Max Weber Rationality

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The works of German sociologist Max Weber, are some of the most significant, controversial and influential works of the twentieth century. His most noted piece of work was on the thesis of the “Protestant ethic”, with the ideas of Protestantism, capitalism and bureaucracy. For Weber, rationality was the lead agent in the solid transformation of society from traditional to modern. He argued that modernity is about the unleashing of this dynamic of rationality; characterised by efficiency, calculability and accountability (McLennan, Manus and Spoonley, 2010). The attempt to control nature, individuals and society by calculating social life is seen in the ideas of Protestantism. While rationalisation is essential to modern societies, Weber and…show more content…
Die Entzauberung der Welt, as Weber called it- “the disenchantment of the world” was the effect of rationalisation (Collins and Mokowsky, 2005). Rationality of time, energy and money in all spheres of social life was outstripping people of their religious context, and the modern world was losing a certain magic quality. The traditional institutions such as the family, religion and community declined, resulting in secularisation of weakening traditional and religious moral authority (Elwell, 1999). Instead, values of efficiency and calculability prevailed. Religious beliefs and values of primitive society gave meaning and significance to people. The modern world, as Weber thought, was transforming human beings into merely cogs and bureaucratic machines, trapped in an “iron cage” of bureaucratic rationalisation- not as complex human beings with sensibilities and souls (Lippmann and Aldrich, 2001). “Specialists without spirit, sensualists without heart” (SAGE, 2004 pp.180) as Weber expressed, reinforces the loss of humanity in our “iron cage”. The “iron cage” is reflective of Weber as a pessimist of progression of the modern world. His pessimism indicates that, all the best intentions in the world may not necessarily produce good outcomes (Weber, 1905/1930). C. Wright Mills (1958) saw that the forces of rationalisation can sometimes conflict with moral reflection, of both the goal and the means of action. Mill (1958) pointed to the concentration camps of Nazi Germany as an extreme case of rationalisation. The objective to dehumanise and exterminate as many people as possible in the most efficient manner, exemplifies how rationality can result in horror and tragedy (Elwell, 1999). This is truly an emphasis to Weber’s fear of our probable future to be more bureaucratised, and also, his
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