Max Weber's works deal with
rationalization in sociology of religion,
government, organizational theory, and behavior. The process of rationalization affects economic life,
law, administration, and religion.
Rationalization makes ends of means and imprisons the
individual within the iron cage of rationalized institutions, organizations,
interactionism, rationalization is used more in the everyday sense of the word to
refer to providing justifications or excuses for one's actions.
The term 'rationalization' has two specific
meanings in sociology:
(1) The concept 'rationalization' was developed
by German sociologist Max Weber (1864-1920) who used it in two ways.
First, it was the process through which
magical, supernatural and religious ideas lose cultural importance in a society and ideas
based on science and practical calculation become dominant. For example, in modern
societies science has rationalized our understanding of weather patterns. Science explains
weather patterns as a result of interaction between physical elements like wind-speed and
direction, air and water temperatures, humidity, etc.
In some other cultures, weather is thought to
express the pleasure or displeasure of gods, or spirits of ancestors. One explanation is
rationalized and scientific, the other mysterious and magical.
Rationalization also involves the development
of forms of social organization devoted to the achievement of precise goals by efficient
means. It is this type of rationalization that we see in the development of modern
business corporations and of bureaucracy. These are organizations dedicated to the pursuit
of defined goals by calculated, systematically administered means.
(2) Within symbolic interactionism, rationalization is used
more in the everyday sense of the word to refer to providing justifications or excuses for
Max Weber's Types of Rationality: Cornerstones
for the Analysis of Rationalization Processes in History. - Kalberg, Stephen
American Journal of Sociology, v85 n5 p1145-79 Mar 1980
Abstract: Explores rationality in Max Weber's works and identifies four types of
rationality which play major roles in his writing--practical, theoretical, substantive,
and formal. Implications for society and education are discussed. (DB)
Vanished Vediators: On the Residual Status of Judges in Max Weber's Theory of
Legal Rationalization - Sahni, Isher-Paul. Paper presented at the annual meeting
of the American Sociological Association.
Abstract: The centrality of judges in Max Webers theory of legal rationalization and
their residual status in his Sociology of Law are discussed. The vital role he
assigns to judges is exposed by privileging his frequently overlooked discussion of the
anti-formalistic tendencies in modern law. Their neglect in his comparative examination of
the Continental and the English administrations of justice is explained by foregrounding
the influence exerted on him by the ideals of Pandectist jurisprudence, as revealed in his
Critique of Stammler, and by the politico-legal context in which he wrote, as evinced by
his assessment of the Free Law Movement.
The City : Rationalization and freedom in Max Weber - DOMINGUES J. M.
Rio de Janeiro Federal University, Department of Sociology, Rio de Janeiro, BRESIL
Philosophy & social criticism ISSN 0191-4537 2000, vol. 26, no4, pp. 107-126 (1 p.3/4)
Abstract: Weber's piece on the development of the north-European Western city has not
commanded attention in the recent theoretical literature. This article argues that it can
however provide fresh insights into some key problems of Weber's diagnosis of modernity
and into his general sociological theory, especially as to his theory of action and
creativity. A more open-ended conception of modernity can be gained from its analysis,
which is more compatible with Weber's own methodological assumptions. A different
relationship between freedom and rationality may be derived as a theoretical and political
consequence from the discussion of The City.
A Subjective Universal: Max Weber and the Modern-Postmodern Divide -
Thibodeaux, Jarrett. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological
Association Annual Meeting.
Abstract: Looking at Webers methodology and concept of rationalization, I explore
how his writings relate to modernism and postmodernism. I find that Weber was a
postmodernist/minimalist in methodology because of his desire for many narratives rather
than one grand narrative. However, in terms of his concept of rationalization he was a
modernist/universalist in that he saw rationalization, in how one attempted to achieve a
goal, as objectively decipherable and that this objectivity was specific to modern western
culture. I go on to show how some common criticisms of Weber relate to this divide in
postmodern and modern philosophies in his conceptualizations.
The Conflict between Methodology and
Rationalization in the Work of Max Weber
Lars Udehn, Department of Sociology, Uppsala
Acta Sociologica, Vol. 24, No. 3, 131-147 (1981)
Max Weber is the leading representative of an interpretive sociology aiming at an
explanation in terms of the motives of the acting individuals. He is also the proponent of
the thesis that the Western world is moving in the direction of increasing
rationalization, held by many to be the uniting theme of his work. It is the thesis of
this paper that there is a conflict between these two themes in Weber's work. The process
of rationalization ends in an 'iron cage' of bureaucratic domination. But bureaucracy es
capes analysis with Weberian methodology for two reasons: (1) because it is a form of
domination which reduces men to means for the bureaucracy and its leaders, thus making
their own motives unimportant, and (2) because it is a type of domination which rests upon
the acceptance of, and subjection to, a rational legal order. The conclusion is that
Weber's methodology is primarily a methodology for the analysis of leaders, since they
alone are the determinants of their own actions.
