Max Weber Theory of Rationalization
What is Max Weber Contribution to Sociology?
Marx Weber is the third and last philosopher who was seen as one of the founding fathers of sociology with Karl Marx and Emile Durkheim.
Weber was a German sociologist, economist, and philosopher who lived from 1864 to 1920. Weber focused mainly on rationalization, secularization, and disenchantment.
Karl Marx ,Emile Durkheim & Max Weber
Whereas all three-sociologist examined modernization and the modernization process, Weber viewed this as a process of rationalization that is with an eye toward the increasing organization of all forms of social life in accordance with the principles of efficiency and the application of increasingly sophisticated technology.
They were also introduced comparative interpretative sociology that is the study of how culture and values inform.
For Weber rationalization, provided the key driver for modern social and economic life. He also introduced social actors’ ideas and meaningful social action interpreting behavior through their stand or understanding. He showed how values and ideas might shape societies through the meaningful social actions of its members.
Again, Weber made contributions to the sociology of religion and comparative-historical methods using ideal types. These ideal types are the idea of ideal types Informed his sociology of religion.
The most significant transition for sociology in the thinking of Max Weber was his emphasis on meaningful social action, that is, an action that is oriented toward the behavior of others and interpretative analysis of this and their stand, or that is understanding of action from the viewpoint of the social actor.
He developed his ideas because of the changing social structures in society. This happened because of the Industrial Revolution.
When looking at society, Weber’s main goal is to understand why people act in a certain way. What are their motivations, and how did this situation come to be?
He did not aim to predict behavior, but he really wanted to understand what led to his observed behavior.
He called this Verstehen translated to mean understanding. He did not think that we could use only our senses and observations to understand society. We have to use interpretation to figure out the meanings and motivations individuals attribute to their own behavior.
Also, he did not believe he could use only one cause to explain the situation. An explanation can be very complicated and can have different factors that weigh in. His method is very different from Marx and Durkheim.
They wanted to explain changes in society by a big overarching theory. Marx used the conflict as the basis of social behavior, and Durkheim used cohesion.
Max Weber Theory of Rationalization
Weber’s theories were built around society’s modernization, and rationalization is the main thing in his work.
Rationalization is when we moved from using traditions, religion, and emotions as motivations for behavior to using rationality and reason.
We move from a traditional to a rational society with different ways of thinking.
What is Rationalization?
Rationalization refers to the increasing dominance of zweckrational (defined as an action in which the means to attain a particular goal are rationally chosen) modern life.
Characteristics of Rationalization.
There are three characteristics of rationalization. Namely;
First, efficiency refers to the drive for efficiencies by formal social organizations. This search for the most efficient means of attaining a goal has become a major force in both capitalist and government organizations.
The second characteristic of rationalization is calculability. This concept refers to the need for predictability and order in social life.
Calculability is significantly advanced by the use of statistics and data In modern society. Data seemingly takes on a life of its own as the reunification of numbers and statistics becomes almost as important as reality itself.
The third characteristic of rationalization is demystification. This refers to eliminating spiritual meaning and moral significance from social life and their replacement by systematic, logical, and reasonable elements.
The gods have deserted the modern world. Man has chased them away and has made calculable and predictable what had been governed by his grace in an earlier age.
The fate of our times is characterized by rationalization and intellectualization, above all, by our world’s disenchantment.
Bureaucracies are built on the principles of efficiency and calculability. They progressively replaced traditional social organizations with rational organizations designed to perform like machines.
To become industrialized is to become rationalized, a process affecting every area of society, the most public and the most private, the state in the economy, and the relations of marriage, family, and personal friendships.
The result is a society that continually questions traditional ways, absolute values, and constantly devising more rational ways to achieve desired ends.
As bureaucracy, satisfy, delight, and satiate us with their output of goods and services. They also shape our mentality. They define our very humanity.
The calculability of decision-making is more fully realized, or the bureaucracy depersonalizes is itself. The more completely it succeeds in excluding love hatred on every purely personal, especially irrational and incalculable feeling from the execution of official tasks.
In the old type ruler who is moved by sympathy favor grace and gratitude, modern culture requires for its sustaining external apparatus, the emotionally detached and hence rigorously professional expert.
Ultimately, rationalization must lead to dehumanization, the elimination of concern for human values.
Bureaucracy is not rational in the sense of the moral acceptability of its goals or the means used to achieve them.
Individual officials have specialized in limited responsibility and authority and are unlikely to raise fundamental questions regarding the moral implications of their organization’s actions.
