The Rationalisation Concept in the Work Process

When considering how human beings can get more out of work and life, it is important to consider the concept of rationalisation. Rationalisation as a concept has been defined by Max Weber a leading authority on issues of economy, employment, work, and capitalism. Rationalisation is a concept that applies to several value spheres including economic systems. It is possible to achieve maximum benefits from the modern work process by applying the concepts of rationalisation. Rationalisation encompasses various characteristics including measurement, calculability, control, and predictability. In the work process, rationalisation involves optimising both the input and the output processes. Rationalisation seeks to maximise productivity through optimisation, standardisation, and efficiency.

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According to Weber, rationalisation is a defining feature of the western civilisation. Weber refers to several characteristics of western rationalisation and how they have shaped their respective societies. Calculability is the characteristic of rationalisation that contributes towards the realisation of traditional values. Predictability is the feature that covers different trends of rationalisation. Weber also associates measurement with punishing elements in traditional rationalisation societies. When covering the topic of rationalisation it is noted that this concept would appeal differently to pre-modern, modern, and post-modern work societies.

In modern societies, rationalisation encompasses several spheres including the economics, politics, and the society. For instance, the modern era of work societies covers significant periods in history such as the labour booms of 1950s and the peak of the western industrialization. In the current work societies economic, social, and political powers merge to produce a mixture of rationalisation and bureaucratisation. The combination of bureaucratisation and rationalisation is responsible for some of the developments that have become norms in modern work societies. For example, current employment contracts are a product of legal reasoning and rationalisation. This contractual development is prompted by the fact that universal laws take precedence over normal laws under rationalisation. Rationalisation has also led to a decline in traditional legitimisation processes where the power of control leads is replaced by no-control. Rationalisation also allows individuals to have more choices in the work environment.

The purpose of rationalisation as outlined in the course materials is to simplify the complex processes in life. Therefore, the main purpose of rationalisation is to enable human beings to reap maximum benefits from the differentiation of value spheres. Through rationalisation different forms of actions that simplify life are formulated. For instance, Weber’s system of rationalisation refers to money and power. On the other hand communication is a valid sphere when combing money and power. For instance, the process through which every aspect of production is quantified, objectified, and calculated is related to rationalisation.

Max Weber considers rationalisation as the pillar of social science because of its focus on social integration. However, Weber points out the need to specify the spheres of life that are rationalised. Furthermore, Weber realises the need for noting the direction that is taken and followed through rationalisation. Instrumental actions apply to a type of rationalisation that provides success when reproducing materials. Communicative actions are the norms of rationalisation that make social integration possible. Strategic actions contribute to successful rationalisation through individual influences. Capitalism merged with rationalisation in late modern societies to make it possible to quantify all aspects of work societies. On the other hand, hyper-rational work societies include definition of how, what, and why individuals work.

The MacDonald’s business structure is a good example of how rationalisation is applied. The rationalisation and bureaucracy that is characteristic of the MacDonald’s business structure is a product of various rationalised trade formats. MacDonald’s business model carries with it several aspects of modern-day economies including franchising, assembly lines, streamlining, and centralized administration (Ritzer 1993). The interesting fact about rationalisation as manifested through the MacDonald’s business model is that it is a product of several historical developments. Most of these developments occurred in the period starting from the early 1900s up to the peak of industrialisation in the 1950s (Brubaker 1984).

Today, MacDonald’s stands as a formidable business and the structures that made this possible (bureaucracy, assembly-line, and scientific management) are all related to rationalisation. Nevertheless, rationalisation in the MacDonald’s business model has been criticised for being irrational. For instance, the human for non-human replacements that have occurred as a result of rationalisation have not been widely accepted.

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The topic of rationalisation and how it relates to modern work environments is important to economics. Max Weber is the main proponent of rationalisation in its social context. Throughout history, economic concepts have evolved to formulate rationalisation in its current form. Overall, rationalisation allows for division of labour, systemic integration, and capitalistic pursuits.


Brubaker, R 1984, The limits of rationality, Allen & Unwin, London. Web.

Ritzer, G 1993, The mcdonaldization of society, Pine Forge Press, London. Web.

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