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This term has two specific meanings in sociology. (1) The concept was developed by German sociologist Max Weber (1864-1920) who used it in two ways. First, it was the process through which magical, supernatural and religious ideas lose cultural importance in a society and ideas based on science and practical calculation become dominant. For example, in modern societies science has rationalized our understanding of weather patterns. Science explains weather patterns as a result of interaction between physical elements like wind-speed and direction, air and water temperatures, humidity, etc. In some other cultures, weather is thought to express the pleasure or displeasure of gods, or spirits of ancestors. One explanation is rationalized and scientific, the other mysterious and magical. Rationalization also involves the development of forms of social organization devoted to the achievement of precise goals by efficient means. It is this type of rationalization that we see in the development of modern business corporations and of bureaucracy. These are organizations dedicated to the pursuit of defined goals by calculated, systematically administered means. (2) Within symbolic interactionism, rationalization is used more in the everyday sense of the word to refer to providing justifications or excuses for one's actions. See: ACCOUNTS / .

Last updated 2002--0-9-

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© Robert Drislane, Ph.D. and Gary Parkinson, Ph.D.
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