MAX WEBER: THE RATIONALIZATION OF SOCIETY
Weber made many contributions to sociology, perhaps more than any other sociologist. One of the most significant was his understanding about how our social world differs from societies of early times. His work reflects the philosophical approach of idealismwhich emphasizes the importance of human ideas in shaping society. New ways of thinking, not merely technology and materialistic relationships were the major force in social change. A conceptual tool used by Weber in his research was the concept ideal-type, defined as an abstract statement of the essential characteristics of any social phenomenon.
Two World Views: Tradition and Rationality
Weber differentiated between two types of societies in terms of how people thought. The first is characterized by tradition, or sentiments and beliefs about the world that are passed from generation to generation. The other is characterized by rationality, or deliberate, matter-of-fact calculation of the most efficient means to accomplish any particular goal. This process of change from tradition to rationality he termed the rationalization of society, denoting the change in the type of thinking characteristic of members of society. Industrialization was an expression of this process. The Global Map (p. 101) shows that personal computers are utilized intensively in the high-income countries and infrequently in low-income countries.
Is Capitalism Rational?
Weber saw industrial capitalism as the essence of rationality while Marx did not, citing its failure to meet basic human needs.
Weber’s Great Thesis: Protestantism and Capitalism
Weber points out that industrial capitalism developed where Calvinism was widespread. This is discussed as an example of how the power of ideas shapes human social development. A central doctrine of this religion was predestination, creating visions of either damnation or salvation, but in the hands of God not the people. Anxious to know their...