The corresponding further compounds the problem by weakening many traditional families, communities, and religious institutions, which binds preindustrial men and women to the group’s interests.
Weber did not want to formulate systematic rules that he could apply to society. Also, he looked at individuals and their behavior, and not just at society as a whole.
He believed sociology as an objective science was an unattainable goal, mainly because he thought interpretation and understanding are such a big part of sociology.
Social Action By Max Weber
Meaningful social action can be rational or non-rational and is classified social action into one of four ideal types. Namely;
- Value Rational Actions
- Instrumental Rational Action
Value Rational and instrumental rational actions are two types of rational action, while emotion and traditions are non-rational actions.
Rational Social Actions
Value Rational Action and Instrumental Rational Actions
Value Rational action involves a commitment to a set of values such as family values, ethical values, or religious values. Actors are bound to the actions, even if these are costly from an instrumental point of view.
By contrast, instrumental rational action is strategic, driven by analysis of cost benefits rationally weighing the goals and means. At the macro or measure level, this means organization according to the principles of efficiency as characteristic of the modern factory or bureaucracy.
Non-Rational Social Actions
Meaningful social action also includes non-rational action, that is, emotional action or behavior is driven by positive or negative emotions and traditional –action based on social habits or customs.
Empirically, social action does not always or necessarily correspond to only one ideal type of social action. In fact, social action is generally multi-dimensional that is motivated by multiple drivers.
Weber also distinguished social action from social behavior.
Social behavior is how people act on what we can objectively observe about them. We can use our senses to see what kind of social behavior people actually show.
It is purely factual. It has nothing to do with subjective perception.
Social action is about how people relate to each other and behave towards each other more subjectively. It is not about what they’re doing or what kind of behavior they show.
It’s about their thoughts and their purpose. The observer should interpret them so he or she can come to an understanding of the subjective motivations and goals.
Formal and Substantive Rationality
Formal rationality refers to simple means and rational calculations.
On the other hand, substantive rationality refers to goal-oriented, rational action within the context of ultimate ends or values. Weber’s concept of substantive rationality could best be translated as critical thinking. It is based upon problem-solving within a holistic system of values, traditions, and emotions, as opposed to the specialized technical thinking that dominated the age.
Whether of the corporate or government variety, the bureaucratic organization is very much based on technocratic thinking. They’re hierarchically ranked offices filled by officers of narrow specialty and authority guided in their decision making and actions by rules and precedents.
Weber’s rationalization theory is that modernity promotes the growing dominance of technocratic thinking at the expense of critical thinking. As bureaucracy comes to dominate modern societies, it becomes the dominant motivating force and a motive thought that becomes part of our very being.
Further, they were maintained that even though a bureaucracy is highly rational in the formal sense of technical efficiency, it does not follow that it is also rational in a substantive sense of the moral acceptability of its goals or the means used to achieve them.
Nor does the exclusive focus on the organization’s goals necessarily coincide with society’s broader goals as a whole.
It often happens that the single-minded pursuit of practical goals can actually undermine the organization’s foundations, or even of the social order itself.
What is good for the bureaucracy in the short term is not only always good for the society as a whole, and often in the long term, it’s not good for the bureaucracy, either.
As bureaucracy grows in power and sculpt around us as the social world becomes ever more rationalized, that is, as formal rationalization becomes more prevalent, substantive rationality, critical thinking takes less and less of a role in human affairs.
Critical thinking attempts to analyze situations and solve problems within the context of the whole within the context of the system.
While problem-solving is invaluable, to be most effective, it must be done in a context of values, traditions, and emotions.
Critical thinking is not really something parents, educators, or religious leaders can teach directly. It has to be modeled, encouraged, and developed over time and experience.
However, critical thinking, also known as holistic thinking, is not conducive to bureaucracies’ smooth operation and is therefore not widespread in hyper industrial societies.
Modern bureaucracies, both corporate and government, are prone to formal rationality, are prone to technocratic thinking, the simple-minded pursuit of whatever goal is set by the top of the corporation’s bureaucracy. Of course, it is profit.
Max Weber Bureaucracy Principles in Organizations
Weber viewed bureaucratic coordination of human actions as the distinctive mark of modern social structure.
Ideal bureaucracy is characterized by the hierarchy in personality, written rules of conduct, hiring and promotion based on achievement, a specialized division of labor, and, above all, efficiency.
Max Weber was very concerned about the impact that bureaucratization had on human culture. He noted several dysfunctions of bureaucracy, including oligarchy, rationalization and dehumanization, and the irrationality factor.
By its very nature, bureaucracy generates an enormous degree of unregulated and often unperceived social power.
