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Sociological Inquiry

51 (1): 5-25

Rationality and Freedom : Weber and Beyond *
Donald N. LEVIN-E
The University of Chicago
and Center for Advanced Study, Stanford

In the tradition of German social thought from Kant and Hegel through Toennies and
Simmel. the development of rationality in modern Europe is associated with an increase of
human freedom. Weber’s work departs from that tradition by providing an incomparably
diflerentiated framework for the analysis of rationality and by associating modern European
rationalization with a curtailment of freedom. More careful examination of Weber’s oeuvre,
however, indicates that he, too, connected rationalization with the growth o f freedom in
many respects. His amended argument remains valuable today, although ways in which it
stands to be improved by incorporating subsequent analyses are suggested.

Max Weber did not utter the first words on the devise a constitution which realizes the greatest
problem of rationality and freedom in modern possible freedom. For Diderot, to follow the
life, nor has he had the last word, but he did laws of reason was to shake off the yoke of
recast the entire discussion of the subject-in authority and tradition.
terms which have by no means lost pertinence for This conjoint celebration of reason and free-
analyzing a world increasingly shaped by scien- dom by 18th-century thinkers had some well-
tists, industrialists, and bureaucrats. known repercussions in modern history. It ani-
Prior to reaching the mind of Weber, this prob- mated the framers of the American Declaration
lem was presented grandly by a number of 18th- of Independence. It was used and abused by the
century writers who subscribed to a general makers of the French Revolution. It initiated a
formulation which subsequently underwent a great tradition of German social thought; as
series of critical transformations. The philoso- Hegel wrote to Schelling in 1793, despite the
phers of the Enlightenment, writes Ernst Cassirer, excesses of the French Revolution “reason and
were suffused by the sense that a new force was freedom remain our principles” (Marcuse, 1941:
at work in their time, a formative power that 11).
manifested itself in a great variety of energies and
shapes. The name given to this essentially homo- PRE-WEBERIAN FORMULATIONS: KANT
geneous formative power was ‘reason.’ “ ‘Rea-
son,’ ” he observes, “becomes the unifying and AND HEGEL
central point of this century, expressing all that It was Immanuel Kant who first transformed
it longs and strives for, and all that it achieves” the philosophes’ rather diffuse laudation of reason
(1951: 5). and freedom into a differentiated schema of pre-
Not the least appreciated attribute of this force cise philosophical argument. If rationality and
of reason was its assumed capacity to promote freedom remain preeminent linked ideals for
human freedom. For Voltaire, reason served Kant, it is not the case that all forms of rationality
to liberate men from superstition, bigotry, and promote freedom nor that all kinds of freedom
intolerance. For Montesquieu, reason applied to represent ideal states. Rather, Kant takes pains
the study of political forms could enable men to to distinguish and assess different forms both of
rationality and freedom.
For Kant, rationality is a property of human
*Paper presented at the Max Weber Symposium, subjects that appears when their mental powers
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, May 5 , 1977.
This substantially revised version has had the benefit are developed to the point of achieving cognition
of comments from Jeffrey Alexander, Joseph Ben- according to principles. Kant identifies three
David, Charles Bidwell, Lewis Coser, Morris Jano- such higher faculties of cognition: understanding
witz, Harry Johnson, Stephen Kalberg, Victor Lidz, (Verstand), judgment (Urteil), and reason ( V e r -
John MacAloon, Guy Oakes, Karl Pletsch, Guenther nunft). Understanding serves to ascertain the
Roth, Wolfgang Schluchter, Michael Schudson. Terry deterministic laws of natural phenomena, and
Sullivan, Gerald Suttles, Richard Taub, and Stephen judgment serves to produce aesthetic and teleo-
The final revisions on this paper were made at logical assessments; neither of these cognitive ac-
the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral tivities, however, is directly constitutive of human
Sciences. I am grateful for financial support pro- freedom. Only V e r n u n f t , the faculty responsible
vided by the Center, the Guggenheim Foundation, for producing morality, is related to the attain-
and National Science Foundation BNS 76 22943. ment of freedom.

Kant also distinguishes three kinds of free- It is this historicizing afterthought of Kant
dom: freedom of choice, or free will; freedom which Hegel seized to make the entire ground of
as self-regulation, or autonomy; and freedom as his conception. Although freedom and reason
civil liberty. Freedom of choice is a natural (Vernunft, which following Kant is contrasted
property of all human beings, and refers to the with Verstand, mere scientific understanding) con-
fact that human conduct is not wholly determined tinue to signify preeminent ideals for Hegel, he
by animal impulses. Autonomy is the capacity of sees them not as states attainable by every person
a subject to legislate and abide by ethical impera- simply by virtue of being human, but as species
tives of his own making. Civil liberty refers to a objectives to be attained through a long and
condition in which men are protected by the arduous evolutionary struggle. It is this very
rule of law against constraints on their actions struggle which constitutes history as Hegel prefers
emanating from the arbitrary wills of other to define it.
actors. Hegel defines history, however, in two distinct
To the first kind of freedom reason relates only senses: in a subjective sense, as the human nar-
indirectly, only in the sense that by virtue of ration of events, and an objective sense, as the
being an animal with the potential for reason, events themselves. The development of ration-
man possesses an innate capacity to determine ality and freedom, accordingly, follows two dis-
for himself what he shall do. This capacity tinct paths. On the one hand, history is the actual
itself is not rational, however; free choice stems sequence of struggles by which political com-
from the elective will, Willkiir, which is a faculty munities successively emerge to negate and tran-
of desire, not of cognition. Freedom of choice scend the cultural values of their predecessors;
simply represents a factor of organismic indeterm- objective reason is the progressive embodiment of
inacy in the constitution of man; as such, Kant that struggle in the form of increasingly perfected
considers it neither morally valuable nor depend- systems of morality represented by the state and
ent on the actual exercise of rational powers. its laws; and objective freedom is maximally
The two other kinds of freedom, by contrast, obtained when the constituent units of society all
do constitute ideal conditions for Kant, and both
submit their wills to the laws and regulations of
are closely tied to the use of reason. First and the state. On the other hand, history is the
foremost, reason gives man freedom by enabling
reconstruction of that progressive record of events
him to legislate ethical imperatives for himself,
to experience autonomy through the exercise of a by human subjects; subjective reason is the active
purely rational will ( Wille, as contrasted with self-consciousness of the subjectivity of oneself
Willkiir). Moreover, practical reason dictates the and others and the growth of Mind in articulating
propriety of joining with others in a civil society that self-consciousness through the creative work
and, through that collaboration of rational wills, of art, religion, and philosophy; and subjective
establishing a juridical condition that guarantees freedom is the transcendence of passions and
to each independence from the constraint of impulses by the achievement of ultimate self-
another’s will insofar as is compatible with the knowledge through philosophical speculation.
freedom of everyone else in accord with a uni- The two dimensions are closely related. Sub-
versal law. Kant’s summary position, then, jective reason and freedom are possible o n l y
would be that rationality in the form of practical because what history comprises are the manifesta-
reason (a kind of subjective rationality) promotes tions of universal ideas of reason and freedom in
both human autonomy (a kind of subjective free- concrete communities; objective rationality and
dom) and civil liberty (a kind of external or freedom are possible only because the subjects it
objective freedom). considers are rational subjects in pursuit of free-
Although these and other formulations of Kant dom. Both types of freedom entail the subor-
were absorbed in various ways into the complex dination of impulse to the constraints of reason,
of intellectual resources from which Weber was and both represent freedom in the sense of self-
to draw heavily, there is one particularly impor- perfection.
tant respect in which Kant anticipates and orients Hegel’s conception of rationality and freedom
the thinking of 19th-century writers whom Weber thus differs radically from that of Kant. Not a
confronted. This is his turn from treating reason guaranteed sphere within which actors can do
and freedom exclusively in the framework of a what they wish without interference from others,
static metaphysic of morals and its related view but a regime of duties stipulated by and enforced
of human nature to their examination in a histori- by political institutions, constitutes the domain
cal perspective as well. In his later reflections, of objective freedom; not moral laws of the
Kant maintained that a purpose could be dis- autonomous individual’s own making, but recog-
cerned in the natural unfolding of the history nition of the rationality of the state’s demands, is
of humanity-and this purpose was in fact to the locus of subjective freedom. For Hegel “it
perfect the use of human reason and to establish is not the particular members of the society that
societies which guarantee freedom under external constitute an individual, free, self-integrated, and
laws (Kant, [1784] 1963; Galston, 1975). self-conscious entity; it is the society as the

