Max Weber and Symbolic Interactionism
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While Karl Marx may be one of the best-known sociologists of the nineteenth century, Max Weber is unquestionably one of the best impacts that influenced the field of sociology. Like the other sociologists examined throughout this class, he was concerned with the essential progressions occurring in Western society with the approach of industrialization. Also, like Marx and Durkheim, he feared that industrialization would have negative consequences on individuals.
Weber’s essential focus on the structure of society lay in the components of class, status, and power. Like Marx, Weber saw class as economically determined. Society was split in the middle of owners and laborers. Status, then again, was focused around noneconomic factors, for example, education, family relationship, and religion. Both status and class determined an individual’s influence or power over ideas. Dissimilar to Marx, Weber believed that these ideas framed the base of society.
Weber’s analysis of modern society focused on the idea of rationalization. A rational society is one constructed around efficiency and logic instead of profound tradition or mortality. To Weber, capitalism is completely rational. In spite of the fact that this prompts proficiency and merit-based achievement, it can have a negative impact when taken to the extreme. In some modern societies, this is seen when strict design and rigid routines lead to a mechanized work environment and a concentrate on producing indistinguishable products in every area.
An example of the extreme conditions of rationality can be found in Charlie Chaplin’s classic film Modern Times (1936). Chaplin’s character performs a routine task to the point where he couldn’t stop going through the repetitive motions even while away from the job site. Today we even have a perceived medical condition that is the result of such undertakings, known as “Repetitive Stress Syndrome.” Weber was not like his predecessors, he was more intrigued by how individuals accomplished societal divisions than in the divisions themselves. The symbolic interactionism theory, the third of the three most perceived theories of sociology, is focused around Weber’s early ideas that stress the perspective of the individual and how that individual identifies with society.
For Weber, the culmination of rationalization, industrialization and so forth is what he alluded to as the iron cage, in which the individual is trapped by institution and bureaucracy. This prompts a feeling of “disenchantment of the world,” an expression Weber used to portray the last state of humanity. Indeed a bleak prediction, however one that has, in any event to some degree, been borne out. “In a rationalized, modern society, we have supermarkets instead of family-owned stores. We have chain restaurants instead of local eateries. Superstores that offer a multitude of merchandise have replaced independent businesses that focused on one product line, such as hardware, groceries, automotive repair, or clothing. Shopping malls offer retail stores, restaurants, fitness centers, even condominiums” (Lumen).