Sociology Index -


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, and activities.

Within symbolic 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, rationalization 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 one's actions.

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, which are practical, theoretical, substantive, and formal.

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 Weber’s 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: 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 action theory and creativity. A more open-ended conception of modernity can be gained from its analysis, which is more compatible with Weber's own methodology.

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 Weber’s methodology and concept of rationalization, I explore how his writings relate to modernism and postmodernism. I find that Weber was a postmodernist or 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.

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 theory in 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.

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)
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 dialectics between the charisma of the prophet and the tradition of the priest, between value and substantive rationality, between disaster and salvation. 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 Ritzer’s McDonaldization Thesis to Teach Weber, Stephen Lippmann, Howard Aldrich - Department of Sociology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Today’s 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.
Max Weber ([1905] 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. Weber’s ideas continue to inform sociological theories today.
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.

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.

Weber's concept of rationalization and the electronic revolution in western classical music
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 music—particularly 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.