Neutrality of Bureaucracy:
Weber was one of the earliest thinkers to conceptualize the neutrality of the bureaucracy. After him, a large number of scholars came forward to advocate and theorize bureaucratic neutrality.
A Neutral Bureaucracy stands identified with several qualities like expertise, impartiality, stability, and anonymity.
Fritz Morstein Marx looks at bureaucratic neutrality from two angles-negative and positive. Negatively administrative neutrality does not mean an Ostrich-like withdrawal of the directing cadre from the arena of governmental choice. Policy, programme, and management pose countless issues on which the higher civil servant are obliged to come forth with their best judgements. They fail to do their duties if they try to wash their hands of these questions. They have to warrant for simply passing them to the politicians, without first contributing their special competence for professional analysis. Positively, administrative neutrality means acceptance of the discipline of work without reservation. It also means working with devotion for the success of every government lawfully in power. Conversely, it carries with it a prohibition. “Permanent officers cannot allow themselves so intimate an identification with a particular policy or programme as to create for them an emotional disability when it comes to turning in the opposite direction under a different government.”
According to Joseph La Palombara “Neutrality of the Bureaucracy means that the administrator should not become involved in factional fights, either among political parties or within the dominant party. It means a conscious, continuous effort to steer clear of ‘politics’ however manifested.”
In most societies, the neutrality of three kinds is considered very important:
(1) Neutrality Between Classes- The society is made up of several classes, such as the landlords, capitalists, traders, professionals, clergy, and workers. The government is expected to take care of the interests of each one of these classes and to allocate resources to them in an equitable way. The bureaucracy is the government’s main instrument and must remain neutral between classes if justice is to be done. The conflict between classes is greater in developing countries because there are greater disparities between a few rich and millions who continue to starve. Hence, intervention by the government becomes essential for securing the welfare of the poor, and their protection from exploitation. The neutrality of the bureaucracy is also a vital need because of its desired role in helping to bring about development. A neutral bureaucracy is bound to be more capable of concentrating on the task of implementing developmental policies, plans, and programmes. To sum up, we can say that bureaucratic neutrality means an impartial and objective view of the class structure of society. The bureaucracy can be considered neutral if it remains above class distinctions and carries out its work with objective dedication with a view to secure an equitable distribution of goods and services to all the people in accordance with the declared and enacted policies and decisions of the ruling party. The bureaucracy helps the party in power, whichever it may be, to carry out its social policy as translated into law.
(2) Neutrality Between Cultural Groups- A society, like the one in which we are living, consists of several groups based on religion, caste, language, and region. Even in the USA, society is divided between black and white groups. While all these groups have many common interests, they are also in conflict with each other in one way or the other. The administration, i.e., the bureaucracy which runs the administration, is required to hold the balance between these groups. It can play this role by treating all these groups as equally important and working for serving their interests. Since the conflict between such cultural groups operating in a society is more in developing countries than in developed countries, the need for and significance of bureaucratic neutrality is greater in the former. Here, the bureaucracy is to harmonize and secure the interests of all groups of people.
(3) Neutrality Between Political Parties- The struggle for power among political parties is a natural and essential characteristic of a democratic system. Elections are contested by political parties with a view to capturing power by winning the majority. Each political party contests elections on the basis of an election manifesto, which gives an account of the policies that would be implemented in case the political party happens to get a popular mandate, i.e. the majority of seats in the legislature. Each political party puts forward its manifesto before the people and tries to influence the people in its favor. It projects the policies contained in the election manifesto as the policies which can serve best the interests of the people. The victory of a party in elections means that its manifesto stands accepted by the people i.e. it gets the mandate to implement the policies contained in the election manifesto. After assuming power, the political party takes steps- legislative, executive, and administrative- for getting its mandate implemented. In this exercise, bureaucracy provides great help. It acts as the main instrument for implementing the policies and programmes of the government. It can perform this function efficiently only when it acts neutrally and impartially. Any bias can be a hindrance. Since political power keeps on changing hands from one party to another, only a neutral bureaucracy can adjust with such a system. It is, therefore, imperative that bureaucracy should practice neutrality in its relation with political parties. A politically or ideologically committed bureaucracy cannot be expected to act out its role efficiently at all times. It should have a commitment to neutrality and other values of a high work standard, and not to an ideology are a political party.
While discussing the concept of neutrality, it must be recognized and accepted that neutrality is a state of mind and a psychological attitude. Thee can be no effective law or rule that can produce it or ensure its presence. Civil servants have to willingly and consciously adopt it, practice it, and maintain it during the course of their administrative work. Neutrality has to be accepted and cultivated as a tradition or convention. It must form a feature of the administrative conscience. In fact, neutrality has to be a part and parcel of the integrity of each civil servant.
Why is Neutrality Desired?
Neutrality of the public service is a tradition, whose roots can be traced to the administrative systems of Britain, Switzerland Canada, Australia, and several other countries of the world. The ideal of neutrality stands accepted in India also.
The Neutrality of the Bureaucracy is a characteristic of Weber’s concept of Idle Bureaucracy. But in such a perfect form, it is found only in a few countries. However, most democratic countries accept the neutrality of the bureaucracy as a principal quality of their administrative staff.
The basic assumptions behind the concept of a Neutral Bureaucracy have been as under:
(1) It is the product of the Merit System of Recruitment. This system secures a neutral and apolitical public service.
(2) The advantages of permanence, continuity, reliability, and professionalism, which are present in a neutral bureaucracy, far outweigh and neutralize its disadvantages, i.e. conservation, reluctance to depart from routine, and preference for incremental changes instead of obstructing public policy.
(3) A neutral bureaucracy is in a position to adjust better with political changes, particularly, with the changes in the rulers.
(4) A neutral bureaucracy is better equipped to deal objectively with the demands for socioeconomic development of all sections or classes or groups of people.
(5) Neutrality of the Bureaucracy helps the process of growth of a healthy and efficient bureaucracy because political impartiality helps it to concentrate on its own work.
(6) A Neutral Bureaucracy is helpful in maintaining continuing in administration. It helps the political executive to objectively know the past and to take decisions in the interest of the nation.
To sum up, it can be said that in a democratic system where the government keeps on changing at regular intervals and where the popular will keeps on changing, a neutral bureaucracy, in its positive form- politically, neutral, and committed to upholding the values of objectivity impartiality, the code of conduct and morally valid values act as a vital source of strength for an efficient functioning of the Government of this state.