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Lecture 8

SOC231H5 Lecture Notes - Lecture 8: Instrumental And Value Rationality, Industrial Revolution, General Idea

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Zaheer Baber

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Lecture 8
Max Weber, the Protestant Ethic and the spirit of capitalism
Value rational action >> instrumental rational action
Ethical beliefs effect social change, but not by themselves – under specific material conditions
Unintended, unanticipated consequence of social action: modern industrial capitalism
At a certain point in history, when you have a certain amount of class conflict, when society
cannot further feudalism, accidently certain ethical beliefs, people latch on these new beliefs
become catalyst for a certain kind of work ethic becomes capitalism
The rise of modern industrial capitalism
“Structure” – “Agency” – “Structure2” – “Agency”
The concept of rationalization
The general idea is that it is not restricted to religion, capitalism, but it dominates all forms of life
Ends/means calculations dominant
It begins with value rationally and then develops to instrumental rationality (perfectly organized)
I. bureaucracy: the ultimate instrumentally rational organization
Instrumental rationality is embedded in its most strong forms in these new institutions that
emerge after the industrial revolution, there are different kinds of bureaucracies, there are
traditional based bureaucracies, and there is a difference to modern bureaucracy
All bureaucracy
Hierarchical pyramid
Written rules (modern bureaucracy: that people can refer to, if it is not written it does not
Files (modern bureaucracy: the information can be refer any time)
Salary not wages
Bureau or office not personal belongs to the organization, you have structure that can
survive without any individual
“Technical” superiority over other organizations
Bureaucracies simultaneously inevitable and deeply problematic: they serve as instruments of
power and domination once they develop it is hard to change, they develop a life of their own
Social contexts changes, bureaucracies tend to carry on as if nothing as change, their interests
is to how to function in the organization and move up, if they are too inflexible and change,
ironically they become irrational
Social environment is static and bureaucracies are not
Goal displacement: following riles becomes the goal – existing riles become paramount, even if
the social context changes
The doctor and the patient: technically perfect surgery > dead patient (the environmental issue)
the procedure itself went perfectly, even though the patient died, it is seen as a success
Marx: the workers and capitalists are alienated, lose control over their creations
Weber: everyone loses control; they are dominated by bureaucracies and bureaucratic
personalities or “specialists without spirit” i.e. robotic life
He critiques Marx, Marx anticipated “communism” will get rid of “alienation” and humans begin
to control their destiny their social lives, Weber argues that because of bureaucracy and
bureaucratization communism will not get rid of alienation, but on the other hand humans could
change things around, but we shouldn’t be too optimistic
Weber dislikes social inequality, but hard to dismantle bureaucracies
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