsible public servants was doubly daunting for countries liberated from imperial rule because the colonial
officers who had shaped their images of public administration were
never accountable to representatives of the people over whom they

Bureaucratic Modernization
A recognition that Western monarchies were replaced by
oligocracies rather than democracies may help us understand the
dynamics of modernity and bureau power. While industrialism
and democracy reinforced each other in their homelands, industrialism also powered the imperialist drive to gain control over
sources of raw materials and potential markets. Thus governments
that gained control over modern bureaucracies to meet the needs
of their citizens could also manage colonial bureaucracies designed
to maintain domination over subjects living in remote places. The
forces that led to the establishment of representative institutions at
home resisted the democratic empowerment of conquered peoples
while also undermining the vitality of their traditional political
No doubt the maintenance of effective control over bureaucracy
is a fundamental problem in all countries, but it is especially
poignant in democracies where notions of popular sovereignty lead
citizens to view officials as public servants, who should serve the
people unselfishly by providing services and implementing policies
approved by the general public through their elected representatives. Such expectations did not prevail in traditional forms of
authoritarianism, where a ruler's subjects were expected to serve the
rulers and not to demand rights of their own. The abuse of power
by appointed officials was not only expected, it was also accepted
in such environments, and this contributed to the stability of premodern forms of authoritarianism. When modernization spread to
dependent countries, however, it spread democratic norms that led
the citizens of the new states to expect their governments to respect
and meet their needs. When this did not happen, we should not be
surprised if they responded with anger and supported revolutionary movements, coups led by military officers, or revolts by
oppressed minorities.
It has never been easy in even the most democratic countries for
the organs of representative government to sustain effective control
over their bureaucracies. No doubt socialization by means of good
educational preparation and in-service training programs for public
officials can help, but on the job, do we not also need the continuotis presence of auditors and monitors who, representing the public interest, under legislative control, can reward responsible


The negative aspects of modern public administration

are most visible in the new states that are unable to
establish effective institutions of representative government.
administrators and punish delinquents?
The negative aspects of modern public administration are most
visible in the new states that are unable to establish effective institutions of representative government. However, even in the heartlands of the most democratic countries, we are becoming more
aware of the limitations of modernity, how bureaucratic authority
can be abused, and how public administration can fail to solve the
complex problems generated by industrialization. Thus democratization, as an aspect of modernization, has created great expectations of bureaucratic performance in all countries; failure to meet
these expectations now causes great disappointment.
In the context of industrialization, the need for highly professional and competent public administration has also increased
Thus, even in the staunchest of modern democracies, dissatisfaction with bureaucratic performance spreads, and the capacity of
representative institutions to monitor and inspire their bureaucracies has become increasingly problematic. The two aspects of
modernity considered so far have not advanced synchronically: In
the most industrialized countries, democratic institutions have
fared moderately well, though without total success, in gaining
control over modernized bureaucracies whose services have become
increasingly necessary. The concurrent capacity of these bureaucracies to dominate and exploit a polity, however, has expanded even
more, especially in the newly liberated countries formed under
imperial domination.

The fundamental problems of modernity, however, cannot be
fully explained by reference to the rise of industrialism and democracy, as important as these factors are. In addition, we must consider a third factor: nationalism. In the newly liberated post-imperial
states, this factor (in the form of ethnonationalism) will increasingly threaten the viability of all regimes, but, I believe, democracies
will have a better chance of solving these problems than authoritarian regimesespecially weak anarchism. The role of bureaucracies
in dealing with ethnic nationalism is decisiveabove all with
problems of representative bureaucracy.
Most writers about nationalism treat it as an independent phenomenon not linked with the other dimensions of modernity, but
in my opinion, its real significance becomes apparent only when it
is viewed as part of the broader process that started with the Peace
of Westphalia (in the middle of the seventeenth century) making
sovereignty its central slogan. This watershed event marked the
end of the Holy Roman Empire and the European myth that all
rulers were part of a single imperial and sacred hierarchy of authority and legitimacy. The new era was to be one in which sovereign
states, each with their own borders and subject populations, could
act on their own authority. Rival kings began to link their increasingly questionable sovereignty as rulers to the sovereignty of their

