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Sociology Midterm Paper

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Predictability as a form of social control became an issue of current interest for different thinkers in the end of 19th - beginning of 20th century. The problem appeared at the turn of centuries and at the intersection of disciplines, being important not only for scientists Weber, Ritzer, Freud, but also for writers, with Melville and Kafka among them. However, different perspectives, theories and points of view led to different understanding of the concept of ideal bureaucracy.

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Since bureaucracy is a special type of organization of governance, based on the subordination between a man and impersonal system, it is a particular form of systematization of a modern, contemporary society as a certain mechanism.

According to Weber’s theory, society consists of people with unpredictable reaction. Therefore, bureaucracy is a certain formalization that makes actions of certain individuals predictable. The generalized form of behaviors influenced by the system helps to control society in different spheres, concentrating authority.

Types of behavior conception apply to the reasons that caused this certain mode of behavior. Weber notes three “Ideal types” of social behavior, among which special attention is devoted to individual motivation of the elements in society rather than to society as the mechanism with regularities. Analyzing modern capitalistic society, Weber performs three concepts in his work “The Ideal Type”, such as “bureaucracy", "Rationalization of behavior” and "the Protestant Ethic". However, all these concepts deal with the bureaucratic organization of society.

Weber introduced the concept of the ideal type of bureaucracy. The author named such features of bureaucracy as clear hierarchy of authority that performs impulses of commands from the governing forces to the subordinate individuals. All rights and duties of the elements in this hierarchy are proclaimed in the scope of rules, in the official documents regulates all actions and interdependences, including the order career progress and employee’s salary.

Elements of the system, employees, workers and lower authorities are alienated from the instruments of labor, its progress and goals. The supreme authority is entitled to control the authority, which is lower in the hierarchy.

Weber considers bureaucracy as a certain act of rationalization: a person is expected to do certain action because of reason and it makes his or her actions predictable. Weber emphasizes that Western European society tends to create bureaucracy as a structure with certain hierarchy. However Weber’s rationalization theory applies to individualization. Therefore, Weber’s theory regards bureaucracy as standard system that is not predisposed to individual actions, system that does not expect person to think and act individually with creative point of view.

Positive influence of bureaucracy, foreseen by Weber, is devoted to fundamental function of systematization. Therefore, bureaucracy prevents chaotic interrelation between individuals within the hierarchy of the Law system.

Weber considers bureaucracy as the normal system for Western society, comparing it with “Protestant Ethic”, system of Christian Church. The interrelation between political organization of society and principle of other social mechanisms, such as church, could be noticed in Freud’s work “Two Artificial Groups: The Church and the Army”. The cause of social behavior played the main role in analysis for both Weber and Freud. Therefore, analyzing social formalization and predictability as a form of social control, Weber and Freud examine different psychosocial forces that make individual obey to the standard bureaucratic systems.

Legitimation as one of the main psychosocial forces that influence bureaucratic organization of society was noticed by Weber. However, Freud has also explained this phenomenon as the main excuse for social passivity. Weber identifies legitimation as orientation on another individual, another form of behavior standardization. An individual implements social cliché rather than personal point of view.

Freud emphasizes that libido is one of the main forces that influence psychosocial peculiarities of human perception. The author reminds that social organization is based on submission, distribution of power, based on individual’s ego. Moreover, organization of society is created on the model of family. “Each individual is bound by libidinal ties on the one hand to the leader and on the other hand to the other members of the group” (Freud, 28). Therefore, libido, emotional ties, functions as one of the strongest psychosocial motivation to obey to the organized system.

Ritzer considers bureaucracy as a certain basis, background for McDonaldization. He mentioned that functioning of bureaucracy is based on clear and explicit rules and regulations. One of the main principles, noticed by Ritzer is hierarchical organization. Therefore, he emphasized that bureaucracy suffers from the irrationality of rational actions (Ritzer, 26). Principles of bureaucratic control contributed to the main principles of McDonaldization as by regulating the behavior of officials according to defined rules, and due to the strict control of their duties.

Analyzing standardization and formalization of social consciousness, Ritzer reviews the issue in a broader perspective. The author uses term McDonaldization to explain the phenomenon of psychological pressure on social behavior. Therefore, McDonaldization could be perceived as another form of a control over society.

According to Ritzer’s theory, modern society was thrust upon the idea that quality, as main criterion of a product, can be substituted by such criteria as quantity, rapidity, and convenience. An individual appears powerless in his desire to obtain product made of high quality raw materials, because he obey to the idea that since the product is not cheap and accessible, it is no longer good enough to be bought.

Considering both Ritzer’s and Weber’s theories as explanation of the modern organization of society, bureaucracy provides control over social behavior in economic sphere, as explained by Ritzer, and in the sphere of Law, according to Weber’s theory. In order to illustrate social behavior, psychologically influenced by certain circumstances, such writers as Kafka and Melville has shown their unique prospective on the form of social organization.

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Short story “Before the Law” in different interpretations symbolizes, on the one hand, divine conception, according to which, the Gatekeeper symbolizes Universal order that control and operate everything on the Earth. On the other hand, Kafka illustrated bureaucracy in the Law system in his work “Before the Law”. However, in general, this story may refer to the undoubted order, system that does not regard desires of its elements.   

Melville’s “Bartleby, the Scrivener” is a short story about riot of a young man, who worked for the big company on Wall Street. The narrator describes Bartleby as a very odd person, who acts unexpectedly. Applying to Weber’s theory, Melville characterize Bartleby as a person that acts creatively, individually and unusual for the person who live in certain rules, restrictions and regulations. Narrator, who perceives himself as an element of the system, can not accept unpredictable actions of his employee.

Nevertheless, narrator accepts the idea of social denial, performed by his worker. The reappraisal of values, demonstrated by the author symbolizes reappraisal of values for bureaucratic society, showing fragility and imperfection of the system under psychological factors of an individual.  

Therefore, social organization in a form of bureaucracy was examined by different thinkers from different points of view. Analyzing reasons, results and peculiarities of social control, one can notice imperfection of bureaucracy that needs more individual approaches.   

To sum up, Weber's ideal type of rational bureaucracy has the strict hierarchical structure, the formal status of subordination, control to formal, impersonal rules, emotional neutrality. However, examining ideal types of Weber’s social organization, it should be noticed, that bureaucracy refers to the concept of standardization of behavior. Weber regarded rational bureaucracy as efficient form of administration that runs through all the major institutions of capitalist society, from the government, starting with economy and ending with the formation of the Church.

The parallel between government and Church was noticed by both Weber and Freud, who emphasized that the main correlation in social hierarchy of Church and bureaucratic system is focused on libidinal ties as the correlation between person and organizer as well as legitimation is a form of excuse. According to Ritzer, bureaucracy was a prelude to McDonaldization, which is the form of social consciousness that submit person’s free will by substitution of the concept “quality” by the concept of “quantity”.  Kafka’s and Melville’s short stories apply to bureaucracy from the different points of view. Melville depicts social standardization as the system that cannot be convenient for everyone, expressing defectiveness of the mechanism. Kafka illustrates bureaucracy in its inflexibility and inhumanity, presenting Law as inapproachable absolute. Therefore, bureaucratic system appears too generalized and revealed imperfection can be fixed by individually-oriented social organization.        

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