Max Weber’s Theory of Rationalization: What it Can Tell us of Modernity
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 . He does not elucidate "meaning" in connection with the model of speech;. Bureaucracy can be considered to be a particular case of rationalization, Weber's discussion of authority relations also provides insight into what is happening. This chapter applies Max Weber's concept of formal rationality to modern hospitals. Weber ( ) defined formal rationality as the purposeful.
It is horrible to think that the world could one day be filled with nothing but those little cogs, little men clinging to little jobs and striving toward bigger ones--a state of affairs which is to be seen once more, as in the Egyptian records, playing an ever increasing part in the spirit of our present administrative systems, and especially of its offspring, the students.
This passion for bureaucracy It is as if in politics. That the world should know no men but these: Note Rationalization is the most general element of Weber's theory.
He identifies rationalization with an increasing division of labor, bureaucracy and mechanization Gerth and Mills, He associates it with depersonalization, oppressive routine, rising secularism, as well as being destructive of individual freedom Gerth and Mills, ; Freund, Why is it that "as rationalization increases, the irrational grows in intensity"?
Again, the rationalization process is the increasing dominance of zweckrational action over rational action based on values, or actions motivated by traditions and emotions.
Zweckrational can best be understood as "technocratic thinking," in which the goal is simply to find the most efficient means to whatever ends are defined as important by those in power. Technocratic thinking can be contrasted with wertrational, which involves the assessment of goals and means in terms of ultimate human values such as social justice, peace, and human happiness.
Weber 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 the sense of the moral acceptability of its goals or the means used to achieve them.
Nor does an exclusive focus on the goals of the organization necessarily coincide with the broader goals of society as a whole. It often happens that the single-minded pursuit of practical goals can actually undermine the foundations of the social order Elwell, What is good for the bureaucracy is not always good for the society as a whole--and often, in the long term, is not good for the bureaucracy either. De Lorean goes on to speculate that this immorality is connected to the impersonal character of business organization.
Morality, John says, has to do with people. Never once while I was in General Motors management did I hear substantial social concern raised about the impact of our business on America, its consumers or the economy" J. Introduced to the American Market inseveral compromises between the original design and what management ultimately approved were made for financial reasons. As a result, a couple of the prototypes rolled over on the test tracks and it quickly became apparent that GM had a problem J.
Wright, ; R. De Lorean again takes up the story. At the very least, then, within General Motors in the late s, serious questions were raised about the Corvair's safety. At the very most, there was a mountain of documented evidence that the car should not be built as it was then designed.
The results were disastrous. I don't think any one car before or since produced as gruesome a record on the highway as the Corvair. It was designed and promoted to appeal to the spirit and flair of young people.
It was sold in part as a sports car. The denial and cover-up led the corporation to ignore the evidence, even as the number of lawsuits mounted--even as the sons and daughters of executives of the corporation were seriously injured or killed J. When Ralph Nader published his book that detailed the Corvair's problems, Unsafe at Any Speed, the response of GM was to assign a private detective to follow him so as to gather information to attack him personally rather than debate his facts and assertions Halberstam, ; J.
Internal documents were destroyed, and pressure was put on executives and engineers alike to be team players J.
De Lorean summarizes the irrational character of the bureaucracy's decision making process: There wasn't a man in top GM management who had anything to do with the Corvair who would purposely build a car that he knew would hurt or kill people. But, as part of a management team pushing for increased sales and profits, each gave his individual approval in a group to decisions which produced the car in the face of the serious doubts that were raised about its safety, and then later sought to squelch information which might prove the car's deficiencies J.
The result was that despite the existence of many moral men within the organization, many immoral decisions were made. An extreme case of rationalization was the extermination camps of Nazi Germany.
The goal was to kill as many people as possible in the most efficient manner, and the result was the ultimate of dehumanization--the murder of millions of men, women and children. The men and women who ran the extermination camps were, in large part, ordinary human beings. They were not particularly evil people. Most went to church on Sundays; most had children, loved animals and life.
William Shirer comments on business firms that collaborated in the building and running of the camps: The firm of I. Topf and Sons of Erfurt, manufacturers of heating equipment, won out in its bid for the crematoria at Auschwitz. The story of its business enterprise was revealed in a voluminous correspondence found in the records of the camp.
A letter from the firm dated February 12,gives the tenor: The Central Construction Office of the S. Crematoria 2 and 3 for the camp. We acknowledge receipt of your order for five triple furnaces, including two electric elevators for raising corpses and one emergency elevator. Their product could do the most effective job for the least possible cost, so they got the contract. Shirer summarizes the organization of evil.
But the records of the courts leave no doubt of the complicity of a number of German businessmen, not only the Krupps and the directors of I. In sum, the extermination camps and their suppliers were models of bureaucratic efficiency using the most efficient means available at that time to accomplish the goals of the Nazi government.
But German corporations went beyond supplying the government with the machinery of death, some actively participated in the killing process.
Farben was one of the first great corporate conglomerates. Its executives merely carried the logic of corporate rationality to its ultimate conclusion Farben's synthetic rubber Buna plants at Auschwitz are a good example of the relationship between corporate profits and Nazi goals.
