What are the ramifications of the rationalization of society?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The answer to this depends upon your perspective.  The most famous perspective on this issue is that of Max Weber.  Weber believed that the rationalization of society put people into "iron cages" and robbed them of their freedom.

When a society rationalizes, more and more of its institutions become based on knowledge and rules.  The institutions become less personal and much more bureaucratized.  This, he says, takes away some amount of personal freedom and also robs people of their connections with other people.

For example, in a rationalized society, a dispute between a husband and wife will be resolved through the application of rules in a setting like a divorce court.  This is not a very natural thing -- it simply goes by the rules without really trying to understand the personal relationships that are at play.  By contrast, a traditional society might have solved this dispute through mediation by community members.  These mediators would have known the couple and known about their lives and about what was best for them.  This would have been a much more personal and much less rule-bound solution.

So, to Weber, a rational society is one where there are all these set rules that take away people's freedom and robs a society of its interpersonal interactions.  This is the ramification of the rationalization of society -- it creates this sort of more bureaucratized and impersonal society.

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