Rationalization of Modern Life Essay

March 8, 2022
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Rationalization of Modern Life Essay

Rationalization of Modern Life Essay

• The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism [1905] o Introduction by Anthony Giddens and the Author’s Introduction
o Ch 1-3 Breaking it down:
What does Weber mean by rationalization and by modern Western Bourgeois Capitalism [Introduction] What is the spirit of capitalism? [Ch 1-2] What is the Protestant Ethic? The difference between Luther and Calvin? [Ch 3-4] What is the connection between the Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism? What is the difference between the origins of the Capitalist DOL and its reproduction? [Ch 5] As discussion leaders

1) Create a handout. The handout should be a “study guide” that will help classmates prepare for exams and our class discussion.
(2) Prepare a ppt presentation on one or more key concepts in this reading. You cannot cover everything, but you can offer us a coherent angle on the readings.

**topics or questions arising from the week’s reading. You might pull out specific passages to comment on or pull out what you see as a key concept, idea, or argument from the reading.

(3) Offer the group 4-7 discussion questions.

In sociology, rationalization (or rationalisation) is the replacement of traditions, values, and emotions as motivators for behavior in society with concepts based on rationality and reason. For example, the implementation of bureaucracies in government is a kind of rationalization, as is the construction of high-efficiency living spaces in architecture and urban planning. A potential reason as to why rationalization of a culture may take place in the modern era is the process of globalization. Countries are becoming increasingly interlinked, and with the rise of technology, it is easier for countries to influence each other through social networking, the media and politics. An example of rationalization in place would be the case of witch doctors in certain parts of Africa. Whilst many locals view them as an important part of their culture and traditions, development initiatives and aid workers have tried to rationalize the practice in order to educate the local people in modern medicine and practice.[citation needed]

Many sociologists, critical theorists and contemporary philosophers have argued that rationalization, falsely assumed as progress, has had a negative and dehumanizing effect on society, moving modernity away from the central tenets of Enlightenment.[1] The founders of sociology had critical reaction to rationalization:

Marx and Engels associated the emergence of modern society above all with the development of capitalism; for Durkheim it was connected in particular with industrialization and the new social division of labour which this brought about; for Weber it had to do with the emergence of a distinctive way of thinking, the rational calculation which he associated with the Protestant Ethic (more or less what Marx and Engels speak of in terms of those ‘icy waves of egotistical calculation’).

Rationalization formed a central concept in the foundation of classical sociology, particularly with respect to the emphasis the discipline placed – by contrast with anthropology – on the nature of modern Western societies. The term was presented by the profoundly influential German antipositivist Max Weber, though its themes bear parallel with the critiques of modernity set forth by a number of scholars. A rejection of dialectism and sociocultural evolution informs the concept.

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Weber demonstrated rationalization in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, in which the aims of certain Protestant Theologies, particularly Calvinism, are shown to have shifted towards rational means of economic gain as a way of dealing with their ‘salvation anxiety’. The rational consequences of this doctrine, he argued, soon grew incompatible with its religious roots, and so the latter were eventually discarded. Weber continues his investigation into this matter in later works, notably in his studies on bureaucracy and on the classifications of authority. In these works he alludes to an inevitable move towards rationalization.[3]

Weber believed that a move towards rational-legal authority was inevitable. In charismatic authority, the death of a leader effectively ends the power of that authority, and only through a rationalized and bureaucratic base can this authority be passed on. Traditional authorities in rationalized societies also tend to develop a rational-legal base to better ensure a stable accession. (See also: Tripartite classification of authority)

What Weber depicted was not only the secularization of Western culture, but also and especially the development of modern societies from the viewpoint of rationalization. The new structures of society were marked by the differentiation of the two functionally intermeshing systems that had taken shape around the organizational cores of the capitalist enterprise and the bureaucratic state apparatus. Weber understood this process as the institutionalization of purposive-rational economic and administrative action. To the degree that everyday life was affected by this cultural and societal rationalization, traditional forms of life – which in the early modern period were differentiated primarily according to one’s trade – were dissolved.

— Jürgen Habermas’s Modernity’s Consciousness of Time, [1] Whereas in traditional societies such as feudalism governing is managed under the traditional leadership of, for example, a queen or tribal chief, modern societies operate under rational-legal systems. For example, democratic systems attempt to remedy qualitative concerns (such as racial discrimination) with rationalized, quantitative means (for example, civil rights legislation). Weber described the eventual effects of rationalization in his Economy and Society as leading to a “polar night of icy darkness”, in which increasing rationalization of human life traps individuals in an “iron cage” (or “steel-hard casing”) of rule-based, rational control.

Jürgen Habermas has argued that understanding rationalization properly requires going beyond Weber’s notion of rationalization. It requires distinguishing between instrumental rationality, which involves calculation and efficiency (in other words, reducing all relationships to those of means and ends), and communicative rationality, which involves expanding the scope of mutual understanding in communication, the ability to expand this understanding through reflective discourse about communication, and making social and political life subject to this expanded understanding.

It is clear that in The Theory of Communicative Action Weber is playing something like the role that Hegel played for Marx. Weber, for Habermas, must be not so much stood on his head (or put back the right way up) as persuaded to stand on two legs rather than one, to support his theory of modernity with more systematic and structural analyses than those of the (purposive-rational) rationalization of action … Weber ‘parts company with a theory of communicative action’ when he defines action in terms of the actor attaching a subjective meaning to it. He does not elucidate “meaning” in connection with the model of speech; he does not relate it to the linguistic medium of possible understanding, but to the beliefs and intentions of an acting subject, taken to being with in isolation. This leads him to his familiar distinction between value-rational, purposive-rational, traditional and affectual action. What Weber should have done instead was to concentrate not on orientations of action but on the general structures of the lifeworld to which acting subjects belong.

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