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
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
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 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 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 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. I go on to show how some
common criticisms of Weber relate to this divide in postmodern and modern philosophies in
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.
The Dialectics of Religious Rationalization and Secularization: Max Weber and Ernst Bloch, Warren S.
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.
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 theorizing 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. Because they are immersed in it, the rationalized world seems natural to
them, rather than socially constructed. 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.
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.