Bureaucracy tends to result in an oligarchy or ruled by a few by officials at the top of the organization.
Iron Law of Oligarchy
The Iron Law of Oligarchy is a principle of organizational life under which even a democratic organization will eventually develop into a bureaucracy ruled by a few individuals.
According to the Iron Law, democracy and large-scale organization are incompatible. This is due to the very nature of a bureaucratic organization, which is hierarchically organized with tremendous power invested in the top officers.
Rank and file employees
These organizational characteristics are reinforced by the characteristics of members of the organization. Leaders have access and control over information and facilities that are not available to the rank and file.
These leaders tend to promote junior officials who share their opinions and values. The rank and file also promote oligarchy.
They tend to look to leaders for policy directives, and their generally prepared to allow the leaders to exercise their judgment on most matters.
Weber pointed out that the trend towards greater liberty in modern societies requires bureaucratization of social institutions.
Modern democracy through the vote has a certain influence over the elites who will rule them. But there cannot be a fully participatory democracy.
Those on top of the bureaucratic hierarchies can command vast resources in pursuit of their interests. This gives the elite of the top of these hierarchy’s vast power.
The most pervasive feature that distinguishes contemporary life is that it is dominated by large, complex, and formal organizations. Our ability to organize thousands and even millions of men to accomplish large-scale tasks, be the economic, political, or military, is one of our greatest strengths.
The possibility that free men become mere colleagues in the bureaucratic machines we set up for this purpose is one of the greatest threats to our liberty.
By established law, the corporation is a legally defined institution whose purpose is to pursue shareholders’ profits. The corporation separates the ownership from management, thus opening the door to industrial growth and abuse.
By the end of the 20th century, the profit motive was legally enshrined as the primary goal of all corporate action.
While managers and directors have some latitude for charitable and socially responsible action, all such actions must be connected with and subordinate to the corporation’s bottom line.
Examples of Bureaucracy in Organizations
Government bureaucracies, though perhaps in not quite so single-minded fashion, are similarly structured in a single-minded pursuit of their formal, narrow, technocratic goals.
Educational bureaucracies, for example, in their attempts to balance budgets to meet calculable measures of credit our production persistence and graduation rates, abandoned academic standards and traditions.
Social service bureaucracies, in their attempts to balance their budgets and apply their eligibility rules, routinely deny services to those in need.
In their attempts to provide security to the nation, national security agencies routinely violate our civil rights and privacy.
This is called the irrationality factor.
But while capital and state are both bureaucratically organized, they have unique environments, characteristics, and goals always keep in mind; however, both capital and state are inextricably intertwined. That combined, they confront the individual with overwhelming force.
This shows itself in our way of behaving in our economy, how we relate to religion and how the government is structured.
Capitalism is based on calculating costs and profits and gaining the possible benefits. We become more and more secularized.
Secularization means we rely more on reason and science than on solutions the Bible has to offer us.
When we think about how we should behave, we keep track of citizens and make sure that they act according to the law through the bureaucracy.
Rationalization has different levels and can be understood in different ways. Namely
- Individual cost-benefit calculations.
- The policy of the government.
Disenchantment means that people no longer see reality as something that should be understood through magic and mystery.
The world becomes less mystical and more explained. More is explained by signs and less by God and religion.
As science progresses, people in society become disenchanted.
Much of his work is based on religion, how it influences society, and its changes over time. People used to believe in magic and used this to explain things happening in the world; then, they use religious stories to come to a better understanding of the world.
Religion doesn’t tell us anymore how things came to be or how things work. It just tells us how we should behave.
According to weber, the roots of capitalism are in Protestantism, although it certainly is not the only factor.
He said this because of the work ethic Protestants held and the importance of being beautiful and devoted to God.
Protestants worked towards more rational goals and wanted to achieve economic gain. The belief supported this they work hard and spend their money wisely so they could profit later on.
Rational decision making to make a greater profit is seen as the right basis, which is needed for capitalism.
Weber states that because of this, Protestant countries like Germany, the Netherlands, in England became more economically prosperous than Catholic countries. The economic center shifted away from France, Italy, and Spain towards these more Protestant countries. This is seen as a support for his theories.
As soon as capitalism came into existence, these changes started to occur. However, some people criticize his theories that link Protestantism and capitalism.
They say that capitalism already started in the 14th century in Italy, in city-states like Venice, and some Protestant countries haven’t had the same economic growth as others. For instance, Scotland never became as economically prosperous as the Netherlands. Nonetheless, we have come to a more regulated, calculated form of society.
