Max Weber

8 August 2016

Max Weber was a 19th century German sociologist and one of the founders of modern sociology. He wrote The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism in 1905. Max Weber was a precocious child, born in Germany in 1864. He went to university and became a professor, but suffered a mental breakdown in 1897 that left him unable to work for five years. In 1905 he published his most famous work, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. He returned to teaching in 1918 and died in 1920. He is considered the father of modern sociology.

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Max Weber was born on April 21, 1864. His father, Max Weber Sr. , was a politically active lawyer with a penchant for “earthly pleasures,” while his mother, Helene Fallenstein Weber, preferred a more ascetic lifestyle. The conflicts this created in their marriage acutely influenced Max. Still, their house was full of prominent intellectuals and lively discourse, an environment in which Weber thrived. Growing up, he was bored with school and disdained his teachers, but devoured classic literature on his own. After graduating from high school, Weber studied law, history, philosophy and economics for three semesters at Heidelberg University before spending a year in the military. When he resumed his studies in 1884, he went to the University of Berlin and spent one semester at Gottingen. He passed the bar exam in 1886 and earned his Ph. D. in 1889, ultimately completing his habitation thesis, which allowed him to obtain a position in academia. Weber married a distant cousin, Marianne Schnitger, in 1893. He got a job teaching economics at Freiburg University the following year, before returning to Heidelberg in 1896 as a professor.

In 1897, Marx had a falling out with his father, which went unresolved. After his father died in 1897, Weber suffered a mental breakdown. He was plagued by depression, anxiety and insomnia, which made it impossible for him to teach. He spent the next five years in and out of sanatoriums. When Weber was finally able to resume working in 1903, he became an editor at a prominent social science journal. In 1904, he was invited to deliver a lecture at the Congress of Arts and Sciences in St. Louis, Missouri.

He saw America as a country stripped of its morality and divorced from its religious foundation. To Weber, it was further supporting evidence for his most famous essays, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. These essays, published in 1904 and 1905, discussed his idea that the rise of modern capitalism was attributable to Protestantism, particularly Calvinism. After a stint volunteering in the medical service during World War I, Weber published three more books on religion in a sociological context.

These works, The Religion of China (1916), The Religion of India (1916) and Ancient Judaism (1917-1918), contrasted their respective religions and cultures with that of the Western world by weighing the importance of economic and religious factors, among others, on historical outcomes. Weber resumed teaching in 1918. He intended to publish additional volumes on Christianity and Islam, but he contracted the Spanish flu and died in Munich on June 14, 1920. His manuscript of Economy and Society was left unfinished; it was edited by his wife and published in 1922. Views and Contribution

Max Weber, German sociologist. Weber first describes the concept of bureaucracy which is an ideal form of organizational structure. He defines bureaucratic administration as the exercise of control on the basis of knowledge. Weber states, “Power is principally exemplified within organizations by the process of control”. Weber uses and defines the terms authority and power as: Power: any relationship within which one person could impose his will, regardless of any resistance from the other. Authority: existed when there was a belief in the legitimacy of that power.

Weber classifies organizations according to the legitimacy of their power and uses three basic classifications: Charismatic Authority: based on the sacred or outstanding characteristic of the individual. Traditional Authority: essentially a respect for customs. Rational Legal Authority: based on a code or set of rules. Weber recognizes that rational legal authority is used in the most efficient form of organization because: A legal code can be established which can claim obedience from members of the organization.

The law is a system of abstract rules which are applied to particular cases and administration looks after the interests of the organization within the limits of that law. The manager or the authority additionally follows the impersonal order. Membership is key to law obedience. Obedience is derived not from the person administering the law, but rather to the impersonal order that installed the person’s authority. Weber outlined his ideal bureaucracy as defined by the following parameters: A continuous system of authorized jobs maintained by regulations.

Specialization: encompasses a defined “sphere of competence,” based on its divisions of labor A stated chain of command of offices: a consistent organization of supervision based on distinctive levels of authority Rules: an all encompassing system of directives which govern behavior: rules may require training to comprehend and manage Impersonality: no partiality, either for or against, clients, workers, or administrators Free selection of appointed officials: equal opportunity based on education and professional qualification Full-time paid officials: only or major employment; paid on the basis of position Career officials: promotion based on seniority and merit; designated by supervisors Private/Public split: separates business and private life The finances and interests of the two should be kept firmly apart: the resources of the organization are quite distinct from those of the members as private individuals.

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