Weber, Max

Max Weber (1864–1920) is one of the most influential and prolific writers of sociological theory. In conceptualizing modernity, Weber focused on the rationalization of the world where a society becomes dominated by cultural norms of efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control resulting in dehumanizing rationalization where the average man is less important than the clock and the calculator. Just as the fast-food industry has become rationalized, so have the industries associated with dying and disposal of the dead.

Although Weber never actually dealt with the issue of death, many theorists using this definition of rationalization have shown that it can be extended to how society deals with death. As a society becomes more rational, efficiency in dealing with the dead becomes more important. There are funeral directors and other professionals who specialize in the systematic and routine caring for the deceased. Calculability is also evident in American society's view of death. Many actuarians and physicians focus on disease and death statistics in an attempt to better predict the causes and timing of death. The rationalization of society is evident in the demystification of death. Death is no longer "a journey to the next world" but simply an end to life. As a society moves toward rationality as its norm, death becomes a systematic and logical event, eliminating some of the most human aspects of dying.

See also: Death System ; Social Functions of Death


Ritzer, George. The McDonaldization of Society. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press, 1996.

Ritzer, George. Sociological Theory. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1983.

Weber, Max. The Protestant Ethnic and the Spirit of Capitalism. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1958.


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