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The Concepts Of Postmodernism By Weber Sociology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 2814 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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It is not difficult to argue that Max Weber has outlived all his competitors in the classical tradition. His ideas have inspired scores of sociologists in a host of areas for more than sixty years. The contemporary vitality of these ideas is in no small measure due to the fact that he is the most prominent advocate of modernism and that he has both resisted and justified some of postmodernism's most convincing criticisms of modern social science and society. When analysing the statement that "the fate of our times is characterized by rationalization, intellectualization and about all by the disenchantment of the world" one must look into all aspects of the 3 ways of thinking that Weber has described; rationalism, intellectualization and disenchantment. When focusing solely on the rationalism that Max Weber talks speaks about we can see a connection to the way of thinking he described in his writing and the way people think today. Rationalization has become an integral part in most aspects of the modern world and it seems to be no coincidence that Weber focuses on this way of thinking in much of his writings. Through science, politics, culture and religion Weber alludes to the fact that the modern world works better when a rationalistic thought process in used and this he attempts to prove in his writings. When analysing the statement one must not forget the other two ways of thinking; intellectualization and disenchantment and how they have affected the modern world. Intellectualization or the "flight into reason" has become an increasingly apparent way of logic where uncomfortable emotions are put aside by reasoning through facts. This way of thinking has made people rationally deal with a situation. Finally the disenchantment of the world which Weber fist emphasised in his writing "science as a vocation" where Max Weber explains that science can never answer the fundamental questions of life, such as directing people on how to live their lives and what to value. Value he contends can only be derived from personal beliefs such as religion. He further argues for the separation of reason and faith, noting that each has its place in respective field but if crossed over cannot work. By focusing on these three mindsets or ways of thinking it is clear that his statement is extremely relevant to the modern world and that the fate of our time is characterized by rationalization, intellectualization and the disenchantment.

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Rationalization can be defined as the process whereby an increasing number of social actions and interactions become based on considerations of teleological efficiency or calculation rather than on motivations derived from morality, emotion, custom, or tradition. Rationalization can be viewed both positively and negatively in a society. It can certainly be viewed as positive by creating consistency in terms of economy in a society. The negative aspects include taking away the individualism of a society and making it all very mundane and workman-like. Max Weber demonstrated rationalization 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 protestant ethic and spirit of capitalism). According to Weber a rational person is methodical and precise. Rationalization was a large part of Weber's theories on bureaucracy. Rationalization focuses on seeking constants in ones behaviours. It can be seen as a negative way of thinking as it looks to take away ones individualistic way of thinking and ones unique ways and replaces them with what is expected in terms of efficiency and reliability. Rationalism makes sure that there is a set trend that is put in place that all can follow as in theory that should boost the economy and makes sense in the running of a country. Although not entirely negative trait rationalism seems to make everything and everyone standard by showing what is expected from the majority. For Weber the capitalist market defined a rationalistic economy, as we can see in Weber's later work The General Economic History he states that" Capitalism is 'rational' in the sense that it bases decisions on calculations of likely return; this presupposes some degree of predictability, in particular a predictable legal system; capitalism also supposes that there are free markets for products and for labour and other factors of production, and that these markets are wide - given wide markets and some predictability innovation in search of profit gets under way".(The general Economic History). For Weber a functioning economy was a rational economy. Through his writing he made it clear that the need for entrepreneurial thinking was unnecessary and that everyone had a responsibility to think rationally which in his view was thinking intelligently. Max Weber had a host of General presuppositions for the existence of modern day capitalism such as rational capital accounting. This involves the appropriation of all physical means of production as the property of autonomous private enterprises. Freedom of the market, in the sense of the absence of irrational limits on trading in the market. Rational technology, to permit the required calculability. This implies mechanization. Calculable law, the dependability of calculable adjudication and administration. Free (not slave or serf) labour, people legally in the position to, and economically compelled to, sell their labour on the market without restriction and commercialization of economic life: general use of commercial instruments to represent share rights in enterprise and also in property ownership. Human labour is treated like a commodity according to Weber. A negative aspect one can find in the thoughts of Weber's capitalist thinking is that because the person's labour is a commodity that should be distanced from the person's life the person loses all sense of individuality and makes the human almost robotic and just a clog in the machine that is the economy of a country. Rationality spread like a drug from people's everyday rational lifestyle to the economic sphere in terms of production. People became more orderly and rational as in their eyes it seemed to pay. Rationality had become an integral aspect of their everyday life and therefore was passed on to the working world.