The construction work required contractors and subcontractors, housing had to be built for the corporate personnel, barracks for the workers. SS guards supplied by the state would administer punishment when rules were broken.
The workers at the plants were treated as all other inmates in the camp. The only exception was one of diet, workers in the plants would receive an extra ration of "Buna soup" to maintain "a precisely calculated level of productivity" Rubenstein, Nor was any of this hidden from corporate executives; they were full participants in the horror. With an almost inexhaustible supply of workers, the corporation simply worked their slave laborers to death.
The fact that individual officials have specialized and limited responsibility and authority within the organization means that they are unlikely to raise basic questions regarding the moral implications of the overall operation of the organization. Under the rule of specialization, society becomes more and more intricate and interdependent, but with less common purpose. The community disintegrates because it loses its common bond. The emphasis in bureaucracies is on getting the job done in the most efficient manner possible.
Consideration of what impact organizational behavior might have on society as a whole, on the environment, or on the consumer simply does not enter into the calculation.
The problem is further compounded by the decline of many traditional institutions such as the family, community, and religion, which served to bind pre-industrial man to the interests of the group. Rationalization causes the weakening of traditional and religious moral authority secularization ; the values of efficiency and calculability predominate.
- Rationalization (sociology)
- Bureaucracy and Formal Organization
In an advanced industrial-bureaucratic society, everything becomes a component of the expanding machine, including human beings Elwell, Wright Millswhose social theory was strongly influenced by Weber, describes the problem: It is not the number of victims or the degree of cruelty that is distinctive; it is the fact that the acts committed and the acts that nobody protests are split from the consciousness of men in an uncanny, even a schizophrenic manner.
The atrocities of our time are done by men as "functions" of social machinery--men possessed by an abstracted view that hides from them the human beings who are their victims and, as well, their own humanity. They are inhuman acts because they are impersonal.
They are not sadistic but merely businesslike; they are not aggressive but merely efficient; they are not emotional at all but technically clean-cut C. The result is a seeming paradox-- bureaucracies, the epitome of rationalization, acting in very irrational ways. The irrationality of bureaucratic institutions is a major factor in understanding contemporary society. Weber called this formal rationalization as opposed to substantive rationality the ability to anchor actions in the consideration of the whole.
It can also be called the irrationality of rationalization, or more generally, the irrationality factor Elwell, The irrationality of bureaucratic institutions is a major factor is understanding contemporary society. However, Weber does not attempt to refute Marx, rather he can be interpreted as an attempt to round out Marx's economic determinism Gerth and Mills, Both men agree that modern methods of organization have tremendously increased the effectiveness and efficiency of production and organization and have allowed an unprecedented domination of man over the world of nature.
They also agree that the new world of rationalized efficiency has turned into a monster that threatens to dehumanize its creators. Mass organizations meet their objectives through an elaborate division of labour that results in compartmentalization and diversification of duties, which in turn leads to specialized functions, ie, implementation, management and special expertise.
This multiplicity of functions clearly requires the establishment of a co-ordinated structure, and of regulations, administrative procedures and standards that define the responsibilities of each position and its relation to other positions. Such specialization by function increases the need for centralized control and administration, and thus the establishment of a hierarchy that integrates each function in a chain of command.
Authority is delegated within specific areas of competence and is subject to a final authority that defines the organization's policies as a whole and monitors, or controls, the material or symbolic results. This final authority is more political than administrative in nature, and is therefore not purely bureaucratic see Political Economy.
Iron cage - Wikipedia
Bureaucracy as a whole is organized as a pyramid, as may be illustrated in complex organizational charts used to describe large modern organizations.
Within this structure, emphasis is given to vertical channels rather than to horizontal channels of communications between individuals. Similarly, indirect communications are common because individuals must transmit information through a superior to the higher levels of the organization. This reduction in personal contacts, which is viewed as an element of efficiency, is also the cause of communication breakdowns and "red tape.
While positions involving the most routine tasks are occupied by personnel with relatively few qualifications, the executive, management and specialized positions are occupied by individuals who usually have a university degree. However, sometimes individuals are hired or appointed not for their skills but out of political considerations, eg, as patronage for past favours. In contrast, a considerable number of positions in business management are occupied by individuals who do not have a university degree, but are trained by the company.
A system of hierarchically organized titles corresponding to the organization chart is used to define the status of the individual and to project his or her probable "career path" see Public Administration. Theory The modern theory of bureaucracy, derived largely from the German sociologist Max Weber, is a formal codification of the idea of rational organization and the major element in the rationalization of modern capitalism.
In the bureaucracies of private firms as well as government, objectives are set by rational, systematic, standardized techniques, thereby eliminating the effects of interpersonal relationships. Bureaucratic organization thus reflects the belief that maximum efficiency can be achieved through logical planning and calculation.
Considerable doubt is cast on the validity of this belief in contemporary theory. Studies have revealed many malfunctions in bureaucratic systems, including lack of dynamism resulting from their ritualistic behaviour.
Problems and conflicts tend to be resolved through the imposition of new controls and rules that ultimately reinforce the bureaucracy bureaucracies also tend to reproduce themselves, to divert energy into maintaining their own existence rather than fulfilling their original purpose.