Hyper-Rationality In Charlie Chaplin's Film Modern Times

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As a practical sociologist, Charlie Chaplin film Modern times embodies the ideas of hyper-rationalization of Max Weber and the false consciousness of Karl Marx. His film critiques the structural evolution caused by modern society. Through satire, the film reflects the lived reality of modernity by showing how individual agency succumbs to ruthless pragmatism, and how false consciousness is taught to marginalized individuals. With the writings of Martin Luther in the sixteen century, a large portion of Europe and the eventually the rest of the west converted from Roman Catholicism to Protestantism. Max Weber conjectures that under Protestantism citizens were encouraged to show their faith in God through hard work. (Weber, 377) . Over the…show more content…
Through out the movie, many of the characters, and plot points practice rationality to justify an absurdity. The factory owner decisions to maximize profit can be understood as acting rationally, yet his application of his ideas is hyper-rational because his tries to automate his workers. Once the workers transform from using machines to compliment their labor to embodying machines, rationality does not justify the owner decisions. The government is also depicted being hyper rational. When the police arrest Charlie for being a leader of the protest, their evidence is not logical. Using logical reasoning, they see that Charlie is leading the protest, and carrying a flag, thus he must be the leader of the protest. Their evidence follows a line of logic, but it would be clear that Charlie is innocent if they investigated their accusation. The police apprehension of Charlie’s girlfriend at the restaurant also follows a similar line hyper rational logic. Social services detains her because she is an orphan, so she is unfit to care for herself under the eyes of the law. The law’s intent was to ensure individuals that who cannot support of themselves are being supported. With her employment, Ellen shows that she can care of herself .If the members of social services could leave their ruthlessly pragmatic mindset, then they would realize that it is unnecessary to apply the law in this…show more content…
Throughout the film, the few of the characters take an introspective look at their lives or the unfair social institutions that shape them. When Charlie catches Big Ben, his friend from the factory, stealing from the department store Big Ben remarks “We ain’t burglars- we’re hungry. ”(Modern Times).His dialogue is simple and passive, yet he almost has a moment of clarity about the institution in his life. When Bill points out that “We ain’t burglars”, he takes the first step towards seeing the oppressive social institutions that are hurting his life. He does not complete the analysis, and instead he applies ideas pragmatically applies the idea of hyper-rationalism to his situation coming that conclusion that it is his fault that he is hungry. He passively accepts them the structural forces in his life, and blames himself because it is the most rational solution. Through out the film this is a recurring motif as many of the characters identify inequality in their life, but they don’t analyze them. When Charlie and Ellen attempt to achieve the dream of owning a house, Ellen realizes that they cannot afford one. She doesn’t, however, appear to contemplate about the social institutions that cause her and Charlie’s poverty. Her lack of analysis is a manifestation of her false consciousness

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