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Bureaucracy and racism : their interrelationship a case study of the co-operative home for Indian women Kelgard, Daphne Sylvia

Abstract

Studies of bureaucracy are predominantly studies of structural frameworks. Bureaucratic structures are not seen to be vehicles of ideological expression. They are more commonly viewed as either neutralizing or as neutral instruments. The argument has been made that rational-legal bureaucracies can act as de-politicizing agents, actually preventing even the possibility of the expression of individual prejudice. Critics of this position argue the possibility of interference by functionaries but support the assumption that the structure should ideally be a neutral one. They turn their attention to ways of preventing functionaries from subverting this ideal. If one considers the ideological perspective to be primary rather than the ideal construct, it then becomes clear that all the structures are infused with the prevailing ideologies of the society. Further, the individual actors within the structures will, consciously or unconsciously, act on these ideological perspectives. The phenomenon of racism is also not commonly treated as an ideology. The more usual treatment of racism is as aberrant behaviour by a limited number of individuals in the society. If one examines the structural bases of racist behaviour rather than its particularistic expressions, it becomes evident that racism is an ideology. The racist actions singled out as deviant behaviour are only the overt manifestations. The covert manifestations are institutionalized and usually unconscious, making them less obvious. These two hypotheses, that bureaucratic organizations play an important role in the preservation and dissemination of the society's prevailing ideologies, and that racism is a predominant ideology in all capitalist societies, are coupled with a third. This hypothesis is that the belief in the efficacy and neutrality of bureaucratic organization is sufficiently strong in the. society and its members that it serves to mask the presence of other ideological practices. These three hypotheses were developed in the process of analyzing a voluntary project, the Co-operative Home for Indian Women in which I was a participant. The material presented here is drawn from records and documents in my possession. As I possess virtually all the extant material from the project begun in 1965 and abruptly ended in 1967, I have given as full a history of the Home as possible, including extensive quotations from the unpublished documentation. The failure of the Co-operative Home was attributed to differing perceptions of the utility of rational-legal bureaucratic practices by all the parties to the eventual dispute which caused the closure of the Home. The documentary evidence strongly indicates that the closure of the Home was due to the presence of racist ideology which was masked by disagreements over bureaucratic methods. From these conclusions, more tentative conclusions are drawn concerning the presence of racist ideology in most organizational structures, complex and simple, in any society which perpetuates the exploitation of a group of people identifiable as a "race".

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