The Rationalization Thesis

What one should stress is that foresight and intuition are not the same as the control impulse and the obsession with predictability which define modern discourse. Nor do ‘efficiency’ and precision necessarily result from the control impulse and the obsession with predictability which are characteristic of mass bureaucratization, as evinced by decades of a whole-of-government policy out of Washington which was aimed towards global hegemony.

In addition to ‘efficiency’ and ‘predictability’ as the basic aims of mass bureaucratization, there are two other aims for such a structure. For one, there is the issue of ‘calculability,’ which amounts to reducing everything to numerical data and statistics which can be easily manipulated. Also, there is the issue of ‘dehumanization,’ which equates to the use of technology to control or suppress human behavior.

And at the heart of the modern discourse which shapes the aforementioned modern aims and goals of modernity is “rationalization.” Max Weber’s “Rationalization Thesis” translates into the replacement of traditional beliefs and values with “rationality” and “reason.” In other words, religion and tradition are eviscerated and replaced solely with a focus on material or worldly ends and goals.

In turn, ‘rationality’ arguably has four elements. For one, rationality involves “practicality” or doing what is “practical.” Second, there is the practice of reducing everything into abstraction or abstract concepts. Third, rationality means that the ends justify the corrupt means. And fourth, rationality translates into conformity.

But what is most noteworthy about “rationalization” and what modern discourse brushes off is that in a deeper sense, rationalization actually equates to a concealment of “salvation anxiety” or “death anxiety” to borrow from the existential psychologist and psychiatrist Irvin Yalom. In turn, “Salvation Anxiety” or “Death Anxiety” prompt four basic factors which foster the development of “rational thinking.”

For one, there is the issue of “productivity” and what society deems to be a “productive” use of one’s energy and time. For instance, artists, intellectuals, and writers are viewed as “unproductive” because of their lack of money-thinking. Second, ‘rational thinking’ prompts a rigid organization of society in order to render an entire populace subservient to a scatterbrained and sinecure elite class. Third, rationality expects rational “explanations” for social and natural phenomena which for the most part cannot be explained rationally. And fourth, rationality means that “solutions” to political and social problems have to be “rational” when in reality, these so-called solutions end up making the problems worse more often than not.

Furthermore, the ‘truth claims’ of a “rational” point of view on one hand versus the ‘truth claims’ of a religious point of view on the other hand are generally opposed to one another. For one, religious and aesthetic thought contends that physical reality and psychological states serve as a metaphor or representation of a broader, deeper, and eschatological condition or reality which cannot be fully deciphered by the physical eye. Ultimately, the goal of philosophy, religion, and science is truth, and there is a stark difference between what constitutes “truth” from a “rational” standpoint versus what constitutes “truth” from a religious standpoint. And in many cases, religion surpasses “rationality” in terms of the veracity of its ‘truth claims’ as well as its corroboration of reality, given that religion is far ahead of science in explaining a number of social and natural phenomena.

However, nothing is more unacceptable and preposterous than modernity’s attempt to blur the line between truth and falsehood, to take texts and words out of their context and to mute their historical background, and to obfuscate the truth. And it is this blurring of the line between truth and falsehood, as well as the taking of texts and words out of their context and muting their historical background along with the obfuscation of clear and concrete truths which prompt a stern critique of modernity and modern discourse.

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