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When looking at the structure of society today, it is all too easy to see how the moral compass of human beings, as a whole, has altered for quite some time. Instead we have replaced our moral compass with rules and regulations, accepting conformity as morality. In today’s world one finds their moral compass among the behaviors of those they associate closes with, and those people find theirs through like means. Because of this, morality has become a rationalized addition to society’s rules, stemming from the acceptance and encouragement of those around us. The rationalization of every day life has lead to morality existing as a critical, rational calculation negatively impacting the behavior of humans socially.
When looking at the rationalization of society; two sociologists spring directly to mind. The first is Max Weber, who originally came up with the term, “The Iron Cage of Rationality.” He believed that humans were meant to conform to rationalization in order to further the world and to maintain a steady progression in socialization. As Weber explains, “The fate of our times is characterized by rationalization and intellectualization and, above all, by the disenchantment of the world” (Weber). Max Weber was committed to the study of causality, the probability that an event would be followed by another event not necessarily of a similar nature. In addition to this he also believed that social scientists should not let their personal values influence their scientific research. In this area Weber thought that sociology should be “value Free” (Weber). He believed in structuring society around these ideas, disparaging his internal moral compass, trading it in for the cold hearted edge of rationality and the rationalization of society.
Weber also studied the levels to which rationality was becoming institutionally implemented into modern industrialized societies. Chiefly, the rationalization process is the practical application of knowledge to achieve a desired goal. It has been shown to lead to better efficiency, coordination and control over what can be assumed to be both the physical and social environment. However, in adding to this, human beings have begun to use this process selfishly, a means to figure out which alternative would benefit their own selfish needs the best as an end result. Rationalization is “the guiding principle behind bureaucracy and the increasing division of labor” (Folsom). It has led to the “unprecedented increase in both the production of goods and services” and the “up rise of secularization, depersonalization and oppressive routine” (Elwell). The moral compass of the owners of establishments have been switched off in regards to a lot of their customers and their workers. The structure of society has trained these managers to use rationalization as their moral compass, therefor training themselves to be less comforting to employees, and less trustworthy to customers.
Like Weber, George Ritzer’s theory on McDonaldization also deals with the “Iron Cage” of existence. Instead of looking at the the study of causality, Ritzer focuses more on the restraints and need for regimental conformity and order that is placed upon society’s workers. By using this popular restaurant name, Ritzer believes it to possess all the attributes that go hand in hand with his theory. By the mid 19th century, due to the combination of advancement in technology, the wide spread usage of vehicles and the development of large new suburbs, both shopping and eating practices changed. Small businesses were being outranked and put out of business by bigger, more efficient stores, that were typically located within new shopping malls and plazas being developed in new suburbs. Fast food was designed to lure families out of the home, by providing a meal at a price that everyone could afford. The reasons for going out and visiting one of these restaurants and such was more to do with the qualities that they emphasized and not to do with the quality of the goods or service.
In our society it is hard to distinguish between the blurred lines of work and home. Sociologist Arlie Hochschild introduces a concept called “time bind” in 1997 in reference to this phenomenon that has become more and more popular throughout society. Time bind is a concept that refers directly to the blurring distinction between work and home social environments. When this occurs, the moral compass of people is thrown off as they become more focused on flawless efficiency, thus “identifying themselves through work” (Hochschild) to a larger extent, over anything else. Rationalization values, norms and interests become “incorporated in the self-concept” (Hochschild) as employees increase their identification with the organization. Employee interactions with the organization, through other employees, management, customers, or others, reinforces or resists the employee identification with the organization. By identifying more strongly with their behavior within the workplace, employees lose the integrity of their moral compass outside the work force. They become less focused on maintaining their morality and more focused on maintaining the values they pick up when encountering interactions at work.
A huge downfall to society is the surrender of culture to technology. Technology has become a huge part of everyday life throughout societies worldwide. In various stages of advancement technology has seeped its way across nations, furthering people’s reliance on it. As Neil Postman argues, “Every technology is both a burden and a blessing” (Postman). This is obvious, especially to sociologists who have studied the issue in detail, technology has lead to a drop in basic values, leading people to me more reliant on simplicity and the easiest route instead of best. Efficiency and timeliness is the most important attribute within society. Even the simplest tasks are narrowed into the fastest, most efficient way of completion, often heavily relying on technology as the means of completion. In The Judgment of Thamus, Postman states, “we are currently surrounded by throngs of zealous Theuths, one-eyed prophets who see only what new technologies can do and are incapable of imagining what they will undo” (Postman). Many people throughout society who are heavily dependent on technology to further efficiency in their every day lives, have lost touch with what technology takes away and are unable to see how their values have been altered by the constant barrage of technology.
Humans have suffered a decline in their values and morals for years, becoming less focused on these attributes to society and becoming consumed with the idea of efficiency; flawlessness, speed, reliability. Instead of being focused on what’s most moral or “right” people are more focused on the speed at which something is completed, the perfection of the task being completed and have lost touch with their basic human values. Throughout history many sociologists have studied this phenomenon, and it’s impact not only in the business world but also how the personal lives of people heavily dependent on extreme efficiency are affected. The rationalization of every day life has lead to morality existing as a critical, rational calculation negatively impacting the behavior of humans socially.
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