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Karl Emil Maximillian Webber, generally known as Max Webber, was born on 21st April 1864 in Erfurt, Saxony,
Prussia which is part of the modern day Germany. Webber belonged to a wealthy and prominent family. The
intellectual atmosphere in which he grew up, enabled him to be exceptional in his academia. Initially a law student
at University of Heidelberg, and later at University of Berlin, Webber passes out as a Referendar. Later he earned his
law doctorate degree and joined the University of Berlin as a lecturer and a consultant for the government.
Max Webber, a sociologist, philosopher, jurist and political economist, is often cited as one of the three founding
notables of modern day social sciences, the other two being Karl Mark and Emil Durkheim. Max is best known for his
thesis combining ‘economic sociology’ and the ‘sociology of religion’. While working for the government, after the
First World War, Max was amongst the founders of the liberal German Democratic Party, whereby he was appointed
for a seat in the parliament and played as an advisor to the committee that drafted the democratic Weimar
Inspired by the German Idealism and neo – Kantianism, Karl introduced influential theories and ideas that aided in
the formation of self-identity of the modern day social science as a separate field of inquiry. Moreover, his practical
writings and ideas have been of immense importance in the field of Sociology.
A few of the contributions of Webber are wroth the mention. The notion of ‘verstehen’ was introduced by him. It’s a
German word used by Karl, meaning understanding, to showcase the effort put in to comprehend the social action
through empathetic understanding of the social actions performed by the individuals in a society. According to
Webber it is not just the quantitative data that enables one to understand a society, rather an input of the
qualitative data is equally important.
Max, debated on Karl Mark’s theory of social inequality that described it in terms of the ownership, wealth and other
worldly possessions, stating that inequality cannot just be defined in terms of these things, rather it needs to take
into account the qualitative aspects of individuals such as the ability to influence others and much more than that.
Further, he described that social status come in to actuality due to the inequalities existing in the society which are
because of the workings of capitalism that make individuals judge and relate to each other in numerous ways.
Another notable contribution made by Max is the introduction of the abstract idea of an ideal society. Webber
believed that as a sociologist it is the duty of sociologists to develop conceptual tools in order to enhance the
methodology used by them. Likewise Webber came up with ideal society’s concept whereby the elements in a
society are portrayed in a way that is the best that may be achieved. He used the ideal type in a specific sense as a
methodological tool to enable him to research and understand the social reality of the society.
Webber argued that the social processes be viewed from a subjective perspective rather than an objective one.
Sociology being studied at macro and micro level today may show different perspectives of a society. Webber argued
and I quote that “sociology is a science whose object is to interpret the meaning of social action and thereby give a
causal explanation of the way in which the action proceeds and the effects which it produces. By 'action' in this
definition is meant the human behavior when and to the extent that the agent or agents see it as subjectively
meaningful ... the meaning to which we refer may be either (a) the meaning actually intended either by an individual
agent on a particular historical occasion or by a number of agents on an approximate average in a given set of cases,
or (b) the meaning attributed to the agent or agents, as types, in a pure type constructed in the abstract.”
We may conclude that Webber brought about a logical paradigm change of viewing the society from a macro level to
a micro level. This idea of viewing the society subjectively is evident in his definition of sociology where he says that
sociology is the science that aims at the interpretive understanding of social behavior in order to gain an explanation
of its causes, its courses and its effects. His contributions are of massive importance in the structuring of the modern
day sociology.