COB-18: bureaucratic arts

unrealistic bureau

In our continual efforts to increase appreciation for bureaucratic arts, we visited the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The art was generally well-labeled and neatly organized. The most important work in the Gallery was a wood cabinet entitled Bureau of Bureaucracy. The Bureau of Bureaucracy was large and intricately crafted, and included various hardwoods, a hierarchy of polished brass, and some gold-leafed sections. If you spent enough time with it, you could also recognize some mother-of-pearl.

realistic file cabinet

We applaud the enormous amount of time that artist Kim Schmahmann obviously spent producing this work. But his work would have benefited from more time spent actually working in a bureaucracy, rather than merely working with bureaucracies. In short, his art is totally unrealistic. While Schmahmann clearly appreciates the importance of processing documents, his work lacks visible piles of documents. His artist’s statement and work description indicates that one can interact in detail and in depth with the Bureau of Bureaucracy. But in actual Gallery operation, the Bureau is labeled “Please do not touch.”

Another part of the label for the Bureau of Bureaucracy states:

A model of the main reading room in the Library of Congress represents the benevolent power of collected papers. On the adjacent panel, a collection of books invites us to reflect on the dangers of bureaucracy run amok: the titles Power and Rationality sit firmly on the shelf, while Humanity teeters on the brink.

If humanity is teetering on the brink, there’s a need for government intervention. Government bureaucrats are here and ready to help.

As usual, the Carnival of the Bureaucrats received an array of submissions that did not conform to the carnival regulations. These included posts about presidential candidates (politicians are NOT bureaucrats), a “naughty little liberal” declaring his love for “conservative dominatrix” Ann Coulter (this is the Carnival of the Bureaucrats, NOT Facebook), and various posts about how to make or save money (while bureaucrats are generally underpaid, financial advice does NOT satisfy this Carnival’s regulations). These posts have accordingly been tentatively rejected. Parties may file for reconsideration.

Among other submissions, Anna Farmery at the Engaging Brand Blog reports about a bureaucratic leader and declares, “Here is a leader with a strong track record…..and yet he found inspiration in a library.” That’s not at all surprising. Bureaucrats find collections of documents inspiring.

Leah Price posts at the NY Times Book Review about changing attitudes toward reading over the centuries. She writes:

The file, the list, the label, the memo; these are the genres that will keep reading alive. Whatever happens to the novel, we’ll always need a rule book.

Absolutely true. We are pleased that bright young scholars are moving into the field of bureaucracy and administration. A grad student should think about the trend toward administration when thinking about her or his scholarly career.

The Ode Street Tribune reports that the officials had an excellent Bookjammin’ Basketball Tournament. Without regulation, there is no game.

John in Carolina discusses responses to a recent journalism professor’s proposal for the news industry to regulate online journalism. Most journalists work in organizations that have been outstanding bureaucracies for a half-century or longer. We have complete confidence in journalism school deans’ abilities to arrange meetings. Nonetheless, we fear that traditional news organizations and supporting bureaucracies do not have sufficient staff to regulate bloggers around the world. We look forward to future reports addressing staff planning.

That’s all for this month’s Carnival of the Bureaucrats. Submit your blog article to the next edition using our carnival submission form. Submissions should conform to the Carnival regulations. Past posts and future hosts can be found on the Carnival index page.

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