Weber's Concept of Rationalization, including his example of 'Spirit of Capitalism'

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One of the most important themes in Weber’s work is the concept of rationalization. Many of his theoretical studies are devoted to understanding the process of rationalization. This was done by looking at why modern societies took the form that they did. It is important because his stress on this concept is what set him apart from Karl Marx. Marx claimed that material factors were dominant in history, but Weber believed a more common outlook was needed in the understanding of the pattern of history’s development. He referred to this as the process of rationalization. For Weber, “all the spheres of society – economic, legal, political, and religious – were subject to the process of rationalization and it was this that led to the rise of modern Western society” (Morrison, 217). The term rationalization has been used in many different perspectives and in many of Weber’s works. Weber used the term rationalization to explain the “process by which nature, society, and individual action are increasingly mastered by orientation to planning, technical procedure and rational action” (Morrison, 218). In other words, rationalization is the notion of taking human behavior and introducing it to rational thinking (ie: applying sense and organization to chaos). It refers to two broad trends in historical development. The first trend is the trend of social and historical procedures to become more dependent on calculation and technical knowledge in hopes to gain control over the natural and social world. The term calculation is used to put into words the point at which economic values break through the sphere of social life. The second trend in historical development is the inclination of human acts to free itself from the dependence on supernatural thinking in order to understand the world. Morrison explains that rationalization is dependent on two types of activities: “strategies

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