Bureaucratization of Society

April 8, 2009

gearsMax Weber warned us of a process called the “rationalization of society” or what modern sociologists have labeled “bureaucratization.” In this process, the way that you do something becomes more important than how successful you are at doing it—the method becomes more important than the objective. Some sociologists fear large organizations are already reflecting this process through over-specialization, departmentalization, rigidity, ritualism, streamlining, and the suppression of new methods of doing things.

A example might be a recent case in the community I live in. A police officer pulled over a car. The driver of the car was asked for proof of his insurance (a legal requirement and not an unusual request by officers during traffic stops). The driver had difficulty in finding his proof of insurance and explained that he was driving his wife and other relatives to the hospital. His wife’s mother was dying. The policeman explained he could not leave in the car until he had proof of insurance—that was the law.

Would you like to respond to this posting? If so, select a discussion point below and respond to it:

1. What do you think the police officer should have done? Why? What would be the risks of this choice?

2. Do you think the above story is an example of rationalization? Can you think of other instances of rationalization involving public service providers? What does that tell you about the spread of this phenomena?

3. Do you think modern, large, and complex societies need some level of bureaucratization? Why?

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  1. Seeing as how I am not a police officer and don’t know much about the protocols to any of the officers methods, I can’t give an educated guess. But I will say that the police officer was right in telling him he couldn’t leave the car because it was law. But he might have been able to pull the license plate and checked the insurance listed underneath the name. The man might have been able to call his insurance company depending on the time of day and the day of the week to provide the officer proof of insurance. I know there are other people on the road the officer would have been patrolling but maybe he could have followed the man to the hospital so the man could drop off his relatives and done a more thorough check on the insurance. As I said before I don’t know what an officer is supposed to do when you don’t have insurance, but the question was what I thought he should have done and that’s what I would have done.

  2. I think the police officer could have taken a minute to assess the situation and conclude that perhaps something serious is happening.. yes, the driver was under violation for not having proof of insurance, but the officer could have followed the driver to the hospital allowed him to settle the incident happening with his wife’s mother. Then when it was over, he could have taken care of the offence. The whole thing could have been handled differently and better. I believe that the law should be considerate to crisis situations, why can’t it wait ? I mean the driver or any one else in the same position probably wouldn’t mind resolving the offense, it was a matter of timing, and also in crisis situations the law should be considering.

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