Most of the empirical literature on the school as a complex organisation has been inspired by the Weberian ideal-type of bureaucratic administration. This has not, however, derived from Weber's original formulation but rather through the adaptation, if not the reification, of this constructed type by Parsons and other system theorists. The result has been a tendency to ignore Weber's basic principle that the concrete historical reality is of such infinite diversity and individuality that it cannot be grasped in terms of any abstract system. Instead we have the incorporation of the causal, evolutionary and systemic aspects of Weberian sociology into a functionalist model of regulation. The gradual transmutation of the Weberian ‘ideal type’ is not, however, of immediate concern since the functionalist model came to the sociology of the school in its mature form. It is only in recent years that the critique of this model for school organisation in the terms of Weber's original formulation has been developed (Greenfield, 1975; Gray, 1982). To the extent that Weber's writings on the bureaucratic ‘ideal type’ have provided the guidelines for an objectivist, system-oriented approach to school organisation, we will explore the following questions:

How did Weber characterise the bureaucratic pattern of administration?

How has this formulation been applied to the empirical study of the school?

To what extent the Weberian ‘ideal type’ be adapted to fit the peculiar characteristics of the school as a bureaucracy?