Top-Rated Free Essay

Max Weber: Iron Cage

Better Essays
“IRON CAGE”
In the fast moving times of the modern world, human beings have become very calculating, manipulative and running after the material pursuit in which they are eventually getting trapped into the invisible prison from which escape is almost impossible. This is what Max Weber meant by the metaphor "Iron Cage". Max Weber, a great thinker and a well known German Sociologist coined the term "An Iron Cage" in his works in early 1900’s. According to him the modern era human beings, especially in the western capitalist society are increasingly being caught in the process of Rationalism and the factors related to it such as, Bureaucracy, Disenchantment and Individualism. Through this essay we intent to agree with Weber about how he thought that Modern Capitalism in which people are rational is literally inescapable process in which they are getting locked into, and this ultimately gives rise to bureaucracy. We will give some evidences proving Weber ideas on how the protestant ethics contributed to the rise of capitalism and also show how there are no solid alternatives to this problem of bureaucracy.

In his book "Protestantism and the Spirit of Capitalism", Weber told us the Protestants who started off with an Ascetic life to whom their work was there "calling" i.e. their only purpose in life was to work all day and not get pleasure from the fruits of their labour as self consumption was considered morally wrong because they were not to enjoy the money they earn on themselves. But later on with the emergence of the modern capitalism, the Protestants eventually ended up in focussing more on the pursuit of money. They started applying rational and scientific methods in the ways of making money to increase their profit margins. This rational way is very much evident even today because people have lost their religious values and in the capitalist society we have now, they just want to seek more and more profit and build wealth more than they possibly could require. According to Weber this went against the traditional Catholic Doctrine where they intent to avoid materialist pursuit by adopting the spiritual way of life. This had a huge impact on people’s life because in the capitalist society today most people are not concerned with the nature of their job nor do they enjoy it much as long as their social status is maintained and their financial goals are accomplished.
Weber through his writing has explained how people especially in the west were developing this rational, methodological and a calculating approach to lead a life which had completely triumphed over the old traditional and irrational way of making money to please the God. In the process of making money, whether you like it or not you are forced to adopt this methodological way where you work day and night not to get close to God but to gain profit and this is what Weber thought as the "Iron Cage of Capitalism", in which you rationally pursue your calling and the spirit of capitalism is a cage where we are imprisoned in. However Weber felt that the protestant ethics did not directly lead to spirit of capitalism, but it is one of the main factors that lead to it. According to him the old traditional way which was based mostly on kinship and values has shifted its form to goal oriented rationality.
This is where Weber is switching his writings and explaining how the modern capitalism which gave rise to strict set of rules and regulations is directly giving rise to the growth of Bureaucracy because bureaucracy is the main example of Rationalization. Weber argued that the rational goal oriented profit seeking ways had a tremendous impact on people's lives because this had dominated their behaviour so much that the old spiritual values are being lost in the modern era. People were abandoning God, religion and spirituality in the name of freedom, insisting that it was not possible to free with the restrictions that the religions impose but they forget to realize that they themselves were becoming slaves of their own material pursuit. This is what he meant by "Iron Cage" of Rationalism. This had increased their interest in power and authority which has taken the form of bureaucracy. Weber also explained the long term processes of Rationalism from which the magic has taken out of the world and there are no intrinsic mysteries in the world because the life has become so predictable and understandable that we could know the reason behind anything in world hence it makes life very dull and boring. According to him the modern world has lost its enchantment because people have mastered in the scientific knowledge in the rational way and science has empowered them. In the book, Max Weber: Reading and Commentary on Modernity, Bureaucracy is described as "the means of transforming social actions into rationally organized action" (pg 214). Weber now is giving the example of bureaucratic organization which is enslaving people. According to Weber, Bureaucracy does have a lot of positive implications because these are effective in reaching the goal in a rational manner. It gives individuals more security in their respective work areas unlike the feudal system and also makes more specialists in a particular area of the organization. However Weber also points out the negative effects of bureacracy as well. Bureaucratic organizations are the dominant form of institution in the modern society. It involves Hierarchy in offices where there are clear command of structures and expects the employee who is on bottom to report the higher employee and so on. It has written documents for the rules of conduct and you have to obey whatever the organization expects from you. They are also considered as very impersonal because they take away your emotions and feelings out of the situation and force you to do exactly what is required from their job and now your “impersonal” duty of office becomes your "calling" of life, because even if you disagree with something you still have to do it because you are mandated to follow instructions and obey the authority. In other words, in this process of Rationalization where people are forced to do whatever the bureaucratic organization expects it to do is what Weber thought as the "Iron cage" of the Bureaucracy. This restricts people to be creative and spontaneous and you are trapped into this cage forever escaping from the traditional religious ways. Weber goes on to say that this has a drastic consequences in people's lives as it had created inequality which keeps on increasing and keeps popping up, getting bigger and bigger as it is spreading everywhere.
Weber saw some alternatives to these dominant organizations such as a charismatic leader who can break away its populace from this organization because according to him it was the charismatic style of organizations that maintain social creativity by giving people more freedom from the rules and regulations. According to him a charismatic leader is a person who is creative and possess extra ordinary qualities who makes up their own rules and this is a good solution because charismatic ruler is somewhere in between the 2 extremes forms, Bureaucratic and traditional organizations. The big feature of expansion of bureaucracy is taking the charisma out of the organizations which trying very hard to be an alternative and opposite of bureaucratic organization.
However there is also a problem associated with charismatic organization that it has a transitional phenomenon, which means it is very hard to make it last for a long time in its purest form because eventually it ends up becoming either Traditional or Bureaucratic. He also explains another alternative is; for examples if you have a community involved in every single decision, it becomes very messy and hard in terms of getting things done in the right way and efficient manner because everyone has the equal calling. So these are the reasons you can't escape bureaucracy and it has become the basic feature of the modern capitalist society.

