Iron cage  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

In sociology, the iron cage is a term coined by Max Weber for the increased rationalization inherent in social life, particularly in Western capitalist societies. The "iron cage" thus traps individuals in systems based purely on teleological efficiency, rational calculation and control. Weber also described the bureaucratization of social order as "the polar night of icy darkness".

The original German term is stahlhartes Gehäuse; this was translated into "iron cage", an expression made familiar to English language speakers by Talcott Parsons in his 1930 translation of Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.

This translation has recently been questioned by certain sociologists and interpreted instead as the "shell as hard as steel".

Weber wrote:

"In Baxter’s view the care for external goods should only lie on the shoulders of the 'saint like a light cloak, which can be thrown aside at any moment.' But fate decreed that the cloak should become an iron cage."

Weber became concerned with social actions and the subjective meaning that humans attach to their actions and interaction within specific social contexts. He also believed in idealism, which is the belief that we only know things because of the meanings that we apply to them. This led to his interest in power and authority in terms of bureaucracy and rationalization.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Iron cage" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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