Supplementary Sources: Pathway to Meltdown

Web Content:

Your Apps are Watching You
This Wall Street Journal Investigation uncovers the many ways that smartphone apps monitor and collect their users’ buying habits, movements, and personal information. A great example of how technological advances bring about new forms of control and surveillance at the same time they promise increased autonomy and choice.
Security and Surveillance
One of the biggest debates in many countries since the terrorist attacks of 9/11 is how to balance the desire for security against the restrictive nature of citizen surveillance. This USA Today story investigates the National Security Agency’s monitoring of all U.S. citizens’ phone calls. And this NPR series (also here) explores the debate over whether surveillance cameras make us safer or simply invade our privacy, as does this segment from CNN.
George Ritzer’s Website and Blog
Sociologist George Ritzer has been a great popularizer of Max Weber’s ideas about modernity and rationalization. Using the McDonald’s fast food chain as the quintessential example of rationalization, Ritzer argues that much of our society has been “McDonaldized.” Ritzer blogs on his website, sometimes about McDonaldization.
Ken Robinson’s TED Talks: Do Schools Kill Creativity? and Bring On the Learning Revolution
In these Talks, Robinson discusses how the modern education system kills creativity and suggests how we might approach learning more effectively and less homogeneously. The talks works well in illustrating the consequences of rationalization in the McEducation system, providing an opportunity for students to reflect on their experiences and, if you’re so inclined, to allow them to collaborate with you in making your class more learner-centric. There’s also an NPR TED Radio Hour episode that draws from both talks.


Freakonomics Radio: Is the Protestant Work Ethic Real?
In this episode, host Stephen Dubner shares about two studies examining whether Protestant beliefs really make people more productive. The episode pairs well with the excerpt from The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.
Philosophize This: Episode 144: Max Weber - Iron Cage
This episode examines Weber’s approach to modernity, its iron cage of rationality, and the demystification of the world.
Hidden Brain: I Buy, Therefore I am: How Brands Become A Part of Who We Are
In this episode, University of Pennsylvania professor of marketing Americus Reed shares about how people come to think about brands reflecting their identities. The episode can pair well with Mercuse’s writing on the one-dimensional man.
This American Life: The Out Crowd
This episode examines the Trump administration’s Remain in Mexico policy. Acts 1 and 3 demonstrate the consequences of bureaucratic violence for its victims (in this case, immigrants), while Act 2 focuses on the experiences of the bureaucrats who must enact violent policies (immigration officers). The podcast (especially Act 2) provides a contemporary example of the distancing that Bauman argues is key to bureaucratic violence.
Throughline: American Police
Throughline: Mass Incarceration
Both of these episodes feature interviews with historian of policing Khalil Gibran Muhammad, among others. They provide examples of bureaucratic violence--in the form of policing and mass incarceration--in the United States that continues today. They pair well with a discussion on how Bauman’s argument may be relevant today.
Planet Money: Stuck in China’s Panopticon
This episode examines China’s surveillance state, which relies on DNA testing, recognition software, and re-education to control its population, especially the Uighers.
Social Science Bites: Peter Ghosh on Max Weber and ‘The Protestant Ethic’
Historian and Weber interpreter Peter Ghosh discusses Weber’s ideas and their relevance to the contemporary world.
BBC Radio 4: In Our Time: Weber’s The Protestant Ethic
Host Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Weber’s seminal work.
BBC Radio 4: In Our Time: Charisma
Host Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Weber’s concept of charismatic authority.
The Ezra Klein Show: Why Do We Work so Damn Much?
This ranging discussion examines why people work so much in the modern world. Although Weber isn’t cited directly, the episode would work well alongside the reading from the Protestant Ethic.
BBC Radio 4: Thinking Allowed: Disenchantment
Host Laurie Taylor and guests discuss Weber’s approach to modern disenchantment.
Chasing Society: Max Weber - The Reign of Rationality
This episode explains Weber’s approach to rationality in The Protestant Ethic.
Radiolab Presents: Border Trilogy
These three episodes examine bureaucratically administered  violence on the US southern border. They would fit well in a discussion over applying Bauman’s approach to understanding state violence in our contemporary world.
This American Life: Let Me Count the Ways
This episode examines the many ways that the Trump administration used bureaucratic violence against immigrants. It works well in discussing contemporary applications of Bauman’s understanding of bureaucratic violence.
Give Theory a Chance: Daniel Winchester on Pierre Bourdieu
Sociologist and Social Theory Rewired editor Daniel Winchester discusses Bourdieu’s writing and its influence on his research on conversion and the sociology of religion.



Are We Safer
This PBS Frontline episode explores the growing reach of post-9/11 surveillance into the lives of ordinary Americans. The program can be watched in full here.
Food, Inc.
This documentary provides many examples of the rationalization of food in the United States. The scenes of chicken farming are particularly instructive. For more on how to use the film in class, check out this post over at Sociological Cinema.
The Merchants of Cool
This PBS Frontline episode examines the creators and marketers of popular culture and their effect on teenagers. An excellent update to Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man. The program can be watched in full here.
Quiet Rage
This documentary examines psychologist Phil Zimbardo’s 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment, in which the simulation of prison conditions revealed a great deal about the power of authority. Check out the website for the study for more information about the film and the study itself.