As Weber states; "Once fully established, Bureaucracy is among those social structures which is the hardest to destroy"(pg 214). So according to him it's very hard to destroy this bureaucratic machine because every time you try to revolt against it, there is another person who gets on the top and becomes the leader and you will have the another vicious cycle started off once again. Hence it's impossible to have a revolution against Bureaucracy and you get imprisoned in this iron cage forever.

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • Better Essays

    Max Weber

    • 1475 Words
    • 5 Pages

    The Ironic Social Theory of Max Weber: The ‘Iron Cage’ Steven Seidman Wiley-Blackwell publishing Ltd. Max Weber has long been recognized as one of the founders of modern sociology. He has had an immense impact on how we understand the development and nature of our capitalist society today. Looking at almost all the major world cultures, Weber was able to analyze the different factors that he believes have contributed to the modernization of our society. He is well known for his work…

    • 1475 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Better Essays
  • Better Essays

    Max Weber

    • 1778 Words
    • 8 Pages

    Max Weber, a German economist and sociologist is considered to be one of the most significant classical theorists because his methods that are still being implemented into modern sociological research. Weber is best known for his essay, The Protestant Ethic and Spirit of Capitalism, as well as being highly regarded for his ideas on bureaucracy, his study on class, status and party, and for his theory of social action., Almost all of Weber's writing's have had some kind, if not, a major impact on…

    • 1778 Words
    • 8 Pages
    Better Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    Max Weber

    • 2319 Words
    • 10 Pages

    Introduction of Max Webber: M ax Webber was born in April 21, 1864 at Erfurt, Prussia (Germany). He was German sociologist and political economist who profoundly influenced social theory, social research and discipline of sociology itself. Webber is often cited with Emile Durkheim and Karl Marx as one of the three principle architects of Modern Social Science. Max Webber was a sociologist and political economist known for describing the protestant ethic and for helping to found the German Democratic…

    • 2319 Words
    • 10 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Good Essays

    Max Weber

    • 907 Words
    • 3 Pages

    understand Max Weber's contention that sociology should be the study of social action to mean? Society in Max Weber's eyes consists of actions of the individuals. Weber believed that actions of individuals are what form society and the basis of sociology. Humans are aware of their surroundings and naturaly create different situations. The actions of individuals are “Behaviour with a subjective meaning” meaning the action is done with intention and meaning. Social action according to Weber is done…

    • 907 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Best Essays

    max weber

    • 3419 Words
    • 14 Pages

    of bureaucracies. The German sociologist Max Weber argued that bureaucracy constitutes the most efficient and rational way in which human activity can be organized, and that systematic processes and organized hierarchies were necessary to maintain order, maximize efficiency and eliminate favoritism.[14] But even Weber saw bureaucracy as a threat to individual freedom, in which the increasing bureaucratization of human life traps individuals in an "iron cage" of rule-based, rational control.[15][16]…

    • 3419 Words
    • 14 Pages
    Best Essays
  • Good Essays

    Max Weber

    • 629 Words
    • 3 Pages

    of the founding fathers of sociology Max Weber was born on April 21, 1864 in Erfurt in Thuringia, Germany. He was the oldest of seven children of Max Weber Sr. and his wife Helene Fallenstein. His father was a prominent politician and politics was a major theme Weber was surrounded and grew up. From the early years Weber proved to be very intelligent. When he was only thirteen, as a Christmas present to parents, he wrote for them two historical essays. Weber enrolled in the University of Heidelberg…

    • 629 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    Max Weber

    • 5869 Words
    • 24 Pages

    Modernity, Meaning, and Cultural Pessimism in Max Weber Author(s): Steven Seidman Source: Sociological Analysis, Vol. 44, No. 4 (Winter, 1983), pp. 267-278 Published by: Association for the Sociology of Religion, Inc. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3711610 Accessed: 11/03/2009 01:53 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR 's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR 's Terms and Conditions of Use…

    • 5869 Words
    • 24 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Good Essays

    Max Weber

    • 656 Words
    • 3 Pages

    Max Weber described sociology as the study of social action. It is the science that attempts the interpretive understanding of social action in order to explain its course and affects. He believed that history was moving towards rationality and power. Weber believed in the ideal type, putting together a set of concepts to create a set of characteristics. Max Weber had ideas on rationalization, status and power, violence, and social change. Rationalization refers to the substitution of values, traditions…

    • 656 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Max Weber

    • 360 Words
    • 2 Pages

    Max Weber on Religion Max Weber, a German social scientist born in 1864, felt religion played an important role in society. Weber attended the University of Berlin where he studied economics and law, along with several other subjects including philosophy, religion and art. He had three tools of sociological inquiry that focused on explaining human actions. Weber’s first principle of Verstehen is the German term for “understanding.” This principle states that we cannot explain the actions of humans…

    • 360 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    Max Weber

    • 2600 Words
    • 11 Pages

    MAX WEBER Introduction * In the classical approach to administration, Weberian model of bureaucracy finds a central place, because it was primarily developed in the context of Public Administration & also applicable to private administration. * Max Weber is the first thinker who has systematically studied the bureaucracy. He has provided a theoretical framework and basis for understanding bureaucracy. S name is synonymous with bureaucracy. * He was one of the towering thinkers of…

    • 2600 Words
    • 11 Pages
    Powerful Essays