resolution of the partial freedom and self-con- It was a constant feature of Toennies’s socio-
sciousness of the members” (O’Brien 1975: 161). logical vision, in his own later words, to “see in
the entire historical development since the Middle
Ages the gradual setting free of rationalism and
PRE-WEBERIAN FORMULATIONS its increasing dominance as inherently necessary
TOENNIES AND SIMMEL processes, and especially as processes of human
mind as will” ([1932] 1971: 6). To conceptualize
This shift toward the representation of in- this vision he constructed a pair of ideal types
creased rationality and freedom at the level of to represent fundamentally contrasting kinds
large-scale societal processes was perhaps the of human volition, Wesenswille and Kiirwille.s
aspect of Hegel’s treatment of the problem which Both Wesenswille and Kurville involve rational
had the most lasting repercussions in German activity, and both manifest freedom since, as
social thought.’ In the next major reformulation Toennies defines it, freedom denotes the psychic
of the problem, Ferdinand Toennies would hail energy that comprises both kinds of human
Hegel’s achievement in demonstrating the histori- volition ([I8871 1977: 136). Moreover, the dis-
cal necessity of the rational modern social struc- tinctive types of social formations which they
tures--civil society and the state-thereby deflat- generate, Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft respec-
ing the movement by romantic writers, legal tively, both manifest freedom. This is so, fist,
historians, and reactionary thinkers to reject them because both kinds of formation involve volitional
as theoretical errors. At the same time Toennies affirmation, and second, because both have some
faulted Hegel for presenting a vague and ob- kinds of laws which guarantee certain kinds of
fuscating view of social life and for propounding freedom ([ 19261 1974: 174). Accordingly, the
the idea of a unilineal development toward per- transition from Gemeinschaft to Gesellschaft is
fection. In seeking to correct these shortcomings, not a movement from nonrationality and unfree-
Toennies attempted to bring persons back into dom to rationality and freedom; but from one
the picture, to uncover “the real relationship mode of volition and social organization in which
between individual will and social groups” which rationality and freedom are defined and circum-
Hegel had “blotted out” ([1912] 1971: 27), and scribed by the immersion of selves in an organic
to replace the notion of Vernunft as a transcend- community bound by shared sentiments and mu-
ent teleological ideal with a variety of relatively tual understandings, to another in which ration-
neutral analytic concepts. In so doing, he laid ality and freedom are exhibited in the deliberative
the groundwork for the modern sociological treat- processes by which persons associate on the basis
ment of rationality and freedom.’ of instrumental considerations and contractual
Why, then, does Toennies repeatedly maintain
‘This is true well beyond the period reviewed in that the development of Gesellschaft entails the
the present paper. See Mannheim’s call for a return development of rationalism? The point is this:
to Hegel as point of departure in developing a mod-
ern sociology of mental life: “What makes Hegel’s
original point of view still worth remembering is community but is constrained to serve the interests
his collectivistic, and potentially sociological, under- of the privileged, is similarly unfree. The movement
standing of ideas” (1956: 59). It should be noted, for freedom begins with the appropriation of intel-
in passing, that contemporary with Hegel a compa- lectual goods, with education. “The spread of edu-
rable shift toward conceptualizing the growth of cation necessarily constitutes a beginning of the
rationality and freedom as evolutionary societal proc- spread of human freedom” ([1850] 1964: 71). The
esses was taking place in France in the work of cultivation of human reason through education pro-
Condorcet, Saint-Simon, and Comte, albeit on the motes freedom by making people conscious of their
basis of radically different philosophical principles. needs and interests and by equipping them to strive
’Some mention should be made of the man who more adequately for material possessions.
has justly been referred to, if unjustly neglected, terms are scarcely translatable, but Loomis’s
as the first German sociologist-Lorenz von Stein. translation of Kiirwille as “rational will” is especially
Toennies acknowledges von Stein as a key transitional unsatisfactory, for two reasons. “Rational will”
figure between Hegel and himself. Stein attempted to is often identified with Kant’s Wille, which for
bring Hegel’s conception of reason and freedom into Kant was identical with pure practical reason. The
closer contact with contemporary realities. Deny- term Toennies used in the first two editions of
ing that freedom could be secured solely through a Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft was Willkiir, precisely
constitution that embodies the pure idea of the Kant’s term for the elective will as opposed to
state, on grounds that what the state does must rational will. Toennies’s Willkiir or Kiirwille, then,
reflect the differential distribution of resources in is more accurately rendered as elective will, or ar-
society, Stein sees the true history of freedom as the bitrary will, as Kahnman and Heberle have done.
history of the growth and distribution of societal (Wesenswille might best be translated as primordial
products among the disadvantaged classes. Insofar will.) A second reason for objecting to Kiirwille
as people lack possessions they live in a state of as rational will is the implication that Wesenswille
social “dependence.” They are unfree as individuals, is devoid of rationality, which as the text indicates
and their state, which is supposed to serve the whole was not the way Toennies conceived it.

in Wesenswille, thought is subordinated to voli- zation of money as a generalized medium of
tion. That is, rational activity occurs in order exchange. Money, Simmel writes, favors the
to realize desires derived from genetic inheritance, ascendance of intellectuality over emotional re-
habit, group sentiments, custom, and religion. In sponses. Being a quantitative measure, the re-
Kurwille, by contrast, volition is subordinate to peated use of money required the development of
thought. In Kurwille, rational activity attains a calculative skills and habits. Being a strictly
kind of independence such that it can conceive instrumental possession-money is the absolute
novel ends, project alternative futures, and cal- tool, the means flexible enough to serve any end
culate a variety of means. It is this autonomous whatsoever-its habitual use requires that consid-
status of rational activity that Toennies has in erable energy be devoted to the rational analysis
mind when ascribing an expanded role to ration- of costs and benefits, means and ends.
ality in Gesellschaft. In pursuing this analysis, Simmel does not
Viewed as a critical extension of Hegel, this consistently adhere to the kind of distinction
formulation of Toennies not only purports to be urged by Toennies, between subjective and objec-
a secular empirical analysis, but further modifies tive rationality. Although Simmel does make,
Hegel’s treatment of reason in history by stressing and use to very good effect indeed, a distinction
the distinction between two levels of historical between what he calls subjective and objective
phenomena: an objective, social level and a sub- culture, when treating the rationalism of modern
jective, individual level. Hegel had, as Toennies social relations based on the circulation of money
put it, defined the objective mind as the system he tends to confuse the objective significance of
of social life, and for Hegel “the state was to money as a social phenomenon and the subjective
emerge as social rationality in all its purity” orientations of those who use it (a confusion for
([1894] 1974: 66). Toennies insisted on supple- which he would later be criticized by Weber‘).
menting this level of analysis with one focused on On the other hand, he goes well beyond Toennies
variations in the quality of individual intention- and other writers of the time in making and
ality, on different modes of rational volition. using clear distinctions among different kinds of
Thus, for Toennies to treat the development of freedom.
rationalism as a social phenomenon means to Of the many kinds of freedom which Simmel
identify “a development in both individual and mentions at different points in his work, three are
social reason (Entwicklung der individuellen und of recurring and central importance. We may
der sozialen Vernunft)” (1926: 98; 1974: 174; gloss these in terms of the already mentioned
emphasis mine); in his own analytic terms, a distinction between subjective and objective free-
development both of the capacity for Kiirwille dom. Simmel distinguishes two kinds of objec-
and of the enactments of Gesellschaft. tive freedom, kinds of freedom that refer to an
Enhanced freedom is a major consequence of actor’s position in a nexus of relations with
this development in individual and social reason. objects: a ‘‘negative’’ freedom of liberation from
Gradually, Toennies states, the activity of persons external constraints and obligations, and a “posi-
oriented by Kiirwille and the institutions of tive’’ freedom to obtain satisfactions through the
Gesellschaft dissolve the unifying social bonds control of resources. In addition, Simmel de-
based on time-honored custom and belief, bonds velops a notion of subjective freedom in the sense
which restrict the individual’s freedom of move- of individuality, freedom as the development of
ment and conception. They produce persons who one’s personality according to the dispositions of
are free, self-determining agents, free to subjugate one’s own nature.
one another or free to conclude agreements, free What Simmel goes on to argue in Philosophie
to establish contracts, and free to adapt their des Geldes is that all three kinds of freedom are
attitudes to the findings of science ([1887] 1957: promoted by the use of money and its related
224, 234). rational mental habits. Money promotes free-
Kindred themes are broached in the work with dom in the sense of liberation from external
which, as Toennies put it, 19th-century sociology constraints: by enabling values to be assigned
“reached an impressive finale” ([ 19261 1974: 182), precisely and impersonally, money makes it possi-
Simmel’s Philosophie des Geldes. In his first ble for individuals to be connected to other per-
sociological monograph (1890), Simmel had out- sons only insofar as they need or wish to be so
lined a number of developmental patterns that connected, and to be freed from the ancillary
together portrayed modern society as a highly constraints and obligations which encumber rela-
differentiated social world wherein individuals are tions to patrons, suppliers, clients, and customers
liberated from a variety of jural and customary
constraints in ways that enormously expand their
freedom of action. In his long treatise on money

4‘‘(Subjectively) intended and objectively valid
published years later, Simmel developed a more ‘meanings’ are two different things which Sirnmel not
original and profound set of interpretations. In only fails to distinguish but often mixes up with one
the latter work, Simmel depicted a new mode of another” ([1921 (1976)] 1968: 4 [l]; translation
rational activity manifest in the pervasive utili- altered).

in societies which lack monetized media of ex- notable is that Weber’s treatment of the topic
change. Money promotes freedom in the sense of rationality differs dramatically from all of his
of ability to realize one’s goals in a number of predecessors in three respects.
respects. Of all objects, money offers the least First, the conceptual apparatus Weber devel-
resistance to an agent. It is the most possessable oped to represent the forms and processes of
of all things, hence completely submissive to the rationalization is much more differentiated than
will of an ego. It can be acquired in countless that employed in any of the earlier analyses.
ways. There are no limits to the amount of it Second, through his comparative studies of efforts
that one can possess. As the absolutely general to rationalize culture in classical antiquity, the
instrumentality, money maximizes the options Near East, China, and India, Weber decisively
available to anyone having a finite amount of transcended the Europocentric notion that the
resources. development of rationalism is a uniquely Western
Finally, money promotes freedom in the sense phenomenon. Indeed, he can be viewed as credit-
of individualized self-development, by providing ing the Orient for having developed heights of
an effective means of differentiating between the rationality in some respects superior to those
subjective center and the objective achievements reached in the Occident.’
of a person. Individuals’ performances may be Regarding developments in Western Europe, fi-
paid for with money while their persons remain nally, Weber’s position concerning the effects of
outside the transaction. Conversely, individual rationality on freedom challenges the formula with
persons can be supported as such by monetary which all the previously mentioned thinkers, in
contributions from anonymous others, while their spite of their numerous substantive differences,
specific performances remain free from financial were in agreement. Far f r o m viewing the
considerations. Further in this vein Simmel advance of rationality as a prime source of free-
argues that the separation of workers from their d o m in the modern West, Weher frequently
means of production (for which “a money econ- decried it as a serious threat t o freedom. Pre-
omy paved the way”), while viewed by some as vailing interpretations of Weber typically focus
the focal point of social misery, may rather be on this aspect of his position: thus, “when it
viewed “as a salvation” insofar as it provides came to [analyzing] the trends toward rationaliza-
conditions for the liberation of the worker as a tion.. . of modern society, Weber tended.. . to
human subject from the objectified technical ap- assert that the chances were very great indeed
paratus of productivity ([1907] 1978: 337).’ that mankind would in the future be imprisoned
in an iron cage of its own making” (Coser, 1977:
233); for Weber after 1903, “the Leitmotiv of
ENTER WEBER Western history has changed from progress
through self-liberation to enslavement through
The formulations of Kant, Hegel, Toennies, and rationalization” (Mitzman, 1970: 168); “Weber’s
Simmel provided some of the ideas from which sympathy, or rather his grim anxiety, is on the
Weber drew selectively in developing his own side of personality against rationality” (Cahnman,
sociology of rationalism. Although Weber’s 1978: 19I ; emphasis mine).’
work was arguably stimulated by their formula- T o advance beyond Weber in the understanding
tions in certain ways,6 what is perhaps more of these issues, I argue in the remainder of this
paper, requires two efforts. The first is to recover
what Weber actually said concerning the forms
‘Simmel’s complex argument on this subject also and processes of rationalization. Weber’s pene-
includes lines of thought which treat the negative tration of these issues was not only unprecedented,
consequences both of excessive freedom and of ra- it remains unsurpassed. No subsequent dis-
tionalization as a source of alienation. For a more cussion of rationalization with which I a m famil-
extended exposition, see Levine (1981).
8For example, Kant’s formulation of the categor-
ical imperative was for Weber an archetypical ex- ‘See, for example, Weber’s assertion that ”in the
ample of what he came to call value-rationality; area of thought concerning the ‘significance’ of the
Hegel’s treatment of the course of rationalization in world and of life there is nothing whatsoever which
world history set up the project which Weber strove was not already been conceived in Asia in some
to recast (on Weber’s silent homage to and acute form” ([1923] 1958b: 331 [365]; emphasis in original:
consciousness of Hegel as his major intellectual an- translation altered).
tagonist, see Bruun, 1972: 39); Toennies’s treatment ‘This is not, of course, to say that Weber was
of Gerneinschaft and Gesellschaft as social forms the first to sound the alarms about certain negative
based on differing degrees of rational volition became tendencies in modern society. Apart from the varied
the paradigm for Weber’s first sketch of a Ver- anti-modernist currents in 19th-century culture, nota-
stehende sociology in his 1913 Logos essay; and ble critical diagnoses were made by Marx, Nietzsche,
Simmel’s last chapter of Philosophie des Geldes was and Simmel, all of whom had serious impact on
cited as a “brilliant portrayal” (“glanzenden Bilder”) Weber. Still, it was Weber who first thematized
of the spirit of capitalism in the Protestant Ethic the intimate association between historical processes
essay ([1920] 1930: 193 [33]). of rationalization and the curtailment of freedom.

