Max Weber

Max Weber
Katie Geneser
Hayden George
 Born 1864, Thuringia
 Father was wealthy civil servant who was highly involved
in both politics and academics
 For Christmas one year he wrote two analytical essays to
give to his parents as gifts
 Attended law school
 Spent some time in the military
 In 1893 he married Marianne Schnitger a feminist
activist and author
 Took a job as a professor eventually ending up at the
University of Heidelberg
Early Work
 Early on took an interest in contemporary social
 Felt that the role of economics was the primary
source of solving social problems
 Strongly influenced by German Idealism
 Linked romanticism and Enlightenment politics
 Kant, Freud, and Simmel
 Strongly influenced by Marx’s ideas of socialism and
active politics
 Differed on the idea of utopian society
Concepts and Contributions
 Bureaucracy
 Pre-conditions
Growth in space and population
Growth in complexity of the administrative tasks being carried out
Existence of monetary economy, requires a more efficient
administrative system
Concepts and Contributions
 Bureaucracy
Communication and transportation policies make more efficient
administration possible
Hierarchical organization
Delineated lines of authority in a fixed area of activity
Rules are implemented by neutral officials, not the power elite
Advancements depend on technical qualifications from organizations
not individuals
Can be a threat to individual freedom
Concepts and Contributions
 Rationalization
 “The fate of our times is characterized by rationalization and,
above all, by the ‘disenchantment of the world’”
Instead of the power elite holding society back, it is the laws,
rules and regulations capitalism requires
Curtails people’s freedoms and traps them in bureaucratic
Process is less welcome of individualism and “dehumanizes
Concepts and Contributions
 Rationalization
 Zweckrational (i.e., formal) rationality. The rationality of
means-ends relationships, wherein an identifiable goal is
sought by pursuing reasonably defined means.
Wertrational (i.e., substantive) rationality. The rationality of
non-goal oriented behavior, wherein behavior is pursued
independently of the prospects of success.
Concepts and Contributions
 Verstehen
 German word for interpretive understanding
Looking at society from your own point of view rather than
from that of the indigenous culture
How people give meaning to the social world around them
Gives a subjective understanding about individual and group
Concepts and Contributions
 The Protestant Ethic
 The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1905)
Emphasizes hard work, frugality, and prosperity as a display as
a person’s salvation in the Christian faith
Societies that are more Protestant tend to be more
bureaucratic than capitalist and to Weber this is a good thing
Workers are more likely to be devoted to their craft and are
less alienated
Views on Society
 Bureaucratic Society
 Rather than capitalism or communism, Weber thought society
should be run through a system of well organized institutions
Society can be understood through empirical observation
rather than quantitative research
Power is not just in the hands of the elite
 Influenced Parsons, Habermas, and many others
 Presented sociology as the “science of human social
 Developed antipositivism; stressing the differences
between social and natural sciences
 Weber Bureaucracies: showed how there are
bureaucratic elements of every part of society
 His specific explanations for society in his time are
hard to generalize for other circumstances in society
 Failed to see all the positive aspects of rationalization
and deemed society to be doomed and trapped in an
“iron cage” of its own making
 Bureaucratic features of Weber’s ideal society might
actually be inefficient (argued by Merton)