Technology and have given ‘freedom’, Weber suggest
Technology such as e-mail, fax and mobile phones means that we have lost our sense of tangible communication. The irony being, that we created these tools to improve and broaden our communication levels, yet in doing so it we are becoming more and more isolated as we no longer feel the need to meet other human beings face to face. This leads to the suggestion that we may have lost our sense of traditionalism.
Before modernity, tradition implied that of religion and kinship, therefore, has this been lost through our progression? Giddens believes that although we may have lost historical tradition it does not disappear in modernity. Traditional societies are informed by belief in established, timeless orders. Therefore, although we may have lost traditions of the past, we have now created new ones based on our belief in ‘traditional legitimate authority’, which comes from “personal loyalty which results from common upbringing” (Max Weber)
Although our ability to progress and better ourselves is seen as a gain, it can also lead to the loss of gratitude an contentment leading to greed and emptiness. Since the enlightenment the authenticity of religion has been questioned by the rise of science. For example, people in post-modern societies seek forfillment in people, spirituality and religion, something which has been tainted in the western world.
Modern society embeds a burning desire of ‘want’ upon us, this results in people becoming consumed by the desire to constantly improve and upgrade their lives. Therefore it leads us to question whether we will ever reach a level of complete for forfilment, or is this just an illusion that has come out of a society obsessed with ambition and material desires? The problem being that we are now looking into to empty materialist things to find meaning. We have lost track of where true happiness lies, the love of partner, the sense of security in a community. Do these materialist things really make us happy or do the merely make us crave the next best thing?
The idea of illusions in society closely relates to Weber’s theory of ‘bureaucracy and the iron cage’. Although movements such as the enlightenment, industrialization and have given ‘freedom’, Weber suggest that they tie us to the “chains” of a “mechanical and inhuman environment”(Weber). He suggests that our freedom is an illusion of to the bureaucratic frameworks that we have created. Hence we are aloud to choose which cage we wish to work in and we can move freely within it, as long as we comply with the restraints. Through this metaphor we can see that there is an obvious contradiction which supports Weber’s theory that we have lost our freedom through the progression of regulation.
All these progresses mask the ‘natural world’ and therefore we begin to forget our place on the planet. We have primarily replaced religion with science. Therefore, we have moved from being under the power of an omniscient being to believing that we are ourselves are the rulers of our world. In doing so, the relationship between nature and humans ceases to be harmonious. Our civilization has become so egotistical that they have began to ‘take from nature because it thinks it owns the place’, rather than “accept from nature because they thought they were being offered a gift”(A.T.Campbell). We can see examples of this in everyday life through deforestation, erosion, pollution and exhaustion of our natural resources.
This idea of an egotistical human race also leads to the problem of “power reductionism”, a concept represented by Joseph Levenson and Samuel Huntington. This occurs when a society imposes its culture on other societies. Thus, globalization and the spread of western society are due to imperialist aggression, rather than natural progression. This can become a problem when the weaker society has to rely on the stronger. A classic example of this is the intrusion of missionaries on the Wayapi tribe. They offered new western technology such as knives, mirrors and machetes in an attempt to help the tribe become more ‘western’. However, these resources eventually run out and the tribes are left with merely a taster of how life could be. Instead of helping minds “the intrusion crippled them” (Campbell. A.T). as they now have the same desire to better themselves yet do not have the resources to do so.
After identifying so called “gains” and “losses it becomes apparent that the main issue in question is not what we have lost, but essentially what problems have arisen from the progress of modernity. Through progress we have gained extensive knowledge about the world we live in and evidently we have lost our niavity and ignorance. With this knowledge we gain a sense of social responsibility, as we are now aware that it is the human race that is causing the destruction of the ozone layer, the greenhouse effect, etc we are obliged to take the appropriate action to repair it. This relates to Beck’s theory of ‘the global risk society’, which claims that we are now at a stage of uncertainty. The problem being that through our commitment to progress we have reached a point where we are increasingly finding more ‘uncertainties’. Society is gradually loosing control as it struggles with “new kinds of difficulties which are hard to record” (Giddens.A).
In conclusion, through commitment to progress, western society has gained a great deal of knowledge and understanding that has allowed us to make choices, improve our standard of living and better our understanding our planet and universe. However, progression has reached a point where we are loosing the one thing we aimed to achieve, ‘control’. Our knowledge and power now exceeds our ability and we are going down the road of self-destruction, as the power we created is becoming more powerful than ourselves.
For example, individual developments in technology such as film, photography, e-mail, satilite etc are now developing into one powerful entity that has the ability to violate the boundaries of communication. Giddens describes this loss of control and new uncertainty as ‘the runaway world’. It appears that through our increased knowledge and understanding of the world, the tools that we have created will infact be those that eventually destroy us.
Gardner.k and Lewis.D (1996), Anthropology, development and the post-modern challenge, Chipping Norton, Chase Production services.
Bookchin.M (1921), The philosophy of social ecology- essays and dialectical naturalism, London, Black rose books.
Wheeler.M, Ziman.J, A. Boden (1992). The evolusion of cultural entities, London, United States, Oxford University press inc. New York.