iar has mastered the levels of complexity and clearcut and consistent manner, nor did he ever
insight that Weber reached. To do this we must produce the conceptual exposition of the “many
bring more order to Weber’s formulations than possible meanings of the concept of ‘rationaliza-
he himself had time to produce. tion’” which he promised in introducing the later
Second, we must subject the formula that part of Economy and Society ([I921 (1976)l 1968:
modern rationalization produces unfreedom to a 30 [IS]). Even for those who are aware of the
searching critique. I shall argue that any global serious need for such conceptual clarification,
assertion that rationalization curtails freedom then, the matter remains vexed.
must be fundamentally flawed, in good part As a contribution toward sorting out some of
because of its failure to take into account the full this complexity, I propose as a preliminary step
scope of Weber’s argument on the problem and to make use of the distinction between subjective
beyond that its failure to apply the gamut of and objective manifestations of rationality which
Weber’s rich array of distinctions regarding ra- surfaced in our review of the earlier authors.
tionality to the question of freedom in the modern This is a commonplace distinction and each term
world. refers to a wide variety of phenomena. The
locus of subjective rationality is the mental proc-
esses of actors. Such notions as Kant’s practical
THE WEBERIAN CONCEPTION OF reason, Hegel’s self-consciousness, Toennies‘s ra-
RATIONALITY tional volition, and Simmel’s calculating habits
of mind refer to various aspects of kinds of
Few sources indeed are informed by a sustained subjective rationality. Other contemporary no-
appreciation of the fact that for Weber the con- tions include Pareto’s concept of subjective logi-
cept of rationality was multiply ambiguous.g cality and, more generally, the economists’ notion
This is no less than astonishing in view of Weber’s of utility-maximizing orientations.
own declaration, in a footnote to his most famous The locus of objective rationality is courses of
work, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit o f action and symbolic products assessed in terms
Capitalism: “If this essay makes any contribution of institutionalized norms. Hegel’s notion of
at all, may it be to bring out the complexity reason embodied in laws and political institutions,
(Vielseitigkeit) of the only superficially simple Toennies’s notion of the constitution and judicial
concept of the ‘rational”’ ([1920] 1930: 194 [35]). agencies of Gesellschaft as embodying “naked
Within the text itself, moreover, Weber makes social reason,” Simmel’s conception of social rela-
the point that “one may rationalize life from tions based on precise, impersonal calculation,
fundamentally different points of view and in very and Pareto’s concept of objective logicality are
different directions. ‘Rationalism’ is a historical illustrative.
concept that contains a world of contradictions Although Weber did not consistently make use
in itself”--a point given added emphasis in the of the distinction when analyzing the phenomena
revised edition of 1920, where Weber observed, of rationality and rationalization, I believe that
“This simple proposition, which is often forgotten, without clearly distinguishing subjective and ob-
should be placed at the beginning of every study jective rationality it is impossible to do justice to
which essays to deal with rationalism” ([ 19201 his complex of observations on this subject.
1930: 77-78 [62]).l” There are several warrants for this claim. For
The problem of securing an adequate grasp of one thing, there are passages in his methodological
the Vielseitigkeit of Weber’s conceptualization of writing where Weber does articulate a distinction
rationality is complicated by the fact that Weber between subjective and objective rationality.
himself did not use the relevant distinctions in a Both “On Some Categories of Interpretive Soci-
ology” (1913) and “The Meaning of ‘Ethical
Neutrality’ in Sociology and Economics” (1 917)
YThe few significant exceptions include Bendix include discussions of the importance of distin-
(1965). Schluchter ([I9761 1979b), and Kalberg (1980). guishing these two dimensions of social action.
‘““Rationality” and “rationalism” are used inter- Subjective rationality is taken to refer to action
changeably by Weber to denote a property of action
or symbolic products. “Rationalization” refers to a that is conscious and deliberate (contrasted with
historical process of making action or symbolic action undertaken for motives that are uncon-
products more rational. scious or disavowed) and/or action that is oriented
The attempt by Swidler (1973) to make these terms to means that are regarded as correct for a given
bear the semantic freight of distinguishing the several end. Objectively rational action, by contrast, is
substantive meanings used by Weber seems to me taken to refer to action that uses technically
misguided. Although one must agree with her point correct means in accord with scientific knowledge
that “confusion over terminology blunts the real and/or has been subjected to some process of
theoretical impact of Weber’s study of rationality,”
an effort to remedy the situation by attaching major external systematization (1922: 408-11 ; [1922]
substantive meanings to those three terms can scarcely 1949: 34 [488]). Weber goes on to insist that
be justified either by reference to the Weberian texts a progressive subjective rationalization (“fort-
or by claims that it clarifies Weber’s argument. schreitende subjektive Rationalisierung”) of con-

duct is not necessarily the same as an advance in correspond, very broadly, to Kant’s distinction
the direction of objectively rational conduct; and between Verstand and Vernunft, the capacity for
that what appear as objectively rational human rational understanding of phenomena, and the
adaptations have been brought into being in capacity to use reason as a source of directives
numerous historical instances through completely for willed action. Weber has little to say about
irrational motives. the operation of mind in its understanding of
Beyond this, there are other passages where natural phenomena, but focuses his attention on
this distinction is clearly implicit in Weber’s dis- mental operations involved in understanding
cussion. Most notable, perhaps, is the contrast, human conduct. He presents, with little elab-
in sections 6 and 7 of Chapter 1 of Economy oration, a straightforward dichotomy, between
and Society, between the various ways in which (1) rational understanding, itself further divisible
actors can be oriented to uphold the norms of a into mathematical and logical understanding,
social order, and the grounds on which legitimacy and (2) empathic understanding. Rational under-
can be ascribed to a social order. Viewed togeth- standing entails an intellectual grasp of the
er with Weber’s other discussions of legitimacy, coherence of the elements of action in the actor’s
the latter must be viewed as a typology of insti- situation. In empathic understanding, the observ-
tutionalized forms, involving beliefs and related er draws on his personal fund of emotional self-
sanctions to which the representatives of an order knowledge to experience imaginatively the emo-
have recourse in the exercise of their legitimate tional context of that situation (1968: 5). It is
authority. The former typology is one of the empathic understanding if, attending to a student’s
subjective intentions of actors as they comply rapid breathing and staccato talk, I intuit that he
with or deviate from that order. Thus, an order has come early to an appointment because he is
which rests on objectively rational grounds (e.g., anxious; it is rational understanding if I have
on the basis of a consensually validated legal knowledge of his schedule and calculate that he
constitution) may be adhered to because of the has an important class soon after for which he
nonrational dispositions of the subjects (e.g., their does not want to be late.
emotional need to comply with authority figures). Weber’s other discussion of subjective ration-
Finally, I would argue that although Weber ality appears in his classification of the types of
signaled his intention, in the prefatory note to social action (1968: 24-26). Social action can
Economy and Society, to distinguish subjectively be conceptualized in terms of four ideal types,
intended meanings from objectively valid mean- two of which are rational, two nonrational. A
ings as sharply as possible (“tunlichste Scheidunp person’s action is rationally oriented, for example,
der gemeinten von dem objektiv gultigen ‘Sinn’ ”), if he greets another person because of a con-
his general failure to articulate the distinction sciously held belief that it is a moral duty to
between subjective and objective rationality more show respect for all human beings (value-rational
forcefully and consistently appears plausible if [wertrational] action); or because he has rea-
two considerations are kept in mind: Weber’s soned that the costs of appearing rude or in-
tendency to avoid using the category of “objective different outweigh the advantages of remaining
validity” because of its connection with normative self-absorbed (means/end-rational [zweckrational]
approaches in social studies, such as jurisprudence, action). A person is nonrationally oriented when
from which he was aggressively trying to dis- greeting someone because of long-established
sociate his empirical sociology; and his lack of custom (traditional action) or a momentary burst
a viable theory of institutionalization, such that of good feelings about that person (affectual
he did not have at his disposal a ready and action).
precise way of distinguishing the term ‘objective’ This typology is well known and requires no
in the sense of valid from ‘objective’ in the Durk- elucidation at this point beyond some comment
heimian sense of supra-individual or institution- on the category of Zweckrationalitat. Many
alized. To avoid this ambiguity and remain writers have understood this to refer to action in
mindful of Weber’s sensitivity on this point, I which consideration is given only to questions of
propose hereafter to use in the latter sense the technical expediency. Admittedly there are pas-
term ‘objectified’ in place of ‘objective.’ sages in Weber’s writings which permit a narrow
Since it appears, then, that there are ample construction of this sort. However, in his chief
justifications for doing so, let us proceed to organ- discursive exposition of the category, Weber
ize Weber’s manifold references to rationality in presents a broader definition: action is zweck-
the terms just suggested. rational, he writes, “when the end, the means,
and the secondary results are all rationally taken
into account and weighed. This involves rational
SUBJECTIVE AND OBJECTIFIED FORMS consideration of alternative means to an end,
OF RATIONALITY of the relations of the end to the secondary con-
sequences, and finally of the relative importance
Weber discusses rationality as a quality of sub- of different possible ends” (1968: 26). I shall
jective mental processes in two contexts. These adhere to Weber’s explicit statement on the matter