Public Administration Review July/August 1997, Vol. 57, No. 4

kingdoms as independent states. In the struggles that followed,

states emerged as the focus not only of international conflict but of
our understanding of society. Among the rulers, a few triumphed
over their rivals and created the "great powers" in which the industrial revolution took place, and democratization eventually became
linked, perversely, with imperialism.
The bourgeois clashes with monarchs led, as noted above, to a
new conceptualization of sovereignty: the notion that legitimate
authority should arise within a state added to the earlier emphasis
on the independence of states as a primary focus of attention. The
two ideas remain linked, however, and it is often difficult in today's
struggles for sovereignty to know which is intended. In fact, they
became conjoined in the idea of a state nation. I use the term "state
nation" to mean that state building precedes nation building. Such
a state combines its claims for independence (sovereignty) with the
idea of national homogeneity (i.e., that all citizens shareor ought
to sharean ethnic identity based on ancestry, language, religion,
and other cultural manifestations). This idea became linked with
the struggle for democracy. To replace royal sovereignty with popular sovereignty involved defining the people: Who would have the
right to create and maintain a representative government based on
the principle of majority rule?
The primary instrument for achieving national unity was the
state itself. State policies were designed to create nations. Perhaps
the most successful case was that of France, where an elite based in
Paris succeeded in creating a common language and ethos that
eventually brought most (though never all) French people within
its domain. It cannot, for example, assimilate fully all of its minority communities; nor can it absorb the Francophones living outside
France, especially in Switzerland and Belgium but also in Canada.
We need to be clear about the dynamics of this form of statedriven nationalism, which I call state nationalism. Modernity
required nationalism in order to achieve the bourgeois goals of
industrialism and democracy. Creating a national statei.e., a
state whose citizens are ethnically homogeneous^was seen by its
bourgeois energizers as a requisite both for the success of industrialization and democracy. A national state \s a kind of ideal type that
exists as a goal but is never, I think, fully realized. The slippery
term, nation state, can be a synonym for this idea, but in conventional usage, all independent states, members of the United
Nations, are classed as nation states, although they are surely not
national states.
In modern democracies, the legitimacy of representative government rests heavily on the premise that sovereignty belongs to a
nation as defmed by shared ancestry, language, religion, and culture. More than just a population of coresidents, nations are
viewed as collectivities whose members can and should govern
themselves. They have a right to exclude nonmembers or to naturalize (nationalize) them. Since no modern states began with an
ethnically unified population, their creation involved a process of
nation building, as best illustrated by the French experience.
Although France may be the most successful national state, other
countries sought the same ends. The English state created Creat
Britain, though British nationalism remains defective (and certainly the United Kingdom never became a unified nation). In the
United States, after the Civil War seriously tested American unity,
the leaders of industry and democracy in the northern states gradu-

Waldo Symposium: Modernity and Bureaucracy

ally established a sense of American nationalism and identity that

persists today despite the growing forces of ethnic diversity and
regional separatism.
By contrast, ethnic nationalism emerged on the ashes of collapsed empires where traditional forms of legitimacy were
destroyed and loyalty to the imperial state, or to its successor states,
failed to provide a unifying basis for political legitimacy. Would-be
leaders of competing ethnonational communities now strive to
gain the support of marginalized minorities and to create new
states, replacing those that now exist with newer ones, where they
in turn can become the ruling elite. Their struggles, however,
heighten the crisis of illegitimacy in the political vacuums that
have arisen between collapsed regimes and new ones that are not
yet born.
The goals of state nationalism were substantially, though never
fully, met within the contiguous territory of the great modern
states. However, they could not be realized in the conquered
domains. Instead, the goal of nationalism generated a powerful
backlash as the motor for diverse liberation movements. Activists
struggling to break the bonds of imperial control found that
nationalist slogans had tremendous popular appeal, not only in
their own lands but also among sympathizers in the imperial
metropoles whose active support helped them to succeed.
The dynamic of contemporary ethnic nationalism needs to be
contrasted with state nationalism. It arose on the ruins of the modern empires, including both the capitalist Western states and, finally, the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. The struggle for national
identity preceded state building in the imperial possessions. Ethnic
nationalism reverses the historic sequence of state nationalismit
starts with ethnic communities demanding sovereignty and seeking
to create their own states. For the most part, the conflicts among
nations that we see in the world today involve ethnonational
movements for sovereignty at the expense of existing states.
Modern state nations cultivate a sense of national identity
among their citizens by assimilating or excluding (even killing)
outsiders. By contrast, the movements for self-determination in the
imperial successor states are a modern phenomenon that promotes
resistance, even terrorism and civil wars, to achieve its goals. The
rise of ethnic nationalism is, therefore, as much a product of modernization as industrialization and democratization, the other main
aspects of modernity, and it also has profound consequences for
bureaucracy and public administration. In an earlier analysis, I
viewed these problems under the heading of poly-communalism as
an inherently "prismatic" process (Riggs, 1964, 158-64) but now, I
think we need to view it also as a modern problem generated by
Contemporary ethnic nationalism is a new phenomenon and is
a product of modernity and imperialism. No doubt primordial
sentiments and myths are exploited by the activists who lead and
shape ethnonational movements, but the dynamics of their contemporary emergence is strictly modern.
Bureaucrats in the new states often inherit the hostility previously directed at foreign imperialists. As members of dominant
minorities, they not only perpetuated many foreign practices and
attitudes associated with the former colonial administrators, but
they are also scorned as usurpers belonging to locally hated communities. The tendency to associate bureaucrats with minority