Feature Films and Clips

This 1985 Terry Gilliam sci-fi flick about a man searching for a woman in his dreams provides some classic depictions of bureaucracy and totalitarianism, including this clip.
Do the Right Thing
Spike Lee’s film of a pizzeria boycott in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn is an artful depiction of race in America. It can also be used to illustrate Weber’s ideal-types of social action. Have students watch clips of the film and discuss how closely the actions of Buggin’ Out, Mookie, Radio Raheem, Sal, and Jade fit each ideal-type. You can watch the trailer here.
The Lives of Others
A film that takes us deep into the social and psychological workings of the former East Germany’s citizen surveillance programs. You can watch the trailer here.
Modern Times
Charlie Chaplin’s wonderful portrayal of a Tramp who struggles to deal with the rationalization of capitalist production. The classic can be watched in full here.
Office Space
Mike Judge’s popular film “Office Space” provides dozens of hard-hitting (and hilarious) examples of the rationalization of the workforce. This clip about cover letters and TPS reports is a great instance of many modern companies’ prioritization of rules over substance.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
This classic film starring Jack Nicholson as Randle McMurphy, an anti-authoritarian patient in an Oregon mental hospital, provides moving examples of charismatic (in the case of McMurphy) and rational-legal (in the case of Nurse Ratchet) domination. The famous scene in which McMurphy tries (unsuccessfully) to change the rules in order to watch a baseball game is particularly touching. You can watch the trailer here.


Arendt, Hannah. 1963. Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil.
Among other themes, Arendt examines how people caught in violent bureaucratic systems justify and make sense of the roles they play in those systems. Chapter 8 in particular may be helpful as an extension to Bauman’s argument about bureaucratic violence.
Adorno, Theodor. 2001. “How to Look at Television.” Pp. 158-177 in The Culture Industry: Selected Essays in on Mass Culture. New York: Routledge
A critical take on America’s favorite leisure activity by one of the Frankfurt School’s most prominent theorists. We’ve included the full excerpt from Routledge for your convenience.
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Bauman, Zygmunt. 2000[1989]. Modernity and the Holocaust. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
A brilliant and disturbing argument about how rationalization and bureaucracy helped make the Holocaust possible. Chapters 4, 5, and 6 are especially relevant and highly recommended.
Foucault, Michel. 2003[1973]. “The Old Age of the Clinic.” Ps. 54-64 in The Birth of the Clinic. Routledge.
An excerpt from Foucault’s study of the emergence of modern medical knowledge and perception.  We’ve included the chapter in its entirety, courtesy of Routledge.
*Note to web designers: Please include link to full text copy here.
Foucault, Michel. 2001. “The Great Confinement.” Ps. 35-60 in Madness and Civilization. Routledge.
Another excerpt from Foucault’s study of construction of “madness” in Europe. This chapter explores how “madness” was handled in the 17th and 18th centuries. We’ve included the chapter in its entirety.
*Note to web designers: Please include link to full text copy here.
Giddens, Anthony. 2000. Runaway World: How Globalization is Reshaping Our Lives. New York: Routledge.
This collection of lectures from the British theorist provides a sweeping and mostly optimistic take on globalization. His chapters “Risk” and “Tradition” are provided in full courtesy of Routledge.
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Gross, Neil. 2017. “How to do Social Science Without Data.” The New York Times.
This article provides a brief biography and explanation of major themes involved in Zygmunt Bauman’s work.
Kolbert, Elizabeth. 2004. The New Yorker. “Why Work?”
Kolbert writes about Weber’s life and ideas in asking why we work so much in the modern world despite being highly productive.
Lanier, Jaron. 2010. You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto. New York: Knopf.
Lanier, the computer scientist who created virtual reality technology, takes a critical but balanced view of the disenchanting effects of many contemporary digital technologies.
Lyon, David. 1994. The Electronic Eye: The Rise of the Surveillance Society. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
A sociologist updates Foucault for the digital age, exploring how electronic surveillance technologies affect our everyday lives as well as the broader social order.
Mann, Michael. 2005. The Dark Side of Democracy: Explaining Ethnic Cleansing. New York: Cambridge University Press.
This provocative book by the UCLA sociologist argues that ethnic cleansing is part of modernity and, in particular, democracy. It is a different take than Bauman’s book on the Holocaust but is just as important in its implications.
Schlosser, Eric. 2001. Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal. New York: Houghton Mifflin Books.
For a good example of the rationalization of food itself, see Chapter 5 on “Why the Fries Taste Good.”
Trilling, Daniel. 2020. “‘It’s a Place Where They Try to Destroy You’: Why Concentration Camps Are Still With Us.” The Guardian.
This article examines modern forms of concentration camps across the world, from China to Australia to the US. The article highlights how all states have people whom they designate as “weeds,” especially as they try to control their borders, and so they use bureaucratic violence. The article is helpful in pushing students to think about the violence that states commit in their names; what constitutes legitimate state violence; and what alternatives there might be.
Weber, Max. 1919. From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, edited by Gerth and Mills. New York: Routledge.
This collection includes, “Science as a Vocation,” Weber’s famous lecture on what modern science can and cannot guarantee those who seek it out as their profession. Full text courtesy of Routledge.
*Note to web designers: Please include link to full text copy here.
Wheatland, Thomas. 2009. The Frankfurt School in Exile. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
In this book, Wheatland reexamines the role of the Frankfurt School (most notably Horkheimer and Marcuse) in American intellectual life and German postwar sociology.
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