Some people are lead to believe that Max Weber is the real founder of sociology and the sociology of religion. His conceptions, analyses and constructs have a universal significance in the history of science. A great deal that we understand about religion can be accounted for by Weber's rationalistic view on religion and how it related to the economy. In one of Weber's famous books "The protestant ethic and spirit of capitalism" he compares religious belief to both cognitive and economic rationalisation. Weber declares that "Weber argued that certain Protestant ideas, particularly John Calvin's understanding of predestination that sinful people cannot know directly whether they are part of God's elect to whom the grace of salvation is offered, favoured rational pursuit of economic gain and worldly activities. Resultant insecurity on the part of Protestants, and their fear of eternal damnation, led them to seek signs indicating God's direction for their lives and affirmation of their correct behaviour." By saying that Max Weber is indicating that hard work and success were what was required to be favoured by g-d. This resulted in the public being encouraged and determined to accumulate wealth. According to Weber, one of the universal tendencies that Christians had historically fought against was the desire to profit. After defining the spirit of capitalism, Weber argued that there were many reasons to look for the origins of modern capitalism in the religious ideas of the reformation. The inherent logic of those doctrines and the advice based upon them, both directly and indirectly, encouraged planning and self-denial in the pursuit of economic gain. Weber quoted historical writings of Benjamin Franklin such as "Remember that time is money. He that can earn ten shillings a day by his labour, and goes abroad, or sits idle, one half of that day, though he spends but sixpence during his diversion or idleness, ought not to reckon that the only expense; he has really spent, or rather thrown away, five shillings besides. ... Remember, that money is the prolific, generating nature. Money can beget money, and its offspring can beget more, and so on. Five shillings turned is six, turned again is seven and three pence, and so on, till it becomes a hundred pounds. The more there is of it, the more it produces every turning, so that the profits rise quicker and quicker. He that kills a breeding sow destroys all her offspring to the thousandth generation. He that murders a crown destroys all that it might have produced, even scores of pounds." This quote encapsulates Weber's obsession with spreading his rationalistic way of thinking to increase profit and strengthen the economy. In the West Weber found a link between religion and economic rationalism which broadened into all spheres of life. Much modern thinking can be accounted for by Weber's views on religious rationalization and the further implications that resulted in people putting the need to make money ahead of religion itself. Weber theorized that emergence of religious ideas in the west unintentionally brought about the emergence of economic rationality.

When viewing the theories of Weber and how they relate to how the modern world is run, in terms of religion it is important to also focus on aspects such as culture, society and politics when seeing how they have been shaped by ideas of rationalization. Within social life a large degree of rationalization has become clearly apparent. Bureaucracy has become run of the mill in the way in which countries are governed, companies are run and the way people structure their personal lives. A bureaucracy can be defined as " a well-defined division of administrative labour among persons and offices,  a personnel system with consistent patterns of recruitment and stable linear careers,   a hierarchy among offices, such that the authority and status are differentially distributed among actors."  A greater orderliness has been set in place in recent times due to bureaucracy with a clear leader and many to feed off that person. When looking at Weber's view of bureaucracy it is important to link it to the way in which modern society is structured. Weber wrote that seven principals concerning the running of a bureaucracy that have become synonymous with the organizational structure. Some of these principals included that "official business is conducted on a continuous basis, officials do not own the resources necessary for the performance of their assigned functions but are accountable for their use of these resources and official and private business and income are strictly separated. Weber's understanding of legal science is consistent with his methodological contention that rules only make sense in the context of a given form of life. Politics however is far less rationalisable than the economy which may be why there is such upheaval with the running of a government in recent times. We must still regard the political and social aspects of a society rationalised in some way which in no small part in due to the work of Weber.