and regard meanslend-rational action in this more rationalized in order to understand better the
inclusive sense.”. ’’ working of divine providence and to glorify the
Weber’s explicit discussion of these forms of Creator, or to provide knowledge that may be
subjective rationality is succinct and late. It used to improve living conditions. Religious be-
appears only in the introductory chapter of his liefs and practices could be rationalized in accord
last major writing, Part I of E c o n o m y a n d with ascetic or mystical ideals. In other Webe-
Society. By contrast, in the greatest part of his rian language, modes of rationalization differ
substantive work from 1904 on he was preoccu- according to the “irrational presuppositions”
pied with the different kinds of objectified ration- which ground and direct the various ways of
ality in world history. leading a rationalized style of life.
There are two principal places in his oeuvre What I am glossing as the diverse “forms” of
where Weber sets forth considerations that enable rationalization represents the dimension of varia-
us to discriminate the variety of manifestations tion which Weber delineated briefly in his intro-
of objectified rationality. When discussing the duction to The Economic Ethics of the W o r l d
point that “there have been rationalizations of the Religions, when he enumerated some of the “very
most varied sort within various spheres of life in different things” that “rationalism” may mean.
all civilizations” (1930: 26; translation altered “), (The full text is provided in the Appendix.) Al-
Weber asserts that to characterize these different though Weber does not intend here to present an
rationalizations one must determine (1) what exhaustive or systematically developed typology,
spheres of life are being rationalized, and (2) with he does clearly differentiate four emphatically
respect to what ultimate points of view and in distinct conceptions of what it might mean to
what directions (“letzten Gesichtspunkten und describe a cultural phenomenon as rational.
Zielrichtungen”) they are rationalized. Further- One meaning of rationality, in Weber’s words,
more, in another passage (to be discussed below), is “the methodical attainment of a particular given
Weber sets forth still another set of distinctions practical end through the increasingly precise cal-
concerning (3) the different forms which ration- culation of adequate means.” Although exhibited
alization may take. in its most developed form by such strata as peas-
By “spheres of life” Weber meant what sociol- ants, merchants, and artisans, this type of rational
ogists today often refer to as institutional orders. action is to some extent universal. It is informed
Weber himself treated, at varying length, the by a general human tendency to attain worldly
phenomena of rationalization in at least a dozen goals by adapting to the exigencies of everyday
distinct institutional spheres: economic organi- life. Weber notes that the most elementary forms
zation; political order; military organization; of magical and religious behavior exhibit a degree
legal systems; social stratification; education; of rationality of this sort (1968: 400), a point akin
religion; ethics; science; music; art; and erotic to Malinowski’s (otherwise somewhat different)
life. observations from Trobriand culture in refuting
By “ultimate points of view” Weber was refer- the notion that the thought of primitive peoples
ring to the particular ends on behalf of which the is fundamentally prelogical. I shall refer to this
rationalization of some sphere of life has been as “instrumental rationality.”
carried out. Thus, the law could be rationalized A second meaning of rationality, Weber writes,
in order to solidify caste or class distinctions, or is “increasing theoretical mastery of reality by
in order to ensure equality of treatment for all means of increasingly precise and abstract con-
members of the community. Science could be cepts.’’ Rationalization of this kind is designed
to produce a coherent, meaningful picture of the
world, and is preeminently the achievement of
’IFailure to do so has produced some puzzling religious or secular intellectuals. It involves the
formulations, such as that of Kaplan’s effort (1976), basic cognitive processes of generalization and
in the guise of refuting Weber’s position, to argue logical systematization. It may be referred to as
against the narrower conception of instrumental ra- “conceptual rationality.”
tionality on behalf of a position which is precisely The next meaning of rational mentioned by
that which Weber represents in the passage here cited. Weber is one that relates to evaluative standards.
‘1 am adopting Matthews’ translation of Zweck-
rationalitiit as means/end-rationality (Runciman, This kind of rationalization is conceived as a
1978), partly in order to save “instrumental rational- process of establishing valid canons against which
ity” to designate one of the forms of objectified that which is empirically given can be assessed,
rationality discussed below, and partly to emphasize canons not derived from traditional or mystical
that this type of rational orientation involves not sources. Weber’s example of this type of ration-
only the assessment of the costs and consequences of ality in the passage is the aesthetic canons of
alternative means to a given end, but also the “ra- Renaissance humanism. Primarily, however, in
tional consideration. . . of the relative importance of the comparative studies he treats this form of ra-
different possible ends.”
‘”‘Rarionalisierungen hat es daher auf den ver- tionality in the context of considering ethical
schiedenen Lebensgebieten in hochst verschiedener ideals which have a transformative effect on every-
Art in allen Kultirrkreisen gegeben” (1920: 12). day life, ideals such as justice, equality, piety,

or nirvana. Religious and secular prophetic fig- significant, but indirect, as Kalberg has pointed
ures are viewed as the typical sources of such out. Conceptual rationality is manifest to the
ideals. More generally, this form of rationality extent that symbolic representations are governed
can be identified with what Weber refers to in the by norms of precision, inclusiveness, and coher-
economic and legal spheres as “substantive (mate- ence; conceptual rationalization is a response t o
rielle) rationality,” a rationality which accords the human desire for meaning and itnderstanding
predominance to ethical imperatives, utilitarian of the world.
rules, or political maxims ( 1 968: 85, 657). The three other forms of objectified rationality
Finally, rationality may take the form of what have reference to socially sanctioned courses of
Weber calls Planmiissigkeit, a methodical ordering action. Instrumental rationality is manifest to
of activities through the establishment of fixed the extent that the operative norms a r e those of
rules and routines. This kind of rationalization is technical efficiency; it reflects the wish to use
designed to maximize the predictability of activi- maximally adequate means in attaining given ends.
ties and norms in a particular sphere of action Substantive rationality is manifest to the extent
and to minimize the influence of uersanal ties and that the operative norms a r e subordinated t o some
social sentiments. Weber tended tn refer to this overarching value; it reflects the desire to achieve
as “methodical rationality” i n the snhere of re- motivational integrity. Formal rationality is
ligion (1930: 197), and as “formal rationality” in manifest to the extent that the operative norms
spheres of law and economic action (1968: 85. channel action according to clearly stipulated
657). I shall use the latter term here.’* procedures; it reflects the wish t o act within a
Some effort is required to keep these distinc- calcitlable order of activities and relationships.
tions clearly in mind, especially since Weber’s For three of the institutional spheres which
own usage is a t times confusing. Conceptual Weber treated most extensively, these forms of
rationality is a predicate of symbolic systems, objectified rationality may be illustrated as fol-
not of social action; its relation to action is lows:

RATIONALITY Religion Economy Law
Conceptucrl Systematic theodicy Science of economics Clear and consistent
codification of legal
Instrumental Use of prayers sucessful Use of efficient Use of skilled diviner
in exorcising noxious production or marketing to establish a defendant’s
spirits techniques guilt or innocence
Substantive Pursuit of nirvana Allocation of resources Subordination of legal
as ultimate soteriological according to a standard decisions to an
ideal of fairness articulated ideal
of justice
Formal Monastic devotional Capital accounting Reliance on abstract
routines procedural rules

14This typology quite parallels the fourfold classi- It seems to me (a) a contradiction in terms to say
fication of Weber’s forms of rationalization inde- that formal rationality cannot be associated with a
pendently developed by Kalberg (1980). For two methodical way of life (1169); (b) confusing to say
of the four categories, other terminology seems to that bureaucracy calculates “the most precise and
me preferable. I have used “instrumental” rather efficient means for the resolution of problems by
than “practical,” inasmuch as the latter term generally ordering them under universal and abstract regula-
has reference to praxis or action, and “substantive” tions” ( 1 I%), since this blurs the distinction between
and “formal” types of rationalization refer to prac- the principles of instrumental and formal rationality;
tical rationality in this commonplace sense no less ( c ) important to stress the independent variability
than does instrumental. I have used “conceptual” of subjective and objectified forms of rationality;
rather than “theoretical,” inasmuch as this mode of (d) puzzling to read that for Weber the origin of
rationalization applies to spheres like law and music substantive ethical rationalities was “largely a result
where the interest is other than what is commonly of economic factors” (1171); and (e) misleading to
considered theoretical. “Methodical” is perhaps a suggest that only value-rational action possesses the
more descriptive term than “formal,” but I have potential to rupture traditional ways of life (1171), for
decided to follow Kalberg’s usage in this case in Weber argues that “ratio” can also be a revolutionary
order to minimize the appearance of differences be- force by working from “without” in ways that trans-
tween what are essentially identical interpretations form men’s living conditions and “finally,” in conse-
of Weber’s schema. quence, men’s attitudes ([1921 (19761 1968: 245 [142])
Although many other observations made by Kal- -as the introduction of technological change into so
berg in this paper seem persuasive, I do take issue many “traditional societies” in the last half-century
with some features of his application of the schema. dramatically indicates.