domination in new states may often be attributed to the natural

inclination of any imperial power to recruit members of disaffected
minorities to help them administer their possessions. Understandably, many if not most conquered peoples resist their conquerors
and refuse to work for them. By contrast, previously marginalized
communities in a conquered land often viewed new rulers as liberators and, in some cases, actually helped them conqueror their new
domains. Not surprisingly, those who work for the imperialists also
widen their cleavages with marginalized majority communities.
The cliche, divide and rule, reflects this situation without really
explaining its inner dynamics.
Even when the bureaucrats in new states are not actually recruited from collaborationist minorities, their role as members of a weak
and authoritarian state apparatus is enough to generate antagonisms
by various alienated communities. Moreover, when minority communities prevail among the military officers who seize power by a
coup d'dtat, ethnonational hostilities are intensified.
Consider also that the inexperience of bureaucrats in the new
states, coupled with the lack of effective political control over their
performance, means that most of these regimes have experienced
ineffective public administration coupled with anarchy, lawlessness, and widespread poverty. Poverty becomes even more unacceptable because of the conspicuous extravagances of wasteful
elites. Revolts against those in authority, whether led by revolutionary movements or by ethnonational activists, have undermined the
ability of nominal rulers to rule, weakening the ability of quasistates to govern (Jackson, 1990). Nevertheless, bureaucrats (including military officers) who are seriously threatened by such movements are capable of organizing revolts and seizing power by a
coup d'etat. Since a military-led bureaucracy lacks political legitimacy and has to rely on force to stay in power, it permits abuses in
public office that aggravate the grievances of all communities,
including cultural majorities as well as ethnic minorities, thereby
making bad situations even worse.
Although great variations between states can be found, in most
of the new regimes government bureaucracies are viewed as arrogant, oppressive, and inefficient, both as class enemies and, perhaps even more painfully, as members of dominant ethnic minorities. No doubt there are many exceptions, and some officials in
every bureaucracy are public-spirited men and women who do
their best to serve the public despite all obstacles. Nevertheless, to
the extent that negative practices and perceptions prevail, appointed officials fuel the anger felt by members of diverse communities
and provoke activists among them to lead resistance movements
and revolts. In multinational countries, some ethnic communities
have come increasingly to view other groups as enemies, especially
those who hold dominant positions in the state and its bureaucracy. Moreover, to the degree that they are unable to exercise effective
administrative control over the population or to provide necessary
public services, anarchy, crimes, ethnonational revolts, and refugee
movements seem to be the inescapable consequences of collapsed
modern empires.

Perversity of Modernization
Since all modern empires proclaimed their support for the three
basic values of industrialism, democracy, and nationalism, but were


unable or unwilling to nourish them in their conquered domains,

it is easy to see how perversely modernization has affected the new
states formed by the collapsed empires. Actually, these negative
consequences of modernization are now increasingly felt in the
heardands of the modern empires and even in neighboring democracies that never engaged in imperial conquests. The rising tide of
criminal and urban violence, drug addiction, and anomie, plus the
flow of refugees and other immigrants, may be viewed as symptomatic of the demoralization and economic consequences of the
imperial wars. Since these wars were themselves an aspect of modernization, we can simplify our analysis by viewing all these consequences as among the negative by-products of modernity. Not surprisingly, these phenomena have also undermined public
administration and deeply affected bureaucracies in the imperial
The most visible consequence can be seen in the rise of ethnonational movements in some of the most industrialized countries, not only among indigenous peoples who have long harbored
deep anger because of past injustices, but also in protest movements by women and ethnic (or racial) minorities whose members
feel that they have been victimized. In public administration, this
has led to a rising demand for more representative bureaucracy, for
the recruitment of more members of minority groups and women
into the public services, and for more sensitivity in the management of public policies to the needs of marginalized communities.
Of course, similar pressures are exercised on great corporations and
nongovernmental associations whose employment practices are
increasingly vulnerable to charges of discrimination and prejudice.

