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PowerPoint Presentation -



                 Max Weber 1864-1920

                 Symbolic Interactionism
                     1930s - present

                   Ethnomethodology /
                     1960s - present
Max Weber



            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
He was born into a wealthy family of intellectuals, the eldest of
children. Max Weber Senior was a well known lawyer and liberalaus
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
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

 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‟.

     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?

   Calvinism and the Protestant ethic
• Weber observes that the countries who industrialize and develop
  a capitalist commercial economy first are all majority protestant
• 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
• 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.
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
• Bureaucracy – rule by the office.
• 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.
• 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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