Speculating for a moment beyond Weber, I wish objectively rational action is variable: actors may
to make two further comments on this typology. observe the norms of objectified rationality of a
One is to suggest that there are probably signifi- given sort for a variety of rational or nonration-
cantly different affinities between the several insti- a1 reasons.
tutional spheres and the various forms of ration- The full set of distinctions outlined above is
ality. Thus science, as the sphere primarily presented schematically in Table 1. Only with
concerned with understanding the world, would a schema of this order of complexity can we begin
have a special affinity for conceptual rationality, to appropriate all that Weber has to say on the
and law, as the sphere most concerned with subject of rationality. The schema alerts us to
regulating relations among actors, would have a one of the hallmarks of Weber’s interpretive
special affinity for formal rationality. genius: his revelation that there are historically
The other is to suggest that the four forms of consequential affinities and conflicts among inde-
objectified rationality have approximate counter- pendently varying manifestations of rationaliza-
parts in the forms of subjective rationality. For tion.
three of these, the previously mentioned Weberian A few references may remind us of some of the
terms are indicative: rational understanding is the complex relationships among different forms of
subjective counterpart to conceptual rationality; rationality which Weber illuminated. Between
the means/end-rational orientation corresponds to f o r m s of subjective rationality, there is an inher-
instrumental rationality; the value-rational orien- ent tension between value-rational and rneans/end-
tation to substantive rationality. Although Weber rational orientations: the latter regards the former
did not provide a term to designate the subjective as irrational and always increase at the expense
orientation which parallels formal rationality, he of the former (1968: 26, 30). In the relation br-
frequently described a psychic tendency for actors tween subjective and objectified rationality, there
to secure order by enacting regulative norms, a are moments of affinity between value-rational
tendency he glosses as “one of the factors motivat- orientations and substantive rationality, since the
ing social action” (1968: 333). It should be re- prophets or lawgivers who establish substantively
membered, however, that the empirical connection rational codes would have to be oriented in a
between subjectively rational orientation and value-rational way; however, that subjective and

Cognitive Processes Conutive Processes
Rutionill Rational understanding 1. Meamlend-rational orientation
(rationales Verstehen) (Zweckra tionalitiit)
1 . mathematical 2. Value-rational orientation
2. logical ( Wertrationalitiit)
Nonrationul: Empathic understanding 3. Affectual orientation
emotional (einfirhlend nachrrlehenes Verstehen)
habitual 4 . Traditional orientation
FORMS OF Economy Polity Law Military Religion Ethics Science A r t etc.
Conccptiial Within each of the institutional spheres-but to different degrees according to
Instrumental presumptive differentials in elective affinity between type of sphere and form
of rationality-the different forms of rationality have beenlcan be pursued in
Su bstaniive different directions on the basis of orientations to diverse ends or “nonrational
Formal presuppositions.”
Objective Forms Subjective Counterpart
Conceptual rationality Rational understanding
Instrumental rationality Means/end-rational orientation
Substantive rationality Value-rational orientation
Formal rationality Disposition toward calculable regulation

objectified forms of rationality often vary in- appear only as rhetorical footnotes to his schol-
versely has been shown in the passages referred arly analyses.
to above (p. 10). The relations among different As has already been suggested, the position
forms of objectified rationality within the same most commonly associated with Weber is one
institutional sphere admit of many possibilities: which contradicts the Enlightenment equation of
the formal rationalization of religious practice has rationality and freedom and the 19th-century
favored the conceptual rationalization of religious sociological consensus regarding the close link
beliefs (1968: 41 7); conceptual rationalization of between the growth of rationalism and the rise
religious knowledge as in Brahmanic contempla- of individualism. Although Weber carries for-
tion stands in contrast with the formal type of ward certain lines of interpretation pursued by
rationalization of religious technique as in classical Toennies, Simmel, Sombart, and others so as to
yoga ([I9231 1958b; 165); and the formal ration- describe modem capitalist society (and, he prog-
alization of law exists in chronic tension with nosticates, modern socialist society a fortiori)
substantive rationality in the legal sphere (1968: as pervaded by a thoroughgoing rationalization
81 1-1 3). Regarding the relations among different of worldview and life conduct, he is generally
courses of rationalization within different institu- thought to associate that condition with a radical
tional spheres, Weber writes, for example, that and perhaps fatal curtailment of human freedom.
the conceptual rationalization of religious doctrine Such an interpretation, I shall argue, is simplified
has occurred at the expense of instrumental ra- to the point of distortion. To reach a more
tionality in the economic sphere (1968: 424) and adequate understanding of Weber on this complex
has inhibited the formal rationalization of law question I propose, first, to look at the specific
(1968: 577), but also that substantive rationality formulations wherein Weber connects rationaliza-
in a this-worldly ascetic direction was a key tion with repressiveness; second, to examine other
factor in promoting the formal rationalization of portions of his work which express a contrary
economic action in early modern capitalism. Fi- argument; and third, to present some consid-
nally, it should be noted that even when Weber erations which bear on a general assessment of
was concerned to show affinities among different Weber’s position.
types of rationalization in different institutional The passages where Weber actually conveys the
spheres in Western history, he stressed repeatedly observation that rationalization curtails freedom
that those different rationalization processes took appear in two contexts-where he is commenting
place at different times and in different places on conditions within the two institutional spheres
(1930: 77; 1968: 1400). of economic production and political authority.
To my mind, the foregoing considerations es- Regarding the economic system of modern in-
tablish beyond doubt that it is untenable to attrib- dustrial capitalism Weber observes that “the
ute to Weber the belief that rationalization refers technical and economic conditions of machine
to a univocal unilineal historical process. production.. . today determine the lives of all the
individuals who are born into this mechanism.. .
with irresistible force” (1930: 181). The exigen-
RATIONALIZATION AND SITUATIONAL cies of mechanization and the need for discipline
FREEDOM in factories and modem commercial establish-
ments repress the natural rhythms of the indi-
Enough has been said, now, to equip us for vidual human organism and promote relentless
confronting the difficult problem to which this authoritarian coercion (1968: 1156, 731). The
paper is finally addressed: what is Weber’s argu- capitalistic interest in standardizing the produc-
ment regarding the relationship between ration- tion of commodities promotes a powerful tend-
ality and freedom, and how adequate is this ency toward the uniformity of life-styles (1920:
argument? 187).” For such reasons, Weber concludes that
In contrast to the discussions of rationality “all economic weathervanes point in the direction
which permeate Weber’s oeuvre, his comments of increasing ‘unfreedom.’ It is most ridiculous
on freedom are few and far between. Albeit to think that present-day advanced capitalism, as
conspicuously devoted to the ideal of freedom, it is currently being imported into Russia and
and indeed hailed as “the last great liberal of now exists in America-this ‘unavoidability’ of
modern times” even by an outspoken critic of
the authoritarian implications of some of his polit-
ical ideas (Mommsen, in Stammer 1971: 183), lSThe existing English translation of the passage in
Weber rarely made the subject of freedom the- question (1930: 169) is inaccurate. A more faithful
matic in his scholarly studies nor, despite his rendering would be: “That powerful tendency to
expressed awareness of the multivocality of the make lifestyles uniform, which today is so immensely
aided by the capitalistic interest in the ‘standardiza-
concept, did he at any point articulate a typology tion’ of production.. .” (Jene machtige Tendenz zur
of different kinds of freedom. An especially Uniformierung des Lebensstils. welcher heute das
circumspect interpretive effort is thus mandated kapitalistische lnteresse and der ‘standardization’ der
by the fact that Weber’s best-known statements Proditktion zur Seite steht . . .).

our economic development-has some elective Weber himself failed to distinguish different senses
affinity with ‘democracy’ or even with ‘freedom’ of the term, he does use the concept of freedom
(in any sense of the word)” ([1906] 1958a; 60-61; in varying senses at different points in his work.
emphasis in the original). The major shift in his usage is between an
Whereas Weber speaks of the curtailment of objective notion of situational freedom, referring
freedom under the factory system of production to the scope of external constraints on the move-
as a kind of bondage to inanimate machines, he ments of actors, and freedom in the subjective
describes the repression due to bureaucracy as sense of autonomy, the condition in which indi-
bondage to an “animated machine.” In contrast vidual actors choose their own ends of action.”
to earlier, irrational forms of bureaucracy, mod- In the passages just cited, Weber’s reference
ern rational bureaucracy because of its specialized is clearly to situational unfreedom: the curtail-
personnel and codified routines is “escape-proof.’’ ment of opportunities for alternative courses of
It is fabricating a cage which men will perhaps action on the part of individuals employed within
be forced to inhabit someday in a condition as capitalist industrial enterprises and subjected to
powerless as that of the fellahs of ancient Egypt bureaucratic regulation. His best-known position
(1968: 1401-02). can thus be formulated more precisely as follows:
Summarizing this double threat to freedom, the establishment of formal rationalities in the
Weber writes, in his chapter on “Discipline”: spheres of capitalist economic activity and bu-
“This whole process of rationalization, in the reaucratic domination restricts freedom in the
factory and especially in the bureaucratic state sense of imposing more situational constraints on
machine, [is a] universal phenomenon [which] action.
more and more restricts the importance o f . . . Indeed, it is never rationality in general, but
individually differentiated conduct” (1968: 1 156). only the formal or methodical type of objectified
And commenting on the prognosis in his discourse rationalization which Weber has in mind when
on “Parliament and Government in Germany,” he permits himself those rhetorical flourishes for
Weber asks plaintively, “Given the basic fact of which he is so renowned. There is simply no
the irresistible advance of bureaucratization, the place in his writings where either subjective ration-
question about the future forms of political organ- ality or objectified rationality in its conceptual,
ization can only be asked in the following way: instrumental, or substantive forms is associated
How can one possibly save any remnants of with a threat to freedom. Insofar as Weber
‘individualistic’ freedom in any sense?” ([ 19181 indicts the rationalization process, it is only when
1968: 1403). it takes the form of the impersonal regulation of
These are strong statements. Their force may human activities according to fixed rules and
be somewhat attenuated, however, by three con- routines. Yet the critique of this type of ration-
siderations. First, although Weber does stress alization in modern life is limited to the spheres
the pervasive character both of economic activity of economic and political action. In a different
and of bureaucratic authority in modern society- sphere, that of law, formal rationalization was
noting that capitalism is “the most fateful force seen by Weber to be a major world historical
in our modern life” (1930: 17) and that bureau- source of situational freedom.
cratic organization has been tending to permeate A system of formally rational law exists when
many kinds of private association as well as public what are acknowledged as legally relevant facts
administration-the fact remains that these are are so identified on the basis of abstract generic
but two of the spheres in which modern life has characteristics. In its most fully rationalized
been rationalized, and that Weber may be shown form, such characteristics are disclosed through
to argue that rationalization within other spheres the logical analysis of meaning and are juridically
enhances freedom. interpreted through the application of determinate
Second, Weber’s statements about the repressive legal concepts which derive from highly abstract
effects of rationalization within those two spheres rules. In Weber’s view the operation of a for-
have reference almost exclusively to the method- mally rational juridical system enhances the
ical or formal type of rationality, whereas his possibilities of situational freedom. It does this
treatment of other kinds o f rationality (and rela- by stipulating certain privileges (Freiheitsrechte).
tions among different forms of rationality) within
those spheres may be shown to indicate ways in
which rationalization enhances freedom. have abandoned the idea of applying a more
Third, the curtailment of freedom described refined typology of kinds of freedom, based on
in those statements has reference only to certain sources to be mentioned below, because of the danger
kinds of freedom, whereas Weber’s treatment of that such fine-grained semantic analysis would intro-
freedom in other contexts may be shown to make duce distinctions of which Weber was not mindful.
However, 1 do not see how it is possible to represent
freedom in a different sense o f the term dependent Weber’s statements on freedom without having re-
on increased rationality. course to this minimal distinction, which is formally
This last point indicates a need to clarify the parallel to Kant’s distinction between the internal and
semantics of ‘freedom’ as we proceed. Although the external exercise of will.

