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Interpretivism Max Weber 1864-1920 Symbolic Interactionism 1930s - present Ethnomethodology / Phenomenology 1960s - present Max Weber Biography Methodology Value freedom Main ideas Max Weber - Biography Ich war in Guten Tag! 1864 nach Ich so- Max Weber was born in 1864 in Erfurt in Germany, the last of the bin Max called “founding fathers” of Sociology. Erfurt Weber. Ich7komme geboren. He was born into a wealthy family of intellectuals, the eldest of children. Max Weber Senior was a well known lawyer and liberalaus politician. Deutschland Like his father Max junior studied Law at Heidelberg University, but became increasing interested in History and Economics. He became Professor of Economics at Freiberg in 1893, and then at Heidelberg in 1896. However, in 1897 his father died following a quarrel with Max, which eventually resulted in a mental breakdown and his retirement from teaching in 1899. Bio web-link Max continued to write, and the period from 1900 to WWI was the most productive of his life. During the war he worked for the German government, and represented Germany at the Versailles peace conference. He died of pneumonia in 1920 – having recently taken up a position at the University of Vienna. Click Max Weber - Methodology Weber was the first major interpretive Sociologist: Sociology is a science concerning itself with the interpretive understanding of social action, and thereby with a casual explanation of its course and consequences. Economy and Society, 1920 A SOCIAL ACTION is an action carried out by an individual to which a person attaches meaning – which takes account of the behaviour of others. A bicycle accident, or shouting out in pain are not social actions because they are not thought about. If the act takes place in private, and does not take account of others it is not social. What would Interactionists say about this? Would they agree? Weber believed that Society was controlled by people‟s motivations, to understand It, you have to understand them. He called this approach Verstehen - Verstehen – understanding / empathy Weber believes that there are two levels of understanding: - aktuelles Verstehen -erklarendes Verstehen The first type can be translated as direct OBSERVATIONAL UNDERSTANDING– the kind that requires no further interpretation. If we observe a person with an angry face, we see that they are angry. If he see a man hitting wood with an axe, that he is chopping wood. This type of understanding is not enough to understand SOCIAL ACTION, however. The second type is EXPLANATORY understanding; in this case the Sociologist tries to see through the eyes of the person acting, to ask why the woodcutter is chopping wood; is it to earn a wage? To heat his home? Recreation? This requires imagination and skill to do. Further, Weber believed you had to do Verstehen on a grand scale – that of Societies – to understand the ultimate causes. It is also problematic in that it clashes with Weber‟s other major conceptual claim, that of Value freedom. Click Criticisms of Weber Criticisms of Verstehen • Interactionist: The distinction between actual, and explanatory understanding is a problem – surely we have to interpret all actions; how do we know what an angry face looks like? • Positivist: Claiming to understand, or empathise with another sounds good, but is difficult to do in practice. It probably means the Sociologist‟s prejudices getting in the way – it‟s not VALID. • Positivist: Empathy becomes more difficult the more different the person being studied is from the Sociologist – either we can only study people like us, or we give up on Sociology. • Macro/Micro: Understanding people we can closely observe is one thing, but Verstehen is not a technique which translates very easily to the Macro level – „understanding societies‟. However, this is what Weber sets out to do. Now click Value freedom Interestingly for a sociologist who wants to use interpretation and understanding Weber was very keen on being OBJECTIVE and SCIENTIFIC. In this he was very much a man of his times. Although people act on the basis of meaning and values, which we must attempt to empathize with and understand, Weber believed that we could choose to be objective when doing Sociology: Weber recognised that values vary widely, and that the world is always interpreted, rather than being there, as such. However, as Sociologists we can sort of sign up to a Sociologists Rulebook, which means agreeing to be follows common values of LOGIC, VALIDITY and RELIABILITY. What problems might there be with this view? Value free and interpretive? The criticism: It‟s all very well claiming that we can mutually agree to being objective and scientific, but Sociologists all disagree on what „good‟ sociology is e.g.: 1. Interpretivism vs. Positivism in methodology. 2. Marxists claim that bourgeois sociologists are producing capitalist ideology. 3. Phenomenologists believe that the meanings of words and concepts are essentially ambiguous – so how can we agree on our terms? 4. Post-Modernists not believe in the existence of objective truth, which is an invention of the Enlightenment. Click Major ideas The Protestant Work Ethic Rationalising bureaucracy The Protestant work ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism Marx‟s view of History: Economic change Cultural and Social change One way Weber‟s view of Culture and Economic changes History: interact with each other. Neither is the „dependent Economic changes variable‟. Changes Culture Next Protestantism and Capitalism In the Protestant Work ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism Weber asks why the capitalist economy and industrialisation start in Britain, the Netherlands, Switzerland and a few other places? •Weber notes that around 1500 Western Europe is far poorer than India and China. Southern Europe – Spain, Italy, the Ottoman empire are the richest countries. •These wealthier countries have resources, strong governments, technological knowledge and labour for hire. •However, by 1800 Northern Europe is far wealthier and economically advanced – why? Next Calvinism and the Protestant ethic • Weber observes that the countries who industrialize and develop a capitalist commercial economy first are all majority protestant countries. • He asks, what is it about these countries, their culture which helps develop Capitalism quicker? • His answer is Calvinism and the Protestant Work Ethic. • Calvinist Christians believe that who goes to heaven is already decided by God: The ELECT. The rest go to Hell, no matter how good they are. • Weber says this gave Calvinists a psychological problem – how to know if you were in the Elect? The Protestant work ethic • The solution was try to seek signs of success on Earth. One way of showing you success was making money through hard-work. • So these Calvinist Christians decided to work very hard, but not for love of money, or pleasure, but for God. • Calvinists saved their money rather than spending it and became very successful – soon others were forced to adopt their hard-working prudent ways, or ended up working for Calvinist Employers. • Working and making money for its own sake – this is the Spirit of Capitalism. Back to Main Ideas Capitalism • Capitalism is an economic system where firms are owned privately [not by the state] and people work for wages. • Prior to capitalism most countries were Feudal – Lords controlled land for the King, peasants were allowed to farm them, and paid their Lord a % of their crop. Bureaucracy Probably even more influential than his work on religion, was Weber‟s work on Bureaucracy. For Weber a bureaucracy was any organisation with an organised hierarchy and system of control: Large companies, larger NGOs, Government are all bureaucracies. Weber believed that the growth of Bureaucracy was part of a process of Rationalization in Modern Societies. Weber saw that this allowed much greater efficiency, but was very concerned that it would trap people in an Iron Cage Next Bureaucracy • Bureaucracy – rule by the office. Rationalization • To make more logical and predictable and efficient through creating systems of control and working. • To make an organization of white-collar workers more like a factory, with clearly defined roles, responsibilities, and power. Modern • Opposite of traditional – driven by science and technology, looking for efficiency, believing in progress. Iron Cage • One of Weber‟s most influential ideas. • Bureaucracy and rationalisation make for a more efficient and ordered society. • However, Weber believed there was a danger that the needs of the system might become more important than those of the individual, or values: • E.g. The School Bureaucracy is interested in educational results, this might be damaging for Education and individuals who are not academic. Well done! Next time we‟ll look at some of the criticisms of Max Weber.
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