To generalize about some of the implications of modernity for
public administration and bureaucracy, consider these three
1. Maladministration, Bad management linked with industrialization (the first leg of modernity) leads to disorder, hostility
toward elites, and the collapse of good government.
2. Bureau Power, Bureaucratic domination, a widespread corollary of maladministration, promotes anarchy and blocks democratization (the second leg of modernization).
3. Authority, State nationalism built the foundation for
widespread acceptance of popular sovereignty in modern democracies, but the rise of ethnic nationalism is now eroding public
authority. Thus one of the three pillars of modernity has become
its enemy. More explicitly, nationalism validated the right of the
secularized state to appoint officials vested with the authority to
administer public policies, to enforce the law, to collect taxes, to
maintain security, and to perform many other necessary public
functions. By contrast, ethnic nationalism challenges the authority
of states and their officeholders. It encourages revolts against public officials and, by undermining their authority, it enhances lawlessness and the spread of violence.
This third aspect needs special emphasis as we approach a new
millennium in which endemic localized violence due to ethnic
nationalism in weak states will likely become increasingly pervasive, replacing the macrolevel violence between contending empires
that has characterized the recent past. During the last two cen-

Public Administration Review * July/August 1997, Vol. 57, No. 4

the manifestations ofmodernity in

bureaucracy and public administration that can be
attributed to industrialism and democratization, there is a
thirdform that undermines the legitimacy of the state
and puts all of its appointed officials in jeopardy
turies, industrialization and democratization reinforced state
nationalismwell illustrated by the processes of Americanization
whereby large numbers of immigrants came to accept themselves as
patriotic citizens and loyal Americans. The notion that public officials would serve the best interests of the nation (and its many subunits) gained widespread acceptance.
The growing distrust of government and antibureaucratic attitudes made manifest during the electoral campaigns of 1996 were
highlighted by the overt antigovernmental hostility of the
"Freemen" in Montana, who for so long confronted the FBI or the
more recent standoff with the abortive "Republic of Texas." AntiAmericanism is also growing among marginalized ethnic communities and the indigenous peoples whose members feel alienated
from America and claim sovereignty for themselves. A growing
flood of refugees and illegal immigrants will increasingly strain the
resources of public administration and heighten the fears of alienated reactionaries and protofascists whose violent reactions will further exacerbate this problem.
The American case is not exceptional, however. Comparable
beliefs now permeate the world, where an escalating number of
ethnic nations are organizing themselves to demand sovereignty
and to challenge the authority of the state (or states) in which
their members live. This aspect of modernization is strongest in

all the successor states generated by the collapse of the modern

empires (communist as well as capitalist), but its impact can also
be felt in the heartlands of these empires, including our own
My concluding observation, therefore, is that underlying the
manifestations of modernity in bureaucracy and public administration that can be attributed to industrialism and democratization,
there is a third form that undermines the legitimacy of the state
and puts all of its appointed officials in jeopardy. They must
increasingly fight not only to perform their official duties, but they
must also struggle to justify their right to do what they are doing.
No doubt efforts to make bureaucracy more representative (e.g., by
appointing more women and members of ethnic minorities and by
treating them better) will be quite helpful.
However, I believe the underlying crisis of authority has much
deeper roots. It reflects the pervasive impact of the dark side of
modernity as it manifests itself, increasingly and globally, in ugly
and inescapable forms. Because of the spread of ethnic nationalism at the expense of state nationalism, the tasks faced by public
administrators will increasingly become politicized, not in the
sense that their influence on public policies will grow^which it
well maybut rather in the deeper sense that their authority to
administer even the most widely accepted policies has been
undermined. This is a grave impact of modernity on public
administration and bureaucracy throughout the world today. It
strains the viability of constitutional democracy and hampers the
capacity of bureaucracies to manage the increasingly complex
problems of an industrializing worldtwo other dimensions of
our modern world system that must also be taken into account
when we consider the politics of modernity and bureaucratic

Fred W. Riggs is a professor emeritus of public administration
at the University of Hawaii.

Riggs, Fred W, (1964), Administration in Developing Countries: Tbe Tbeory of
Jackson, Robert (1990), Quasi-states: Sovereignty, International Relations, and
Prismatic Society. Boston: Houghton Mifflin,
tbe Tbird World. New York: Cambridge University Press,
(1994), "Ethnonationalism, Industrialism and the Modern State,"
Polanyi, Karl, Conrad M, Arensberg, and Harry W, Pearson (1957), Trade
Tbird World Quarterly 15 (4): 583-611,
and Markets in Early Empires. Glencoe, IL: Free Press,

Waldo Symposium: Modernity and Bureaucracy