And so are you! I wish this wasn’t the case. It would be nicer to be an Iron Man, but you know what, life doesn’t work like that.
In real life we don’t have time travel and great magnetic fields… (none that i know of) instead we have capitalism. Capitalism is the context in which most of our ideas steam from. Capitalism is the nature of our contemporary time.
I’ve posted about power structures and their effect on us from a Marxist perspective but today I’m going to move on to examine them from the end of the enlightenment period.
Max Weber, a famous thinker from the end of enlightenment, took a different angle when determining the impact of capitalism. He didn’t see capitalism as just a mode of production but was more focused on how culture played a role. The culture he saw for us was one of instrumental rationalization.
Instrumental rationalization is concerned with the most efficient means to achieve an end. Opposing this is substantial rationality, which is concerned with the consequences of the ends of an action.
It is through the culture of instrumental rationality that our society has cultivated the habit of hyper efficiency. How efficient something is, is now worth more to us then wether of not it’s meaningful.
Meaning is the root of value for Weber. Your products, or actions, values are derived from their meaning. Meaning is something that makes one course of action more appealing then another based its end, and hence it’s a thought process that requires substantial rationality.
So why don’t we have this substation rationality in our capitalist model? Well, Weber does accredits capitalism to having meaning and substantial rationality in the beginning.
In earlier eras we had clear sources of meaning and a clear end in sight; religion was our meaning and salvation was our end in sight. But then along came a new religious view, that of the protistans and with it came a new set of values, one in which people looked for signs of salvation.
This idea of being destined to salvation or damnation meant that Protestant’s were actively looking for signs of their salvation in their lives. A common sign of salvation was success. This gave people an incentive to grow their business and achieve success. So initially, capitalism had some substantive rationality behind it, action driven by a value judgement.
Capitalism soon detached its self from the protestants driving force and this meant that the reason behind growing our businesses had left. Soon, the action of growing and ever progressing the businesses efficiency became the value.
The result, in Webers words, is AN IRON CAGE SOCIETY. A society in which we are so caught up in the structure of it that we fail to ask why and to what end we are doing it all for.
Efficiency has come to be an end in itself. This has led to increased bureaucratization in the name of this efficiency. A big structure with everyone doing one little part in it has become the norm. The employee only has control over the small aspects of the big picture and is consequently very limited in the change that they can make.
Rules and procedures seem to have taken on a life of their own and formed the bars of our iron cage.
This has led the modes of discourse to being limited by the institutions.
Bureaucratization has been a rational long term profile. It’s one that requires stability and produces stability. This stability is attractive to governments and turns ruling into a very technical process, not very conducive to change.
So the individual can become stuck in the bureaucratized control of life and the powerlessness that comes from working a job more concerned with efficiency then outcome. This life, void of value, is partially responsible for why depression is our number one illness. A nihilistic populous is the after math of a culture driven by instrumental rationality.
What we have in the internet is a domain where personal expression is free from structural constraints of the 20th century and liberated from institutionalized nature of dominate discourse. The internet is a place of possibility for the IRON CAGED employee to escape to on evenings and weekends.