Chapter 7: Bureaucracy and Formal Organizations (Pages 167-177)
The Rationalization of Society
• The rationalization of society refers to a transformation in institutions and people’s
thinking and behaviors over the past 150 years from a traditional orientation to life to one
based on rationality.
• The idea of rationalization of society is based largely on the work of Marx Weber.
• Weber was interested in TYPES OF SOCIALACTION – the overarching forms which
shaped human behavior in traditional and modern societies.
• In modern society, much of social action is oriented around a MEANS-END
• MEANS-END RATIONALACTION – The specific rules and norms that guide
everyday behavior are simply the MEANS to attain some larger END,
• EX. Attaining a university degree (means) to obtain a career position (end)
Earning 120 credits (means) to obtain a university degree (end)
Taking 3-credit courses each semester (means) to accumulate 120 credits (end)
Studying (means) to successfully earn 3 credits from a class (end)
• As opposed to TRADITIONALACTION built around personal relationships and based
on the idea that the past is the best guide for the present.
EX. Thanksgiving as a traditional holiday for taking a break and spend time with family
• Under TRADITIONALACTION, everyday rituals, performances, events (i.e. social
actions) are seen NOT as the MEANS to (attain) something else but as ENDS in
EX. Accepted social construct
• According to Weber, a change in people’s way of thinking from traditional to rational
action was important to the development of capitalism
• Capitalism required a change in perception (from tradition to rationality) and behavior
(from personal relationships to impersonal, short-term contracts).
EX. Person numbers b/c large number of students
Five Principles of Rationalization
• Calculability – Results can be calculated or estimated by adopting assumptions and
considering the methods by which results will be achieved.
• Efficiency – Actors have various ends and attempt to find the best means to achieving
EX. Dating websites, very efficient
• Predictability – Organizations have rules and regulations, and actors are subject to
structures and authority. This, along with established procedures and ends, mean that the
results of social action can often be predicted.
EX. Probability of success of surgery. How good a BigMac and fries tastes like
• Non-Human Technology – Technologies such as tools, machinery, and information
technologies make predictability greater.
EX. Why have people when we can have machines? • Control over Uncertainties – Rules are set up not so much to deal with specific people
or personalities, but attempt to be gener