08 Weber II Bureaucracy and Politics SP 2012

Max Weber II: Bureaucracy and Politics
February 20, 2012
Instructor: Sarah Whetstone
Readings and Key Concepts
• “The Distribution of Power within the Political
Community: Class, Status, Party” [1914]
– Social Class (economic power)
– Social Status (honor)
– Party (authority to rule, domination over others)
• “The Types of Legitimate Domination” [1914]
Power and legitimacy
Charismatic Domination
Traditional Domination
Rational-Legal Domination
• “Bureaucracy” [1922]
– Bureaucracy as ideal type
– Iron cage
What determines how much power you have?
Well, you know, there are two
great camps– the workers and
the capitalists! It’s all about
the class divide, and your
place in the economic order.
I think not. Class is only
one component of power.
Status and authority
determine one’s social
position, too!
opportunities to get what you want and enjoy it
“We may speak of a ‘class’ when (1) a number of people have
in common a specific causal component of their life chances,
insofar as (2) this component is represented exclusively by
economic interests in the possession of goods and
opportunities for income, and (3) is represented under the
conditions of the commodity or labor market.” (p. 248)
economic power—the ability to procure goods and services
income and profit are the desired goals
In other words, classes can be objectively defined
by shared life chances and economic power.
"Thus every class may be the carrier of any
one of innumerable possible forms of …
• What does Weber mean here?
• People seek and identify with different
situations and goals, not just economic one.
• Status (component of one’s identity), or party
(political power) are influential, too.
• Individuals may not act on “class interests.”
they are groups because they have sustained patterns of social action
“In contrast to classes, status groups are normally groups.
They are, however, often an amorphous kind. In contrast to
the purely economic determined ‘class situation,’ we wish to
designate as status situation every typical component of life
of men that is determined by a specific, positive or negative,
social estimation of honor.” (p. 251)
class situations are based objectively on market situations
based subjectively on esteem or respect paid by others
Oftentimes status groups and classes are coterminous,
forming social strata.
Weber on status versus class identities
Status groups: a cohesive group
organized around conceptions
of honor & dishonor
Status groups are united by a
way of life…
Too much class difference within
status groups undermines cohesion
Class: a set of people who share
life chances determined by their
access to income or wealth.
Classes are united by their
objective economic interests.
However they will only become a
group if they see those interests –
which for Weber only happens in
periods of particular class
Status groups
Status group is a very broad concept
Status groups: organized around
conceptions of honor & dishonor
Some status groups
are hierarchal and
ultimately coercive,
others more voluntary
Some status groups are
temporary, others lifelong
master status.
But all status groups groups
are tied together by
common value systems
United by a way of life:
dress, and other forms of material
cultural practices
(spatial) community
Different forms of status groups:
profession or trade
Racial Segregation as Status Boundary
“Jim Crow” – Segregation in US South
Clothing Retail and Status Display
“How to Marry the Rich,” from People
Like Us: Social Class in America
Group Discussion: Critique of Marx
from the Perspective of Max Weber
How does Weber's concept of
status contribute to or challenge
the Marxist idea of class and
class struggle in capitalist
Power and Legitimacy: Types of
Legitimate Domination
• Power
– “the chance of a man or number of men to realize
their own will in a social action even against the
resistance of others who are participating in the
– Weber’s third element of social stratification
• Non-legitimate power
– By force or coercion
• Legitimate power – socially given “right,” or authority,
to enforce rule
– Charismatic – devotion to exemplary person
– Traditional – belief in sanctity of tradition
– Legal-Rational – rules are laws are “rational” to obey because
they are fair
Based on devotion to the exceptional sanctity,
heroism, or extraordinary qualities of an individual.
How is charisma a revolutionary force?
Justified by a belief in customs, traditions,
and long-standing ways of doing things.
(1) Social action bound to specific traditions.
(2) Social action free of specific rules.
Occurs in small groups and households, so
no administrative apparatus is necessary.
People move up the ladder based on loyalty to
the leader. Lines of authority are blurry.
Authority based on the legality of rules and laws that
outline the appropriate actions of people in control.
We follow orders because we believe in
the process, even if we do not like the
people in office.
The administrative apparatus of a
ration-legal system is a bureaucracy…
Legitimate Rules
Is this sign representing
A legitimate rule?
Depends on authority of
sign poster.
compliance – We have an
“interest” in our own domination.
Legitimacy makes for stability!
“Definite hierarchy of offices”
Useless multiplication of offices
George Tooker
Bureaucracy as Iron Cage:
“Specialists without Spirit”
Other problems
with bureaucracy…
--Denial of
-- “Just following
orders” – mindless
acceptance of duties
-- Extreme cases: The
Holocaust (Bauman)
Bureaucracy in Office Space and
Increasing Rationalization…
Leads to “Iron
Cage” of the
modern world –
creativity or
Weber and Kafka drowning in the sea of modern bureaucracy…
Group Discussion: Bureaucracy
• Pick a bureaucracy, and explain
how it fits some of the major
features of bureaucracy, as
outlined by Weber in the text.
• How might the bureaucracy you
chose resemble an “iron cage?”
In other words, how does the
rationalization of social life
sometimes end up being
irrational or inefficient?
Related flashcards

Systems theory

22 cards

Anarchist theorists

46 cards

Russian Marxists

14 cards

Create Flashcards