We can also take cognition into account when looking at spheres moulded by rationalism in the modern world. Cognition if the scientific term for "process of thought." .Weber argued that the method of science, whether its subject matter be things or men, always proceeds by abstraction and generalization. According to Weber, differences between the natural sciences and the social sciences arise from differences in the cognitive intentions of the researcher, not from the alleged unsuitability of scientific and broad methods to the subject matter of human action. Weber believed that "What distinguishes the natural and a social science is not an inherent difference in methods of investigation, but rather the differing interests and aims of the scientist. Both types of science involve abstraction. The richness of the world of facts, both in nature and in history, is such that a total explanation in either realm is doomed to fail." What Weber meant by that is no science can be fully explained in words. Such an explanation would not succeed in giving fully explaining the given science or scientific related realm. HE believed that even in physics it was impossible to predict future events. This is Weber rationalistic way of thinking in its purest form. He is only recognizing what is fact and giving no room to the possible. He does not enjoy variable change rather "likes what he knows." He is not recognizing the explanations of science as that is his understanding of the situation by rationalizing it. This way of thinking is still very apparent in modern times.  Weber was fundamentally at odds with those who argued for a morality based on science. In this respect he would be opposed to those psychoanalysts today who claim they have a scientific warranty to counsel "adjustment" or "self-actualization," as the case may be, to their patients.  This rational way of thinking through science has certainly been carried on to modern times as we have become characterized by our lack of thinking outside the box as we have to rely on the scientists to do the thinking for us.

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When focusing on how the world is affected by the gradual "disenchantment" that has been in effect for many decades, one would have to focus on Weber's writing "Science as a Vocation" where  Weber offers an analysis of what it means to engage in science, or intellectual activity, as a profession. In doing so, he makes the claim that the modern world is one that is "disenchanted." A disenchanted world has considerable implications in the political realm, in the form of both an increased importance of politics, and an increased difficulty in fulfilling the obligations which accompany this importance. This is just one of the many facets that add to how we are affected by the "disenchantment". Weber notes that "the average modern person is no more (indeed, even less) aware of and knowledgeable about the "conditions of life" under which they live than the average uncivilized person. A "savage knows incomparably more about his tools" than the rider of a streetcar does about the physics and technology which enable her or his movement. This potentially is the root of the modern world's disenchantment. By creating an intellectual environment in which anything can in principle be explained by scientific analysis and/or calculation, intellectual rationalization (as Weber calls it) has removed the possibility of metaphysical, spiritual - essentially non-scientific - explanations of the world and its features. And this, Weber writes, "means that the world is disenchanted." Weber essentially eliminates the need for individualism and creative thinking by his claims that everything can be explained by science. Weber's claim regarding the disenchantment of the world has consequences in many areas of human activity. One area in which intellectualization's consequences are particularly important is the realm of the political. Disenchantment contributes to confusion or loss of values in the political realm, and in doing so increases the pressure on politics to somehow fill the gap left by disenchantment. Disenchantment becomes particularly important prior to intellectualization; the solutions to problems now addressed by scientific analysis and calculation were drawn from metaphysical realms like religion. In discussing the relation between religion and science, Weber notes the following: "that science today is irreligious no one will doubt in his innermost being, even if he will not admit it to himself." It seems then that intellectualization, by replacing non-scientific means with scientific means of answering our questions, has left us with a challenging void. Scientific analysis and calculation may answer more precisely a great many of our questions about the world we live in, but since it cannot answer our most significant questions, it leaves us spiritually unfulfilled and devoid of the faith by which we were once consoled.

In conclusion when analysing the Max Weber statement and dissecting it into the three processes of thinking, rationalization, intellectualisation and disenchantment the modern world is clearly affected by all three. These ways of thinking lead to a process of actions that clearly affect most aspects of the modern world such as politics, culture, science and religion.


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