Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Production of Bureaucracy/Bureaucracies of Production: Understanding formal organisation on and off screen

Maclean, Gavin



The post-2016 conjuncture can be viewed in terms of an anti-bureaucratic romanticism in parts of the Global North (Lopdrup-Hjorth and Du Gay, 2020). The votes for Brexit in the UK and the rise of right-wing populists, such as Donald Trump, can be closely associated with rhetoric that attempts to break with bureaucratic organisation. The rise of these populist leaders is intricately connected to the medium of television through the creation and legitimation of these individuals as public figures. Post/anti bureaucratic romanticism is represented on screen with popular programmes such as Line of Duty and The Good Fight offering depictions of bureaucracy, legitimacy and due process that feed into or represent anti-bureaucratic sentiment. Within the cultural industries, post-bureaucratic principles have provided the basis for the organisation of television productions with the rise of ‘flexible’ project-based work in the 1990s with the industries having apparently moved on from bureaucratic forms of organisation. This has led to a situation where informal organisation dominates the industries where social capital is increasingly important in getting jobs (Blair, 2001; Lee, 2011; Grugulis and Stoyanova, 2012). These changes have acted to concentrate jobs in the hands of white, male, middle class workers. The abuses reported through the #MeToo movement reflect a ‘sugar daddy capitalism’ (Fleming, 2019) where the increasing unaccountable personal power of gatekeepers in informal organisations act to perpetuate abuse. Despite seeming to disappear from view with this increased informal organisation, bureaucracy does continue to be a central feature of production within the cultural industries. Logics of bureaucratic cultural production – such as genres, formatting decisions and hierarchies of creative management – continue to imbue productions with bureaucratic decision making (Hesmondhalgh, 2019; Ryan, 1992). Using the lens of bureaucracy to frame the current conjuncture and drawing on organisational sociology and cultural theory, this paper seeks to connect bureaucracies of production with their representation on screen. Bureaucracy is a continuing feature of cultural production and a key feature of productions in this age. Illustrated through the examples of bureaucratic production, productions such as Line of Duty and sports broadcasting on TV, this paper argues that how bureaucracy is represented and how bureaucracy produces these representations give important insight into our current conjuncture.


Maclean, G. (2022, June). Production of Bureaucracy/Bureaucracies of Production: Understanding formal organisation on and off screen. Paper presented at Critical Studies in Television Slow Conference, Edge Hill University [online]

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (unpublished)
Conference Name Critical Studies in Television Slow Conference
Conference Location Edge Hill University [online]
Start Date Jun 27, 2022
End Date Jul 15, 2022
Deposit Date Jul 11, 2022
Public URL