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Max Weber, who is one of the founders of the discipline of sociology, seemed to lament the direction in which Western Society was evolving. He foresaw the ever-increasing bureaucratization of society, which he equated with rationalition, entailed the disciplining and regimentation individuals as they comported themselves through social realty.
In order for a rationally structured institution to operate, there had to be a distinction between the individual assuming a role within the social construct and the expected behaviors and endowed privileges associated with that role, which existed within the institution. Consequently, people are confined by their position within the institutional structure of the various organizations in which they participate as a matter of course when functioning in society. The decisions that people can make are limited by the rules that are concomitant with the status assumed by the individual within the particular social institution. A person was no longer free to innovate and invent himself or herself. Indeed, in order for the processes of the system that is manifested through the social institution to operate efficiently and without breakdown, the members of the structure had to limit their actions to what their interlocutors expected of them.
This confinement of human agency expands to all sectors of life, since social institutions, obviously, are related to one another and collectively for larger systems in society. For example, the advent and proliferation of fast food provides the busy braxton, who only has a limited amount of time with which to consume launch during the workday, with certain expectations, such as the rapidity with which the food will be prepared. In essence, everything becomes standardized and predictable. There is little room left for individuality and human inventiveness with regards to his or her position within society.
It is for these reasons that this essay makes the claim that modern society is not following a path to the liberation of humanity from forms of oppression. Rather, control and discipline are expanding and growing so to encompass all aspects of our lives. The American cosmology, which commonly adheres to the doctrine that things will constantly improve, is a fabrication; a false ideology, which deflects our perceptions from the unsettling truth to the matter: We are not becoming emancipated; we are becoming automated.
Russell Cole [send him email] is a contributing author to the Populist Party of America, and is the coordinator for the Populist Party's Midwest Alliance, the Midwest Populist Party. Read more from Russell Cole at the Midwest Populist Party blog.