One set of these privileges consists of guarantees members “are personally free and subject to
that a person may engage or fail to engage in authority only with respect to their impersonal
certain kinds of conduct without interference official obligations” (1968: 220).
from third parties, especially state officials. In- 2. The ambiguities inherent in institutionalized
stances of this include “freedom of movement, rationalization in any sphere enhance situational
freedom of conscience, and freedom of disposition freedom by opening u p options in any situation
over property.” Another type of privilege is of action. Weber’s considered position on the
that which grants to an individual the right to matter was that univocal determinations of what
regulate his relations with others through his own is objectively rational within any sphere of action
transactions. This constitutes the “freedom of cannot be realized, since “compromise or selection
contract” (1968: 667-9). among several bases of rationalization is possible
Weber was too realistic not to note that author- or unavoidable (1922: 414).”
itative powers have at times had resort to “tech- Conflicts of value and related alternative choices
nical devices” to circumvent the protection of which represent different axes of rationalization
individual rights by the judiciary, and he laid permeate bureaucratic organizations. Weber has
stress on the possibility of repressive outcomes often been criticized for failing to appreciate this
of a formally rational legal system in situations fact of life; Peter Blau, for example, maintains
where powerful property-holders operate in a for- that Weber’s model of bureaucracy sets up “an
mally free market to exert considerable de fact0 implicit functional scheme that addresses itself to
coercion upon the poor (1968: 876, 731). Such the problem of how a given element of the organ-
coercion, however, was shown to follow from ization contributes to its strength and effective
inequalities of wealth and power, not f r o m the functioning and thus fails to examine the conflicts
rationalization of law as such. Regarding the that arise between the elements comprising the
latter, he stressed its effect in curbing the powers system” (1968: 60). On the contrary, I would
of hierarchical despots and democratic dema- argue that some of Weber’s most revealing
gogues alike. If, as Weber says, juridical for- insights deal precisely with conflicts among differ-
malism enables the legal system to operate like ent elements comprising bureaucratic organiza-
a “technically rational machine,” it thereby tions.
“guarantees,” he immediately adds, “to individuals (a) One primary area of conflict within bureau-
and groups within the system a relative maximum cracies is between the obligation to act in accord
of freedom” (“das relative Maximum an Spiel- with the rules in the organization’s handbook and
raum f u r seine Bewegungsfreiheit”) ([I9211 (1976) the wish to act in accord with the organization’s
1968: 811 [469]). given objectives. Weber could not be more explicit
Even within the spheres of bureaucratic author- in noting this tension: he depicts the spirit of
ity and capitalist economy, moreover, Weber can rational bureaucracy in terms of two general
be shown to have indicated a number of respects characteristics: formalism, on the one hand; and,
in which rationalization promotes situational on the other hand, a tendency of officials to act
freedom. “from what is substantively a utilitarian point of
I . In addition to their constraining features, view in the interest of the welfare of those under
the formally rational aspects of capitalism and their authority.. . a tendency which is apparently,
bureaucracy guarantee significant kinds o f sitiia- and in part genuinely, in contradiction to the
tional freedom. A defining feature of the capi- above [formal rationality]” (1968: 228).
talist system is the existence of an open labor ( b ) To this tension between formal rationality
market where workers are formally free to sell and substantive rationality is added a tension
or withhold their services. Use of the monetary between both of them and instrumental ration-
contract, in particular, frees the contracting par- ality, when Weber points out that the rationally
ties from the all-inclusive obligations which en- debatable reasons that stand behind every act
cumbered them in contracts based on status; it of bureaucratic administration concern “either
thus “represents the archetype of the purposive subsumption under norms or a weighing of ends
contract” (1968: 674).“ Similarly, the formally and means” (1968: 979; emphasis mine). The
rational regulations of bureaucracy provide for salience of instrumental rationality in Weber’s
recruitment to office on the basis of free con- typification of bureaucracy is underscored in
tractual arrangements, and once in office staff passages where Weber speaks of “the feature
of bureaucratic administration which makes it
specifically rational” as being the possession of
“Appreciation of this Weberian point was for a “technical knowledge” by officeholders (1968:
long time obscured by the translation of this phrase 225). The formal rationality of orderly and pre-
as “coercive contract” rather than “purposive con-
tract,’’ an error based on a misreading of the German dictable career lines conflicts with the instru-
text as Zwangskontrakt instead of Zweckkontrakt, as
Guenther Roth has pointed out (Weber 1968: 734, ”“Kompromiss oder Wahl zwischen mehreren
n. 23). The misreading was not corrected until the solchen Crundlagen des Rationalisierrtng moglich ist
5th, revised German edition, first published in 1972. oder unvermeidlich wird.”

mentally rational norm of staffing offices with and industrial entrepreneurs, with their ration-
the technically most qualified candidates (1968: alized pursuit of monetary profit in the market;
962). at one point Weber singles out the capitalist entre-
(c) Different aspects of bureaucratic rationality preneur as the type preeminently “able to main-
are congruent with contradictory political value- tain at least relative immunity from subjection to
orientations. The formal rationalities of bureau- the control of rational bureaucratic knowledge”
cratic procedure support the values of egalitarian (1968: 225), just as he repeatedly stresses that the
mass democracy, inasmuch as they are responsive bureaucratic organizations of private capitalism
to demands for equality before the law and due set up a countervailing force against domination
process and the popular horror of “privilege.” by the bureaucracy of the state (1968: 1402).
Indeed, the modern bureaucratic state has been The development of rational science offers a
transformed into an institution for the protection vocational sphere with its own unique orientation,
of rights (1968: 983, 908). On the other hand, and still other alternatives appear in the religious
the requirements of technically qualified official- domain where the arms of the churches remain
dom and access to confidential knowledge pro- open to embrace those who find modern science
mote oligarchic tendencies within bureaucratic or politics uncongenial.
elites, tendencies which are recurrently opposed A complete Weberian depiction of modern
by the efforts of democratically oriented constit- society must therefore be one which views the
uencies to institute checks and controls-not to power of any sector, including the bureaucratic
mention the controls built in through the limita- state, as balanced by the power and claims of
tion of power and the separation of powers which various other sectors, and reveals a condition of
characterize the modem state (1968: 985, 962, situational freedom in which actors can follow
652). alternative norms and values by selecting from a
( d ) Even along a single axis of rationalization plurality of sectors. Still, it might be argued that
courses of action are by no means always uni- such a conception sees the situational freedom of
vocally determined. The norm of instrumental actors enormously limited once they have com-
rationality, for example, leaves the door open mitted themselves to participation in a particular
for a variety of technically suitable courses of sector. That is, I believe, how Weber regarded
action, even when a particular end is specified; the matter, but there are two considerations which
“as every expert knows, the various technically relax the austerity of this view somewhat. Weber
rational principles come into conflict with one knew, but did not articulate sociologically (as did
another” ([ 19221 1949: 35 [489]; translation alter- Simmel), two phenomena whose expansion in
ed). Due to ambiguities of this sort, Weber modern society greatly enhances the situational
indicates that all bureaucratic officials, although freedom of actors: multiple role playing, and
never at liberty to act out arbitrary personal voluntary associations. If, as Weber argued
whims, do possess a sphere of “ ‘freely’ creative forcefully, the modern scientist in his properly
administration,” and notes that “even in the field institutionalized role is constrained not to advance
of law-finding there are areas in which the bureau- political interests and ideals, outside the labora-
cratic judge is directly held to ‘individualizing’ tory and the lecture hall he is, as citizen, free to
procedures by the legislator” (1968: 979). take an active part in party politics. Moreover,
3. The constraints imposed by formal ration- in his later years Weber was increasingly sensitive
alization within any one sphere are to some to the opportunities afforded by voluntary asso-
extent oflset by the competition among groups ciations in opening up new possibilities for
within and among diflerent institutional spheres. action. I s
Just as the diverse axes of rationalization in any
sphere of action possess distinctive inner dynam-
ics, so do the diverse institutional spheres possess RATIONALIZATION AND SUBJECTIVE
distinctive interests and values which compete FREEDOM
with one another, Although Weber’s language Weber’s pessimistic utterances regarding the
at times sounds as though he viewed modern effects of rationalization on freedom had reference
society as wholly dominated by bureaucratic offi-
cialdom, with its ethos of orderliness, punctuality, ‘Owe have reason to believe that part of Weber’s
reliability, and adherence to rules, he also makes motivation in delivering a number of speeches, in-
clear that each of the other major spheres of cluding “Science as a Vocation” and “Politics as a
modern life has its own protagonists who hearken Vocation,” to the Freistudentische Bund during the
to different demons and ethics. The political last few years of his life was his desire to advance
sphere has acquired “a peculiarly rational mys- the role of voluntary associations in the reconstruc-
tique of its own” (1968: 601), wherein the struggle tion of postwar Germany (Schluchter 1979a: 116).
His interest in this social form was initially kindled
for power and the promulgation of policy orients by his observations of sects and clubs during his visit
action in a manner quite opposed to the bureau- to the United States in 1904, and first reported in his
cratic orientation (1968: 1393-1405). A very 1906 essay, “The Protestant Sects and the Spirit of
different alternative is represented by commercial Capitalism” (1948: 302-22).

