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THE RATIONALIZATION OF SOCIETY

RATIONALITY
The idea that efficiency and practical results should dominate human affairs. The traditional orientation to life, one that aims to protect the status quo, stands in the way of industrialization. When something happens that we find difficult to accept, then we will make up a logical reason why it has happened. The target of rationalization is usually something that we have done, such as being unkind to another person. It may also be used when something happens independent of us which causes us discomfort, such as when a friend is unkind to us. We rationalize to ourselves. We also find it very important to rationalize to other people, even those we do not know.

THE RATIONALIZATION OF SOCIETY


In sociology, rationalization is the process where by an increasing number of social actions become based on considerations of teleological efficiency or calculation rather than on motivations derived from morality, emotion, custom, or tradition, or it is the historical change from tradition to rationality as the main mode of human thought.

RATIONALIZATION AND CAPITALISM

Rationalization formed a central concept in the foundation of classical sociology, particularly with respect to the emphasis the discipline placed by contrast with anthropology -- on the nature of modern Western societies. The term was presented by the profoundly influential German antipositivist, Max Weber, though its themes bear parallel with the critiques of modernity set forth by a number of scholars. A rejection of dialectism and sociocultural evolution informs the concept. Weber demonstrated rationalization in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, in which the aims of certain Protestant denominations, particularly Calvinism, are shown to have shifted towards rational means of economic gain as a way of dealing with their 'salvation anxiety'. The rational consequences of this doctrine, he argued, soon grew incompatible with its religious roots, and so the latter were eventually discarded. Weber continues his investigation into this matter in later works, notably in his studies on bureaucracy and on the classifications of authority. In these works he alludes to an inevitable move towards rationalization.

THE RATIONALIZATION OF SOCIETY


Weber believed that a move towards rational-legal authority was inevitable. In charismatic authority, the death of a leader effectively ends the power of that authority, and only through a rationalized and bureaucratic base can this authority be passed on. Traditional authorities in rationalized societies also tend to develop a rational-legal base to better ensure a stable accession. Whereas in traditional societies such as feudalism governing is managed under the traditional leadership of, for example, a queen or tribal chief, modern societies operate under rational-legal systems. For example, democratic systems attempt to remedy qualitative concerns (such as racial discrimination) with rationalized, quantitative means (for example, civil rights legislation). Weber described the eventual effects of rationalization in his Economy and Society as leading to a "polar night of icy darkness", in which increasing rationalization of human life traps individuals in an "iron cage" (or "steelhard casing") of rule-based, rational control. Jurgen Habermas has argued that to understand rationalization properly requires going beyond Weber's notion of rationalization and distinguishing between instrumental rationality, which involves calculation and efficiency (in other words, reducing all relationships to those of means and ends), and communicative rationality, which involves expanding the scope of mutual understanding in communication, the ability to expand this understanding through reflective discourse about communication, and making social and political life subject to this expanded understanding.

FURTHER OBJECTS OF RATIONALIZATION


HUMAN BODY.

One rational tendency is towards increasing the efficiency and output of the human body. Several means can be employed in reaching this end, including trends towards regular exercise, dieting, increased hygiene, drugs, and an emphasis on optimal nutrition. These allow for stronger, leaner, more optimized bodies for quickly performing tasks. Another derivative of this is towards maintaining a certain level of physical attraction. Processes such as the combing of hair, use of a fragrance, having an appropriate haircut, and wearing certain clothes receive calculated use that of giving off a certain impression to other individuals. Another trend is in the bureaucratization of processes that formerly might have been done through the home. This includes the use of hospitals for childbirth and the use of doctors to identify symptoms of an illness and to prescribe treatment.

THE RATIONALIZATION OF SOCIETY

EDUCATION.
Rationalized education tends to focus less on subjects based around the use of critical discourse (for instance, philosophy) and more on matters of a calculated importance (such as business administration). This is reflected also in the move towards standardized and multiple choice testing, which measures students on the basis of numbered answers and against a uniform standard.

COMMERCIALIZATION
As capitalism itself is a rationalized economic policy, so is the process of commercialization it utilizes in order to increase sales. Most holidays, for instance, were created out of a religious context or in celebration of some past event. However, in rationalized societies these traditional values are increasingly diminished and the aim shifts from the qualitative aim of a meaningful celebration to the more quantitative aim of increasing sales. In the United States, for example, most major holidays now are represented by rationalized, secularized figures which serve as a corporate totem. In more traditional environments, gifts are more often hand-crafted works which hold some symbolic meaning. This qualitative value of gifts diminishes in rationalized societies, where individuals often offer hints or speak directly about what present they are interested in receiving. In these societies, the value of a gift is more likely to be weighed by objective measures (i.e. monetary value) than subjective (i.e. symbolism).

FORMAL ORGANIZATIONS
Formal organizations: Secondary groups designed to achieve specific objectives.
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Prior to the Industrial Revolution, there were few formal organizations. With industrialization, secondary groups became common. NWe now take formal organizations for granted.

THE RATIONALIZATION OF SOCIETY

BUREAUCRACIES:
Characteristics of Bureaucracies: (1) Clear cut levels. (2) Division of labor. (3) Written rules. (4) Written records. (5) Impersonality. Bureaucracies increasingly govern our lives. They are bound by red tape. Workers feel alienation - treated in terms of roles and functions, rather than as individuals.

BUREAUCRATIC ALIENATION
Alienation: When people are treated in terms of their roles, rules, and functions rather than individuals. Many people begin to feel more like objects than people. In alienation, they come to feel estranged from their products and their work environments.

BUREAUCRATIC INCOMPETENCE:
The Peter Principle: Each employee of a bureaucracy is promoted to his/her level of incompetence. People who perform well in a bureaucracy come to the attention to those higher up the chain of command and are promoted.

THE RATIONALIZATION OF SOCIETY


This continues until they are promoted to a level in which they are no longer able to handle the responsibilities.

VOLUNTARY ASSOCIATIONS
Voluntary Associations: Groups made up of volunteers who organize on the basis of some mutual interest. Churches, political parties, health clubs, etc. Some are temporary, organized to accomplish some specific task, others are permanent with clear lines of command.

FUNCTIONS OF VOLUNTARY ASSOCIATIONS


1- They advance particular interests. 2- They offer people an identity. 3- They help govern and maintain social order. 4- Some mediate between the government and the individual 5- Some help provide training. 6- Others help bring people into the mainstream. 7- Some pave the way to social change.

THE RATIONALIZATION OF SOCIETY

WORKING FOR THE CORPORATION


Corporate culture: It contains hidden values that create self fulfilling prophecies that effect people s careers. The elite choose workers who are like themselves. Those workers viewed as outsiders come to feel as such, and end up performing poorly.

ATTEMPTS TO HUMANIZE THE WORK SETTING


Humanizing a work setting: Organizing work in such a way that it develops rather than impedes human potential. These offer opportunity based on ability and contribution rather than on personal characteristics.
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Quality Circles Employee Stock Ownership Work Teams