The Dialectics of Religious Rationalization and Secularization:
Max Weber and Ernst Bloch, Warren S. Goldstein
Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Central Florida.
Critical Sociology, Vol. 31, No. 1-2, 115-151 (2005)
Ernst Bloch stood in intellectual opposition to Max Weber, yet they have a similar
framework through which they both analyzed religion. Both Weber and Bloch engaged in a
class analysis of the Bible. In Ancient Judaism, Weber provides the historical, political,
and socio-economic context in which we can understand the origins of the belief in the
Messiah. Bloch's dialectical theory of secularization of Judeo-Christian Messianism into
Marxism has a parallel structure to Weber's theory of religious rationalization in Ancient
Judaism. For Weber, ancient Judaism experienced a process of religious rationalization
that is marked by a dialectic between the charisma of the prophet and the tradition of the
priest, between value and substantive rationality, between disaster and salvation. Bloch's
dialectical theory of secularization, which takes place from Moses through the prophets to
Jesus and from Feuerbach to Marx, views the process of secularization as being driven by a
contradiction between faith in God and faith in man. Bloch, who embraced Jewish Messianic
beliefs, had hope in the resolution of this dialectical conflict while Weber, who was far
more pessimistic, did not. Combining elements from Weber's theory of religious
rationalization and Bloch's theory of secularization, provides the basis for a dialectical
theory of secularization in which the tensions between the sacred and profane, while
driving the process of secularization forward, remain unresolved.
The Rationalization of Everything? Using Ritzers McDonaldization Thesis to
Teach Weber, Stephen Lippmann, Howard Aldrich - Department of Sociology,
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Todays students have grown up in a world structured by the forces of
rationalization, making it difficult for them to comprehend the scope and magnitude of the
transformations Weber described. In this paper, we outline a plan for helping students
appreciate Webers theoretical achievements, as well as teaching them to think more
critically about what constitutes the good life in rationalized societies.
Max Weber ( 1998; 1946) argued that the process of rationalization, once unleashed
upon the world, transformed social life forever. By loosening the hold of custom and
tradition, rationalization led to new practices that were chosen because they were
efficient, rather than customary. Weber argued that because of the technical
superiority of the bureaucratic form, it would come to dominate all forms of human
organization like an iron cage in which
humans were eternally trapped. Webers ideas continue to inform sociological
Students have grown up in a world structured by the forces of rationalization, and thus
they often have difficulty comprehending the scope and magnitude of the transformations
Weber described. Students taken for granted world includes fast food, 24/7 operating
hours, instant world-wide communications, and other practices described by Ritzer (2000).
Because they are immersed in it, the rationalized world seems natural to them, rather than
socially constructed. Students who bring this natural and unproblematic view of
rationality into a Sociological Theory course pose a challenge to instructors wishing to
teach Webers ideas on bureaucracy and rationality.
In this paper, we describe a plan for helping students appreciate Webers theoretical
achievements, as well as teaching them to think more critically about what constitutes the
good life in rationalized societies.
Judicial Reform and Rationalization: The Diffusion of Court Reform Policies Among
the American States, J M Scheb ; A R Matheny - Journal: Law and Policy
Volume:10 Issue:1 Dated:(January 1988) Pages:25-42
Abstract: Explaining the diffusion of judicial reform policies among the American States
is an elusive task. It begins with Max Weber's sociology of law from which his concept of
rationalization is adopted as a schema of policy development. According to Weber, the
'rationalization' of legal institutions would accompany the advancement of capitalism in
modernizing nations. Thus, it is expected that specific judicial reform policies expressly
aimed at rationalizing the structure and process of State court systems be closely
associated with each other and with commonly accepted indicators of economic development
among the States. Court reforms are related to broader policy innovations among the
States, drawing on earlier 'diffusion of innovations' research. The data indicate a strong
connection between judicial reform and more general patterns of innovation diffusion among
the States, but provide only modest support for Weber's assertions about the
rationalization of legal systems under advancing capitalism. Three of the selected reforms
cluster together and are largely explainable by indicators of economic development. Two
other reforms do not fit this pattern, and their 'behavior' requires additional discussion
Weber's concept of rationalization and the electronic revolution in western
Journal Qualitative Sociology, Publisher Springer Netherlands
ISSN 0162-0436 (Print) 1573-7837 (Online) Issue Volume 1, Number 3 / January, 1979
Valerie Ann Malhotra, Department of Sociology, Texas Woman's University, USA
Abstract In examining the electronic revolution in Western Classical music, this article
considers many of the important issues which Weber addresses in his work on the sociology
of musicparticularly the definitional problems related to Weber's concept of
rationalization and the disenchantment of the world. The article examines Weber's concepts
of rational action and rationalization in relation to music, then through analysis of
developments in electronic music, raises questions regarding Weber's conclusions regarding
the effect of rationalization in Western culture.