specifically to the possibilities for “individually choice. Rationalization, Weber writes, can pro-
differentiated conduct” under conditions of exten- ceed by abandoning ingrained habituation for
sive formally rational regulation of conduct. It more deliberate kinds of adaptation; by abandon-
is an open question how much of this pessimism ing emotional values for a deliberate formulation
represented the idiosyncrasies of his own temper- of ultimate value standards; and by abandoning
ament and personal experience; how much a belief in absolute values for a more skeptical kind
response to the deeply authoritarian cast of public of rational orientation (1968: 30).
life in Wilhelmine Germany and of Prussian With increasing subjective rationality, in other
culture more generally; how much a rhetorical words, Weber associates an increase in the actor’s
stance designed to prod others to exert them- subjective freedom of choice. One has little free-
selves in struggle for freedom; and how much a dom of choice so long as one’s actions are deter-
considered analysis of secular tendencies of bu- mined by custom or ingrained habituation; some-
reaucratized and industrialized societies. In any what more if one is free to follow the swings of
case, we have seen that Weber’s famous pro- one’s emotional moods; still more if one cal-
nouncements regarding the modern threats to culates intentions in order to bring them in line
freedom have to be qualified by attention to the with a consciously held supreme value; and most
numerous respects in which his analyses reveal an of all if one is free to deliberate about alternative
increased scope for situational freedom due to values, means, and their respective costs and
a variety of rationalizing processes in Western benefits-to take all one’s ends as given subjective
society. wants and arrange them in a scale of consciously
There is, however, another area in which assessed relative urgency. In other words, as
Weber appears quite unambivalent in assessing actors become more conscious of and deliberate
the effects of rationality on freedom. This is about the means and ends of their actions-as
when he considers freedom, not in the sense of they become increasingly zweckrational in their
the absence of situational constraints on action, subjective orientations-so accordingly d o they
but in the sense of an actor’s subjective disposition experience a greater subjective sense of freedom.
to make decisions for himself. So stated, this is a purely analytic, ahistorical
Weber expressed himself on this issue in his argument, similar in form (if notably different in
two 1905 essays on the logic of the cultural scien- substance) to Kant’s equating the use of practical
ces. In those essays Weber sharply criticized the reason with the ideal freedom of human agents.
view, associated with Karl Knies and Eduard
Is it plausible, now, to link this Weberian for-
Meyer, that freedom of the will is a function of
mulation regarding subjective rationality and free-
the irrational aspects of action. Weber, by con-
dom to his analyses of the historical processes of
trast, defined an actor’s decision as “free” when
modern Western rationalization, referred to above
it is “based on his deliberations, without the
intrusion of external compulsions or irresistible as objectified rationalities in the various institu-
affects” ([1922] 1975: 191 [132]). Rejecting the tional spheres? The question at once directs us
notion that incalculability is the hallmark of to Weber’s ideas on the rationalization of religion
subjective freedom, Weber argued: “We associate and science.
the highest measure of an empirical ‘feeling of Although instrumental, substantive, and formal
freedom’ with those actions which we are con- types of rationalization can be identified in the
scious of performing rationally-i.e., in the areas of religious and scientific practice, the
absence of physical and psychic ‘compulsions,’ rationalization of beliefs involves the type referred
vehement ‘affects,’ and ‘accidental’ disturbances to above as conceptual rationalization. This in
of the clarity of judgment, in which we pursue a turn, as Weber was well aware, is a complex
clearly conceived ‘end’ through ‘means’ which are development involving a number of elements
the most adequate according to our empirically which do not always occur together. The prin-
grounded knowledge” ([I9221 1949: 124-5 226; cipal elements of conceptual rationalization that
translation altered). Weber refers to include logic, the norms of
In thus linking the subjective freedom of auton- clarity and consistency; abstraction, the norms of
omous decision-making to the rational capacities comparison and generalization; verifiability, the
of actors, Weber directs our attention to a dimen- norm of empirically grounding beliefs; and re-
sion of rationality different from that which we flectivity, the norm of continuous critical exami-
have considered up to this point, namely, to the nation of beliefs. When the general human desire
dimension of subjective rationality. We must to possess a meaningful picture of the world was
accordingly recall Weber’s analysis of the four coupled with powerful interests in intellectual
ways in which social action can be subjectively systematization and the elimination of magical
oriented. It is evident from that analysis that ideas, a conjunction which took place initially in
Weber conceives the four categories of tradition- ancient Judaism and again with renewed force
ality, affectivity, value-rationality, and meanslend- following the Protestant Reformation, the result
rationality as constituting a kind of hierarchy, a was a historically unprecedented development of
hierarchy based on increasing deliberateness of conceptually rationalized beliefs about the world.

Although the movement toward conceptual same token, the ethic of responsibility maximizes
rationalization of worldviews was initially pro- the freedom of actors to make their o w n decisions.
pelled by the salvation religions, paradoxically Even if one overlooks the many respects in which
the success of those efforts weakened the position rationalization enhances situational freedom (as
of their original religious sponsors. Modern described in the preceding section), it is clear
science has not only completed the age-old that Weber regarded the rationalization of belief
Judaeo-Christian project of eliminating empiri- systems as a dynamic process which promotes
cally ungrounded beliefs in magical entities,”’ but subjective freedom. As Karl Loewith observed
also, by providing more reliable knowledge about in an exceptional earlier interpretation, “The
the world and demonstrating the inexorable reality motive force of Weber’s whole attitude w a s . . .
of value pluralism, has undermined the possibility recognition of a rationalized world and o f the
of deriving an intellectually compelling view of countertendency to achieve the freedom o f self-
the world from traditional transcendental religious responsibility” ([I9321 1970: 120; emphasis mine).
偶発化 The ascendance of rationalized science means

that the modern person who abides by the kind WEBER AND BEYOND
of belief systems now institutionalized as legiti-
mate may no longer embrace without question The pluralistic perspective that Weber taught
notions validated by tradition or prophetic author- us to substitute for monistic accounts of world
ity. Older cognitive orientations have been un- historical development is no less applicable
dermined at the same time that newer cognitive to diagnostic analyses of the modern world.
resources have been provided: increased knowl- Beyond the more adequate comprehension of
edge about the world which raises awareness of Weber’s stated views on rationality and freedom
the costs and benefits of utilizing alternative to be gained through the sort of critical exegesis I
means to pursue diverse goals, and increased clar- have attempted above, the full appropriation and
ity about the implications and coherence of di- application of his argument at present requires
verse values and normative criteria. modifications of three major kinds.
It is difficult to separate Weber’s descriptive 1. Additional analysis o f the concepts o f ra-
account of this situation from his valuational tionality and freedom. As descriptive concepts,
response to it. Both judgments come together Weber’s distinctions among types of rationality
in his formulations on the ethic of responsibility, possess enduring value. There is now the need
an orientation in which actors balance considera- to exercise them more systematically as well as
tions of technical adequacy based on the findings relate them to discussions of the concept of ra-
of empirical science with considerations of moral tionality by other social scientists and philoso-
appropriateness based on the critical examination phers.
of values. I think it must be said that Weber By contrast, Weber’s treatment of the idea of
regarded the ethic of responsibility both as an freedom is analytically superficial. Work in the
orientation advanced by the achievements of last generation on the types or dimensions of
modern science and as the most desirable kind of freedom by scholars such as McKeon (1 952; n.d.),
orientation for what he regarded as the authentic Adler (1958-61), and Oppenheim (1961) has great-
modern personality.” ly enriched the conceptual resources for bringing
The ethic of responsibility entails the highest to the empirical analysis of freedom the same
degree of subjective rationality, that is, the kind of sophistication that Weber introduced to
broader conception of means/end-rationality de- the empirical study of rationalization processes.
scribed above. This is a disposition to be In Weber’s work, the normative treatment of
constant in employing correctives against un- rationality and freedom is not always distin-
thinking habit, unconscious ideation, emotional guished clearly from their empirical examination
biases, fuzzy thinking, and rigid beliefs. By the nor is it articulated adequately in its own right.
He simply takes as given the modern person’s
desire for situational freedom: “It is a gross self-
20Thisis the true meaning of Weber’s concept of
Enrtauhcrung. which is often misleadingly translated deception to believe that without the achieve-
as “disenchantment.” The more accurate, if less ments of the age of the Rights of Man any one
euphonious, translation is “demagicalization.” of us, including the most conservative, can go
21For a stimulating exposition of Weber’s account on living his life” (1968: 1403). He neither mar-
of this paradoxical development, see Schluchter shalls arguments to justify the value of situational
(1979b). It is rarely appreciated that Weber’s ac- freedom nor, in spite of his awareness for the
count is in many ways parallel to Comte’s interpreta- need for authority in organizing human relations,
tion of the role of theological philosophy as a does he provide arguments that justify the erection
transitional development between animism and posi- of limits on situational freedom (as can be found
tive science.
‘2This interpretation of Weber’s ethic of responsi- in the thought of sociologists like Simmel, Durk-
bility runs parallel to, and has been reinforced by, heim, and even Engels) or, apart from a brief
.that advanced by Schluchter (3979b: 53-59). discussion of the historical roots of the right to

