Since, in its essence, the bureaucracy is a ‘State as formalism’, it is the same in its aims as well... . The spirit of bureaucracy is the ‘formal spirit of the State’. Therefore it transforms the ‘formal spirit of the State’, or the actual soullessness of the State, into a categorical imperative. The bureaucracy considers itself the ultimate aim of the State. . . . It . .. is forced to present the formal as content, and content for something that is formal. . .. The bureaucracy is a circle from which nobody can escape. Its hierarchy is a hierarchy of knowledge. These superiors rely on the lower circles in everything concerning the knowledge of particulars; the lower circles trust their superiors in everything that concerns an understanding of the universal, and thus they mislead each other.... The universal spirit of bureaucracy is a mystery, a sacrament. Observance of this sacrament is ensured in its own midst by its hierarchical organisation and, with regard to the outer world, by its exclusive corporative character. . . . Authority . . . is the principle of its knowledge, and the deiﬁcation of authority is its mode of thought. In its own midst, however, spiritualism turns into gross materialism, into a materialism of blind subordination, of a belief in authority, a mechanism of ﬁrmly established formal action, of ready-made principles, views and traditions. . . . The bureaucracy must strive to make life as materialistic as possib1e. . . . To the bureaucrat himself, actual life, i.e., inasmuch as it becomes an object of his bureaucratic activity, is material, since the spirit of that life is preordained to that activity, its aim lies outside its boundaries,’and its being is that of the chancellery. Actual science is seen by the bureaucrat as empty of content, just as actual life seems dead to him, since that imaginary knowledge and imaginary life are accepted by him as the essence itself. . . . If, on the one hand, the bureaucracy is an incarnation of gross materialism, on the other, it reveals its just as gross spiritualism in its wishing to create everything, i.e., it elevates volition to a causa prima, since its existence ﬁnds expression only in such activity whose,content is received by “the bureaucracy from without; consequently, only through the formation of that content, through its restriction, can it prove its existence, To, the bureaucrat the world is simply an object of his activity.
SOURCE: Cited as: Marx/Engels, Werke, Bd. I, S. 248-50; in H. S. Batishchev, “Primary and Secondary Figures in the Process of Alienation According to Marx,” translated by Julius Katzer, in Karl Marx and Modern Philosophy: Collection of Articles (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1968), pp. 235-6.
Since the bureaucracy according to its essence is the state as formalism, so too it is according to its end. The real end of the state thus appears to the bureaucracy as an end opposed to the state. The mind of the bureaucracy is the formal mind of the state. It therefore makes the formal mind of the state, or the real mindlessness of the state, a categorical imperative. The bureaucracy asserts itself to be the final end of the state. Because the bureaucracy makes its formal aims its content, it comes into conflict everywhere with the real aims. Hence it is obliged to present what is formal for the content and the content for what is formal. The aims of the state are transformed into aims of bureaus, or the aims of bureaus into the aims of the state. The bureaucracy is a circle from which no one can escape. Its hierarchy is a hierarchy of knowledge. The highest point entrusts the understanding of particulars to the lower echelons, whereas these, on the other hand, credit the highest with an understanding in regard to the universal; and thus they deceive one another.
The bureaucracy is the imaginary state alongside the real state; it is the spiritualism of the state. As a result everything has a double meaning, one real and one bureaucratic, just as knowledge is double, one real and one bureaucratic (and the same with the will). A real thing, however, is treated according to its bureaucratic essence, according to its otherworldly, spiritual essence. The bureaucracy has the being of the state, the spiritual being of society, in its possession; it is its private property. The general spirit of the bureaucracy is the secret, the mystery, preserved inwardly by means of the hierarchy and externally as a closed corporation. To make public -the mind and the disposition of the state appears therefore to the bureaucracy as a betrayal of its mystery. Accordingly authority is the principle of its knowledge and being, and the deification of authority is its mentality. But at the very heart of the bureaucracy this spiritualism turns into a crass materialism, the materialism of passive obedience, of trust in authority, the mechanism of an ossified and formalistic behaviour, of fixed principles, conceptions, and traditions. As far as the individual bureaucrat is concerned, the end of the state becomes his private end: a pursuit of higher posts, the building of a career. In the first place, he considers real life to be purely material, for the spirit of this life has its separate existence in the bureaucracy. Thus the bureaucrat must make life as materialistic as possible. Secondly, real life is material for the bureaucrat, i.e . in so far as it becomes an object of bureaucratic action, because his spirit is prescribed for him, his end lies outside of him, his existence is the existence of the bureau. The state, then, exists only as various bureau-minds whose connection consists of subordination and dumb obedience. Real knowledge appears to be devoid of content just as real life appears to be dead, for this imaginary knowledge and life pass for what is real and essential. Thus the bureaucrat must use the real state Jesuitically, no matter whether this Jesuitism be conscious or unconscious. But given that his antithesis is knowledge, it is inevitable that he likewise attain to self-consciousness and, at that moment, deliberate Jesuitism. While the bureaucracy is on one hand this crass materialism, it manifests its crass spiritualism in its will to do everything, i.e., in its making the will the causa prima, for it is pure active existence which receives its content from without; thus it can manifest its existence only through forming and restricting this content. The bureaucrat has the world as a mere object of his action.