Weber emphasizes that a lot of processes have become more efficient and more effective. However, he also thought the rationalization dehumanizes in a sense.
People become part of a machine and lose the freedom through bureaucratic processes. They do not have another choice but to cooperate.
Max Weber Three Types of Authority
Power, Authority and Domination
Another key dimension in Weber’s work is his analysis of the transformation of power, authority, and domination with the shift to the modern world.
Power represents the capacity to impose one’s well in the face of opposition authority; by contrast, it is legitimate power or legitimate domination that enhances the probability that commands will be obeyed.
Weber identified three ideal types of authority.
Weber worked out three forms of authority that further explained, move from a traditional to a more rational society.
- Traditional Authority
- Charismatic Authority
- Rational Legal Authority
Traditional Authority Max Weber
Traditional authority is based on feudalism and patriarchy. So, the traditional hierarchical structures of society.
Traditional authority rest on the sanctity of tradition, religious myths, and age-old rules and means.
Charismatic Authority Max Weber
Weber also noted the persistence and existence, and function of charismatic authority, which is a form of a non-rational authority. It can coexist alongside legal-rational and traditional authority.
It resides in the individual, and the individual charismatic leader persuades people initially to do things.
The charismatic community is unified by the members’ shared emotional attachment to the charismatic leader. Charismatic authority is about family, religion, etc.
Charismatic Authority Examples
Examples of Charismatic Authority can be positive or negative. A Napoleon, Hitler, Martin Luther King, or Gandhi.
Rational Legal Authority Max Weber
Rational legal is the most important form of authority in modern society and manifests itself through bureaucracy and law.
Rational legal authority is characteristic of modern nation-states. The modern state is a rational actor that has a monopoly on violence. It can legitimately use physical force to protect the nation’s territory or protect its security.
States may seek to expand their power and prestige, but not always through force. They may also use nonviolent means such as diplomacy and negotiation, and states are not like empires. The territorial boundaries of nation-states are fixed.
Rational legal authority is typically exercised through bureaucracies. Formal organizations, much like the hierarchical organizations discussed by Chandler and his description of the emerging corporation or railways at the beginning of the 20th century. These are organized according to the principles of the efficiency Bureau.
Bureaucratic authority pervades modern society and is pervasive across all institutional spheres. These include institutions like
- Economic Corporations
- The military
- Sports Organizations
Characteristic of Bureaucracies
The key characteristic of bureaucracies is that they are rational;
- They’re impersonal criteria in social relations.
- They have a hierarchy of offices.
- Division of labor/ focus on specific competencies.
- Contractual relationships
- Technical qualifications.
- Fixed salaries.
- The officeholder has the office as his primary occupation.
- There is a system of promotion and hiring.
- It’s impersonal.
- The workers do not own the means of administration and
- Systematic discipline in the conduct of office or rank.
Max Weber Social Stratification Theory
Also, Weber made a theory about the levels of society, which consisted of three components. To him, this was the best way to divide people. They include
Max Weber Social class
It is about the relationship to the economic markets. Are you a worker, or are you an owner of a company?
Max Weber Social status.
This is based on honor and religion as well as prestige. How are you socially related to others? And how do they view you?
Max Weber Political party.
How do you vote, and who are you attached to in the domain of the political?
This is evidently different from Karl Marx, who divided society into two classes, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.
One of the most interesting things about weber’s theory is distinguishing between social status and social class because they are often used interchangeably. Weber sees them a separate.
According to Weber, we moved from a more traditional to a more rational society, where we use religion mainly as a moral guide for behavior and no longer as an explanation for phenomena in the world.
Besides, capitalism is rooted in Protestantism, but it will also make religion less important and cost secularization and disenchantment.
You have also learned about his method that mainly focuses on understanding rather than predicting social behavior. It is more focused on the individual and ways in different factors does not want to provide us with an overarching theory that will explain all social behavior.
Rationalization causes the weakening of traditional and religious moral authority. The value of efficiency predominates.
Weber’s views about the inescapable rationalization and bureaucratization of the world have obvious similarities to Marx’s notion of alienation and Durkheim’s concept of the enemy.
Weber believed that Marx’s alienation was not only due to capitalism but also the consequence of industrialism and bureaucracy.
Weber argued that men could no longer engage in socially significant action in all relevant modern society spheres unless they joined a large-scale organization. They would be admitted into this organization only because they sacrificed their personal goals and values to the impersonal goals and procedures that govern the organization.
This could lead to people engaging in irrational acts to achieve the goals of the organization efficiently.