Rationalization and Unwritten Rules of Society
In the previous article, I argued that different sets of rules in society may be regarded as laws that impose sanctions on people breaching them. These laws may be written or unwritten, they may have been created with certain purposes or developed throughout history; regardless of these facts, these laws shape people’s lives and affect people’s behaviours substantially. One might argue: “Why is it important to determine whether some rules can be regarded as laws? Would such determination make any difference? Rules are rules; the title we assign to them will not have a big impact on their validity or value.” I accept, saying that some rules are operating as laws in society will not affect these rules. My point is that it is important to analyze the value we give to rules in order to understand their importance and effects in our lives. And by determining that some rules may be operating as laws, we can see that we are attaching a great importance to the said rules – an importance that would normally be attached to the traditional laws, i.e. the laws that are enacted by governments –. Accordingly, these rules that we treat like laws have a greater influence on our lives, and it is of great importance for us to be aware of the influence of these rules on our decisions and plans.
Especially since the creation of the Internet, the world has been as rationalized as it has ever been. The rationalization has reached to such a level that even the rationalization itself does not feel rational anymore. In today’s world, almost everything has been broken into its fractions in form of data. The datafication of the things has particularly facilitated the rationalization of the modern life. Even when we are not clearly referring to data in a particular subject, as the datafication of the things has been and is constantly shaping the way we think, we base our opinions and analysis on structured data without even realizing doing so.
As I said above, the world and the things therein have been rationalized to such an extent that even the process of the rationalization does not seem to be rational anymore. But why? Along with many other things, the immaterial and abstract aspects of human life have also been rationalized. For example, even our sense of aesthetics has been and is constantly redefined in today’s world. We try to follow the trends and fashion and deliberately avoid being old-fashioned. This does not only mean that we are trying to pick our clothes based on the common sense of aesthetics; the rationalization and redefinition of our sense of aesthetics refers to a total datafication of our understanding of beauty. We do not think that something looks good just because we think or believe that it looks good; instead, we take the redefined understanding of beauty into consideration and make our judgement regarding aesthetics based on such understanding. Nevertheless, we do not realize that our sense of aesthetics has been rationalized. As we do not realize the rationalization of an immaterial aspect of our lives, we do not realize the rationalization of material things. In other words, where we cannot feel the transition of something from immaterial state to another state where it is treated like a material thing, we cannot feel the transition of something material into something more material, i.e. something datafied and rationalized in detail. Accordingly, even the rationalization of the things does not feel rational anymore; instead, the process of rationalization feels like a natural event such as changing seasons or the equinox.
But what is the connection between the rationalization and datafication of the things and the rules that operate as laws in our society? The issue in this regard is that the rationalization leads to the emergence of new laws in such areas that have never or rarely been subject to rules or regulations such as aesthetics. As all aspects of our lives are increasingly treated as a part of a heavily rationalized system, even the most notional elements in our society are being codified by us without even realizing it. In order to better explain my point, I would like to expand the analysis I made regarding the rationalization of our sense of aesthetics. Let’s say a famous actor had a new hairstyle, and the said hairstyle got so much attention in media. At first, it was found to be uncommon or even weird, but then, as some people followed this actor and started to have his hairstyle, the approach to the said hairstyle in media and social media has changed, and at some point, people embraced this style. In the course of time, the said hairstyle has become much more common and popular, and furthermore, people started to think that it represents the modern understanding of beauty and aesthetics. In the end, people who thought the said hairstyle was weird at the beginning preferred to have the same hairstyle because it has been embraced by society, and moreover, imposed on people as a standard of beauty. Thus, it has become a part of the laws of aesthetics. Having this hairstyle has become a part of the laws, because the essential factor I discussed in the previous article, “fear of incurring negative consequences”, applies to this situation as well. People have this hairstyle because they are afraid of being irrelevant. They want to be accepted by other people who believe that the said hairstyle looks beautiful.
We can extend the hairstyle example to many other areas of society. Rationalized trends and the datafied sense of aesthetics define what is cool, beautiful, and relevant in society. I do not criticize this situation. With the increasing access to data and the Internet, the excessive rationalization and datafication of the things may indeed be inevitable, and in many ways, such rationalization and datafication facilitate our lives. The argument I put forward here that the rationalization of our lives creates more laws for us, and in many ways, these laws are shaping our lives and even our personalities. In order to understand the dynamics of our lives better, we must first understand the role these laws play in our lives.