SOURCE: Marx, Karl. “Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right” (1843), Part 3: The Executive §§ 287-297 a. The Bureaucracy; translated by Annette Jolin and Joseph O’Malley (Cambridge University Press, 1970).
Since by its very nature the bureaucracy is the "state as formalism", it is this also as regards its purpose. The actual purpose of the state therefore appears to the bureaucracy as an objective hostile to the state. The spirit of the bureaucracy is the "formal state spirit". The bureaucracy therefore turns the "formal state spirit" or the actual spiritlessness of the state into a categorical imperative. The bureaucracy takes itself to be the ultimate purpose of the state. Because the bureaucracy turns its "formal" objectives into its content, it comes into conflict everywhere with "real" objectives. It is therefore obliged to pass off the form for the content and the content for the form. State objectives are transformed into objectives of the department, and department objectives into objectives of the state. The bureaucracy is a circle from which no one can escape. Its hierarchy is a hierarchy of knowledge. The top entrusts the understanding of detail to the lower levels, whilst the lower levels credit the top with understanding of the general, and so all are mutually deceived.
The bureaucracy is the imaginary state alongside the real state—the spiritualism of the state. Each thing has therefore a double meaning, a real and a bureaucratic meaning, just as knowledge (and also the will) is both real and bureaucratic. The really existing, however, is treated in the light of its bureaucratic nature, its other-worldly, spiritual essence. The bureaucracy has the state, the spiritual essence of society, in its possession, as its private property. The general spirit of the bureaucracy is the secret, the mystery, preserved within itself by the hierarchy and against the outside world by being a closed corporation. Avowed political spirit, as also political-mindedness, therefore appear to the bureaucracy as treason against its mystery. Hence, authority is the basis of its knowledge, and the deification of authority is its conviction. Within the bureaucracy itself, however, spiritualism becomes crass materialism, the materialism of passive obedience, of faith in authority, of the mechanism of fixed and formalistic behaviour, and of fixed principles, views and traditions. In the case of the individual bureaucrat, the state objective turns into his private objective, into a chasing after higher posts, the making of a career. In the first place, he looks on actual life as something material, for the spirit of this life has its distinctly separate existence in the bureaucracy. The bureaucracy must therefore proceed to make life as material as possible. Secondly, actual life is material for the bureaucrat himself, i.e., so far as it becomes an object of bureaucratic manipulation; for his spirit is prescribed for him, his aim lies beyond him, and his existence is the existence of the department. The state only continues to exist as various fixed bureaucratic minds, bound together in subordination and passive obedience. Actual knowledge seems devoid of content, just as actual life seems dead; for this imaginary knowledge and this imaginary life are taken for the real thing. The bureaucrat must therefore deal with the actual state jesuitically, whether this Jesuitry is conscious or unconscious. However, once its antithesis is knowledge, this Jesuitry is likewise bound to achieve self-consciousness and then become deliberate Jesuitry.
Whilst the bureaucracy is on the one hand this crass materialism, it manifests its crass spiritualism in the fact that it wants to do everything, i.e., by making the will the causa prima. For it is purely an active form of existence and receives its content from without and can prove its existence, therefore, only by shaping and restricting this content. For the bureaucrat the world is a mere object to be manipulated by him.
SOURCE: Marx, Karl. “Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law,” in Karl Marx Frederick Engels Collected Works, Volume 3: Karl Marx, March 1843-August 1844 (Lawrence & Wishart, 2010), pp. 47-8.
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