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Unformatted text preview: major source of uncertainty in social life—other people.Among other things, this
means control over subordinates by superiors and control of clients and customers
There are many examples of rationalization oriented toward gaining greater
control over the uncertainties of life.The burgeoning of the genetic engineering
movement can be seen as being aimed at gaining better control over the production of life itself. Similarly, amniocentesis can be seen as a technique which will 377 378 PART V SOCIAL CHANGE allow the parents to determine the kind of child they will have.The efforts to rationalize food production and distribution can be seen as being aimed at gaining
greater control over the problems of hunger and starvation. A steady and regular
supply of food can make life itself more certain for large numbers of people who
today live under the threat of death from starvation.
At a more specific level, the rationalization of food preparation and serving at
McDonald’s gives it great control over its employees.The automobile assembly
line has a similar impact. In fact, the vast majority of the structures of a rational
society exert extraordinary control over the people who labor in them. But because of the limits that still exist on the degree of control that rational structures
can exercise over individuals, many rationalizing employers are driven to seek to
more fully rationalize their operations and totally eliminate the worker.The result
is an automated, robot-like technology over which, barring some 2001 rebellion,
there is almost total control.
In addition to control over employees, rational systems are also interested in
controlling the customer/clients they serve. For example, the fast-food restaurant
with its counter, the absence of waiters and waitresses, the limited seating, and the
drive-through windows all tend to lead customers to do certain things and not to
Irrationality of Rationality Although not an inherent part of rationalization, the irrationality of rationality is a
seemingly inevitable byproduct of the process.We can think of the irrationality of
rationality in several ways. At the most general level it can simply be seen as an
overarching label for all the negative effects of rationalization. More specifically, it
can be seen as the opposite of rationality, at least in some of its senses. For example, there are the inefficiencies and unpredictabilities that are often produced by
seemingly rational systems.Thus, although bureaucracies are constructed to bring
about greater efficiency in organizational work, the fact is that there are notorious inefficiencies such as the “red...
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- Fall '13