Beyond Bureaucracy research glossary

This page aims to provide a very brief overview over the key terms and concepts used in Beyond Bureaucracy research. If you research interest falls into the domain of Beyond Bureaucracy, please use this terminology for a coordinated approach to fostering BB-related knowledge. Please feel free to contact me for clarifications, discussions, or suggested additions to the terms and concepts laid out in this glossary.

A. Paulin
glossary version: 2016-01-01.

Beyond Bureaucracy (BB)

Beyond Bureaucracy is an emerging trans-disciplinary field of research devoted to understanding whether or not (and if so, how) public-domain social services can be provided without the reliance on traditional forms of bureau-cratic organization. BB encompasses research devoted to understanding whether or not societal governance by bureaus fits the spirit and possibilities of the digital age, whether or not it can be surpassed by new models of societal organization, and if so, what technological and organizational approaches would support such endeavors. In this role, BB aims at strengthening democratic legitimation and the rule of law, address corruption and neo-feudalization, and foster the emergence of new information-technology-based economies.


A complex term with various context-dependent meaning, Bureaucracy as used in the scope of Beyond Bureaucracy stands for "governance (Herrschaft) by bureaus", whereby bureaus are individual organizations that provide social functions to either the society in general, or to other bureaus. Thus, Bureaucracy is to be understood as e.g. used by Downs in Inside Bureaucracy, rather than Weber's B. as a system of rational-legal authority, or the colloquial notion of B. as structured interaction with government agencies.

e-Government Jungle

The term refers to the landscape of manifold existing e-Government technical systems in existence today, which has grown over the past decades with no coordination. This lack of coordination can be observed both on national, and inter-national levels. From a technical perspective, the e-Gov jungle implies a stifling environment for independent development of technology to interact with existing e-Gov artefacts.

Feudalism (e-Governance Feudalism)

e-Governance feudalism denotes the situation in which providers of e-Gov technical systems control the technical characteristics of latter, and thus are in a position of power to control which external stakeholders can interact with these systems. If these systems assume crucical social functions, their might makes them too-big-to-fail, resulting in publicly-financed sinecures for the organizations which provide them. e-Governance feudalism is a hazard to individual freedom, economic prosperity, as well as to the legitimacy of bureaus that adhere to principles of democracy and rule of law.

Informating Governance

Governance informatization is to be understood in contrast to governance computerization: present-day e-Government focusses on computerizing social functions (or parts thereof) where information technology (IT) by means of computerization can speed-up routine tasks such as complex analyses, supervision, event-based action, or knowledge utilization. Thus, e-Government is about using IT for fostering the efficiency of individual bureaus, and for the increase of control on the government to citizen (G → C, "right-pointing") relation. This relation is, where the popular fear of the "big brother", or the hazard of neo-feudalism come into play. Informating Governance on the other hand is about the question, how IT can be used to control (steer) the action of government agencies, thus fostering the G ← C ("left-pointing") relation. Unlike mainstream e-Democracy and e-Participation, which are about increasing stakeholder involvement in policy-making processes, Informating Governance searches for technological levers for direct control over government action, in order to strenghten legitimacy of democratic social service providers.

Key-Lock Paradigm

The Key-Lock Paradigm is a reference to the principles of Self-Service Government, where an individual without moderation of government agents itself acquires eligibilities which have relevance in a given societal context. The key hereby stands for the required constellation of data, which must be aligned accordingly for the individual to be able to unlock a desired eligibility. All actions to unlock the desired status are initiated by the individual itself, rather than led / moderated by an intermediary agent.

Liquid Democracy (LD)

Liquid Democracy is a concept for collaborative decision-making, which bases on the transient delegation (and accumulation) of power through a network of participating individuals. The liquidity comes into play, as soon as the participating individuals revoke or reassign their given-away power, thus changing the power relations within the network. The objects of thus liquid-democratically made decisions could be e.g. public policies, laws, budget allocations, or judgements; however LD could be used as well for concrete assignment of societal and political positions of power, or a more direct distribution of taxes. LD as an idea is pre-dating the digital age, but can only now be realized technologically. Sustainable Non-Bureaucratic Government is a model, which proposes a LD-enabled self-governed society.

Self-Service Government

Self-Service Government refers to the ability of citizens to change the characteristics and extent of their legal subjectivity within a society without foreign mediation. This ability presumes an underlying technological system containing information (data) on or about the particular citizen, and a system of requirements, which these data must fulfil in order to enable the citizen to modify the set of information stored in the first system to such degree, that the desired change in the characteristics of its subjectivity can be conducted. This way, an elected mayor, for example, could instantly assume its mandate, without relying on an intermediery commission which would formally bestow power upon him. The "unlocking" principle of Self-Service Government is described as the Key-Lock Paradigm in reference to a pin-tumbler lock, where the pins (the data) need to be aligned properly in order to allow the key to unlock the desired change of one's subjectivity. This principle is applied in Sustainable Non-Bureaucratic Government to eliminate intermediary agents, which can pose a hazard to legitimacy through corruption and errors.

Sustainable Non-Bureaucratic Government (SNBG)

Sustainable Non-Bureaucratic Government combines the Key-Lock Paradigm from Self-Service Government and Liquid Democracy to draft a model of a society, in which both collaborative action and the empowerment of individuals is conducted in a self-service matter. SNBG thus encompasses the principle of Governance Informatization to draft a society in which intermediary agents become redundant and can be ommitted in order to increase efficiency and legitimacy of governance bodies.