freedom of conscience (1968: 1208-09), that ana- minated further structural tensions which open
lyze the circumstances under which situational up degrees of situational freedom in any bureau-
freedom becomes positively valued (see Oppen- cratic setting, even under totalitarian ~egimes.’~
heim, 1961: 211-27). Regarding the value of Moreover, Weber’s notion that formally ration-
autonomy, Weber simply asserts as an ultimate alized organization of the bureaucratic sort is the
value the ideal of maximizing subjective freedom, preeminent and all-pervasive mode of organiza-
in flourishes of disdain for “the shallowness of tion in modern societies must be corrected by the
our routinized daily existence” which permits life analyses of Parsons (1968) and others, which
to run on “as an event in nature” rather than be indicate the equally crucial role in modern so-
guided by “a series of ultimate decisions through cieties played by more self-regulative types of
which the soul-as in P l a t w h o o s e s its own organization-collegial groups, democratic vol-
fate” (1949: 18), again without elaborating argu- untary associations, and markets-not to mention
ments to justify the value of autonomy or, despite the relatively autonomous character of profes-
his keen awareness of the high costs of living in sional groups and statuses inside of bureaucratic
a condition of anxiety produced by the dissolution structures. Distinctions must also be made be-
of accustomed beliefs, without considering other tween the restriction of the bureaucrat’s freedom
values which might be competitive with the ideal and the implications of this for clients, which is
of maximizing the subject’s freedom of choice. as likely to be as much a guarantee of rights as
Toward the value of rationality Weber had it is a restriction of freedom.
mixed sentiments. He expresses himself as a Finally, it may be suggested that Weber’s view
great advocate of ratio when he speaks of it as of the oppressiveness of bureaucratic regulation
the indispensable means for enabling actors to was empirically more descriptive of the situation
become more responsible in making decisions in the Germany of his time (and, apparently, of
and as the requirement for leading a nontrivial the situation in Germany today) than it ever has
productive life in modern times. On the other been in the United States. Weber‘s generalized
hand, as we have seen, he tends to regard the conception of bureaucracy has been viewed as
extension of rationalized routines as suffocating. biased to some extent by the particular case which
He failed to incorporate his distinctions regarding he was closest to, such that he was led to view a
rationality into an explicit discussion of the sheer increase in formal rationality and domina-
positive and negative values of rationality and tion as historically indispensable on the basis of
of the ways in which rationality may be related observations of a particular historic situation in
to other desired goals. which he was enmeshed (Philo and Walton, 1973).
2. Further qualification of Weber’s conception Even given the organizational imperatives of
of bureaucratic rationalizution. Although Weber bureaucratic hierarchy and regulation, such de-
was clairvoyant in perceiving the centrality of vices as independent administrative courts and
bureaucratic formations in modern society and ombudsman offices have been widely instituted to
the inexorability of their continued expansion, exert control over the excesses of bureaucratic
his stark image of bureaucracy as an escape-proof domination, and recent social research indicates
shell of bondage must be modified by qualifica- the plausibility of instituting parallel structures
tions implicit in his writings and by considerations which afford greater situational freedom to
of subsequent developments both in modern so- salaried employees (see Stein, Kanter, et al., 1979).
ciety and in sociological knowledge. That there 3. Attention t o the social psychological reyui-
are determinate limits to the extent of rationalized sites and consequences of subjective rationality.
regulation of human activities in any sphere of One of Weber’s main oversights was his failure to
life follows both from his methodological point consider the implications of the diffusion of an
that human reality is so complicated that it can increasingly zweckrational orientation among the
never be wholly subsumed under any particular inhabitants of modern societies or, to put it in
axis of rationalized treatment and from his aware- somewhat different terms, the difficulty of secur-
ness of the inexorable conflict between formal ing the balance between the self-interested and
rationality and rationality of other types.‘:’ Sub-
sequent work on the sociology of bureaucratic
organizations, by Peter Blau and others, has illu- in implementing this approach had been unexpected-
ly enormous; PPBS “died unmourned in 1969’’ (1977:
?:‘Harold Orlans has recently described a case in a41ndeed,as Richard Behrendt has concluded, the
point: the accelerated effort to apply “rational” “hard experience of our times” has indicated the need
methods to the affairs of government early in the for a good deal of “decentralization and democratiza-
administration of President Johnson. An approach tion of methods discussion, decision-taking and exe-
to full-throttle rationalization developed at Rand- cution” for the sake of instrumental rationality within
the planning, programming, and budgeting system, or bureaucratic organizations (see Stammer, 197 I : 180).
PPBS-was in August 1965 introduced into all govern- On the limits to the extent of plausible bureaucratic
ment agencies. A few years later, the architects of regulation even within Communist societies, see Gold-
this program agreed in dismay that the problems met farb (1978, 1980).

moral components that represented his ideal con- have predicted that, once whatever impetus to
ception of the means/ends-rational orientation. methodical rationalization in industry and com-
Although the phenomenon can be encompassed merce deriving from the substantive rationalities
easily within his conceptual framework, Weber of ascetic Protestantism had waned, it might not
was inattentive to certain processes in advanced be long before continued rationalization in other
capitalist societies that enhance the freedom of spheres and directions would motivate a more
self-determination by promoting means/ends-ra- balanced pursuit of goals within the economy,
tional orientations, processes which were identified creating demands for more humane working con-
and analyzed by Toennies and Simmel, and which ditions in factories and offices, markets for more
represented a focal concern of 19thcentury diversified consumer goods, and a more calculat-
French social thought from de Maistre and ing and critical kind of consumer mentality. To
Saint-Simon to Durkheim (see Lukes 1971: 195- some extent, a central theme of some of the
199). seminal diagnoses of American society of the last
At the present time, of course, it is difficult for generation, from Riesman (1950) to Bell (1977),
a sociologist living in the United States not to can be phrased as the antinomy between the
be made aware of the cumulative effects of objectified formal rationalities of production and
those long-term secular trends. The institutional the subjective means/end-rationalities of con-
spheres where they are most manifest are those sumption.
pertaining to socialization, the areas Weber gener- A number of diagnostic comments on the
ally ignored-the spheres of family, education contemporary United States suggest that its dom-
and, now, psychotherapy. In these areas there inant “pathology” is not the hypertrophy of ra-
has been a marked trend in some Western so- tionalized regulation, as was the case in Weber’s
cieties during the last century toward an emphasis Germany (and may be in today’s Germany as
on the cultivation of rational decision-making well), but-more along Durkheimian lines-what
and autonomy. Parental objectives in middle- appear to be expressions of a relatively unreg-
class American families have shifted from teach- ulated hedonic orientation. These comments
ing children the “right way to live” to encourag- refer variously to such phenomena as the weak-
ing them to make up their minds for themselves. ened position of families as a locus of moral
In educational institutions, beginning at the col-
lege level but extending now to some secondary socialization; widespread cheating and vandalism
and even primary schools, there has been in schools; lowered academic standards; per-
a growing emphasis on teaching students how missive attitudes toward the use of chemical
to solve problems and make independent judg- substances and sexual experiences of all kinds;
ment~.’~ the calculated use of incivility and violence in
The enormous spread of psychotherapy in social relations; the expansion of a “consumer-
recent decades may be seen as additional institu- ist” mentality; the rise of single-interest groups
tionalized support for the liberation of persons and the decline of responsibility for public con-
from habitual, emotional, and authoritarian com- cerns; and a greater fickleness regarding personal
pulsions and the enhancement of their capacities commitments and cultural styles. However one
as autonomous rational actors. The attainment might evaluate such phenomena, they cannot be
of maximum self-responsibility is a primary ther- said to reflect a condition of repression due to
apeutic objective for approaches otherwise as the unchecked processes of formal rationalization,
disparate as psychoanalytic therapy and est. This but rather an enormous amount of situational
is true a fortiori for such popular therapeutic freedom and autonomous decision-making pro-
modalities as rational therapy, assertion training, moted by the eroding effects of conceptual and
and decision therapy. instrumental rationalities on moral authority
The general cultural attitudes that legitimate and the bases of moral community.*‘
these developments have become apparent in the In the light of these last considerations, the
area where Weber first identified a pattern of complete Weberian argument seems most wanting
enslavement due to rationalization, the economic in its inattention to the social psychological con-
sphere. Even in Weber’s own terms, one might text of autonomous decision-making. For all his
awareness of the nonrational dimensions of action,
Weber remained in some deep sense a child of
’”American colleges in the 1960s experienced a the Enlightenment by holding to an ideal of the
quantum jump in the use of pedagogical approaches human universe as one constituted by heroically
geared to enhancing student participation in problem-
finding and problem-solving, through problem-orient-
ed texts, teaching by discussion, student research
projects, and even curricular structures (and non- ’6The numerous efforts to stake out some of the
structures) enabling students to construct highly per- social psychological dynamics of this aspect of our
sonalized four-year degree programs (see Grant and current condition include Gutmann ( 1974). Janowitz
Riesman, 1978). (1978), and Lasch (1979).

rational, free, autonomous monad^.^' T h e most rationally grounded habits of character instilled
profound correction of his vision may perhaps lie well before humans a re fully capable of mature
in the incorporation of those hypotheses which deliberative choice, a nd tha t continuing social
thinkers like Aristotle and Durkheim considered support is of the greatest relevance to the capacity
bedrock: that the human capacity f o r autono- for subjective rationality a nd freedom.
mous moral judgment must be based o n non-


Weber’s Summary Formulation Regarding the Forms of Rationality
At this point it should be noted once again: “rationalism” can mean very different
things. It means one thing if we think of the kind of rationalization the systematic
thinker performs on the image of the world: an increasing theoretical mastery of (1) conceptual
reality by means of increasingly precise abstract concepts. rationality
Rationalism means another thing if we think of the methodical attainment of a (2) instrumental
particular given practical end by means of an increasingly precise calculation of rationality
udeqrrate means.
These types of rationalism are very different, in spite of the fact that ultimately they
belong inseparably together. Further distinctions can be made within the intellectual
comprehension of reality: for instance, the differences between English physics and
Continental physics have been traced back to distinctions of this sort.
That rationalization of the conduct of life which concerns us here can assume
unusally varied forms. In the sense of the absence of all metaphysics and almost all (conceptual)
residues of religious anchorage, Confucianism is rationalist to such a far-going extent
that it stands at the extreme boundary of what one might possibly call a “religious”
ethic. At the same time, Confucianism is more rationalist and sober, in the sense of the (instrumental)
absence and the rejection of all non-utilitarian yardsticks, than any other ethical system,
with the possible exception of J. Bentham’s. Yet Confucianism remains extraordinarily
different from Bentham’s as well as from all other Occidental types of practical
rationalism in spite of its innumerable actual and apparent analogies with them.
“Rational” in the sense of belief in a valid “canon” was the supreme artistic ideal of (3) substantive
the Renaissance. The Renaissance view of life was also rational in the sense of rationality
rejecting traditionalistic bonds and of having faith in the power of naturalis ratio, despite (conceptual)
its strains of Platonizing mysticism.
In yet another wholly different sense of the term, “rational” means “ordered (4) formal
according to plan” (Planmassigkeit). The following are rational in this sense: methods rationality
of mortificatory or magical asceticism, or methods of contemplation in their most
consistent forms, as in yoga or in the manipulations of prayer machines in later
In general, all kinds of practical ethics that were systematically and unambiguously
oriented to fixed goals of salvation were “rational” both in this latter sense of being (formal)
formally methodical and in the former sense of distinguishing between the normatively (substantive)
“valid” and the empirically given.
Source: Weber 1920: 265-6; 1948; 293-4.
Translation modified and emphases and
marginal glosses added by the author.

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W A N T E D X i t a t i o n s of research on C R I M I N A L VIOLENCE: If you have done,
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