Okay, here’s a quick backtrack: way back in Chapter 3 I briefl y mentioned Weber’s analysis of different systems of law. I did so in order to describe the idea of cultural relativism to you, but in this chapter I am going to take it in a different direction. Remember, Weber listed four different kinds of ‘rationality’ upon which different legal systems were based. Now, in the context of Chapter 3, the point was to show that different societies do things differently. In the context of this chapter, I want you to think about what we (and Weber) mean by rationality. When we say something is ‘rational’, we imply it makes sense, according to some kind of accepted logic. Weber told us that, in some societies, that ‘logic’ against which the rationality of something is measured might be grounded in religion, or tradition, or the whims of the monarch, or a trial by strength. But he also said that in ‘modern’ capitalist societies,
it is based on an objective system of rules. Weber called this kind of system ‘formally rational’. Bear that in mind as we make our way through this chapter.