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Pathway to Meltdown

Max Weber moves attention away from class and order to the entrenchment of new forms of power, control, and rationality in modern society. “Your Smart Phone Might be an Evil Genius” is the apropos title for the introductory essay, which discusses how the advancement of technology constrains us as much as it liberates us, not unlike Weber’s notion of the “iron cage.” The pathway toward increased rationality, Weber warned long ago, might also lead to meltdown. We include excerpts from his The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism as well as essays on social action, authority and domination, and bureaucracy. We also include two pieces from the Frankfurt School of critical theory—Herbert Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man and Jürgen Habermas’s Toward a Rational Society—and an excerpt from Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish, all of which look at the subtle ways new kinds of power and surveillance become ingrained in modern society. Finally, we include a piece from Anthony Giddens that provides a systematic look at some of the many consequences of living in the modern social world.


  • Critical Theory
  • One-dimensional man
  • Rational society
  • Late modernity
  • Reflexivity
  • Runaway world
  • Structuration
  • Disenchantment
  • Domination
  • Ideal-types
  • Verstehen

Writing Out Loud

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(Max Weber)
(Max Weber)
(Herbert Marcuse)
(Jurgen Habermas)
(Michel Foucault)
(Zygmunt Bauman)