Constructing a framework to study modern society has been a goal of many sociologists throughout history. In his essay, Weber offers a unique way to study contemporary civilization. He believes that modern Western culture has become reliant on the notion of rationalization, and bureaucracy has been its significant contributor. While bureaucracy has generally been associated with politics and organizational structure, it has reached the educational system. Weber describes how rationalization in education has emerged and why there was a need for bureaucracy. His attitude toward the rationalization of education is, however, generally negative. This paper provides a brief summary of the essay and lists the advantages and disadvantages of rationalized education.
Bureaucracy and government have been interconnected terms for many years. Rationalism promoted by bureaucracy has been believed to be a necessity to maintain an effective government (Weber, 2015). In his essay, Weber discusses how this need has shaped the Western educational system (Weber, 2015). He claims that, under the influence of bureaucratic society, European universities and colleges had to incorporate the system of examinations that provide the modern bureaucratic system with specialized experts (Weber, 2015). The notion of democracy in this context is sophisticated. On the one hand, democracy facilitated the development of such a system (Weber, 2015). On the other hand, there is a fear that specialized examinations will facilitate the emergence of a privileged class (Weber, 2015). Weber compares this notion of a skilled expert with the idea of a cultivated man.
The author concludes the essay with an open question. After claiming that bureaucracy has replaced previous irrational structures of domination, he asks what these structures were (Weber, 2015). One way of interpreting his question is as follows – despite the many benefits bureaucracy has brought, rationalization has done significant damage to other vital elements of society. While the author does not provide an explicit list of these elements, they can be inferred from the reading.
One of the primary benefits of rationalization and bureaucracy is relying on facts, rules, and agenda. This approach allows structures of domination to achieve high levels of efficiency and effectiveness. In contemporary capitalist society, efficacy plays a significant role. So that individuals assimilate well into such a community and can make substantial contributions to businesses and governments, it is necessary that the educational system provides skilled and specialized experts. The presence of individuals that are trained and competent is the primary advantage of the rationalization of education.
Certificates that prove that an individual has expertise in a certain professional area may serve as the basis for inequality. People with these diplomas and educational endorsements may be treated differently from the rest of the population. It will inevitably lead to the formation of a “privileged caste,” as noted by the author (Weber, 2015, p. 1). Also, rationalization results in knowledge being classified as need and unneeded for a specific individual. As a consequence, cultural disruptions within society will occur. The community will lose shared values, which will eventually lead to dehumanization. Therefore, while the bureaucracy ensured economic growth, it is a significant step back in terms of cultural integrity and equality.
Weber’s essay discusses bureaucracy and rationalization within the context of educational systems. He claims universities and colleges were forced to adapt their curricula and approach to education to meet the needs of contemporary bureaucratic structures. While there is a benefit to such an approach to learning, there are many drawbacks. The emergence of a privileged stratum of society and loss of cultural and shared societal values are among the examples.
Weber, M. (2015). The “rationalization” of education and training. In R. Arum et al. (Eds.), The structure of schooling: Readings in the sociology of education (pp. 1-3). Sage.