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Max Weber (1864-1920)

Kant (1924_1804) & Neo-Kantians: 

  • methods of the natural sciences (biology, chemisty, physics etc) wont do for human sciences or history.
  • when we explain things we are offering a 'reading' of the thing, an interpretation, not theactual thing itself.  

What Weber learnt from Kant:

  • when do explaining in the human sciences or history we have to do it by understanding (Verstehen) the motivations of the people involved.
  • reject the idea of universal laws for social science
  • human and natural worlds are different
  • so there are no laws for the human scineces.
  • people are free agents - so its their action as free agents that we explain.
  • look for casual explanation and understanding of peoples actions in their historical contexts.
  • this gives social scientists the MODEST job of imposing an order on reality. 
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Origin of Modern Capitalism:

  • his method was comparative
  • comparing the west where capitalism did become general. 
  • with the East where it did not.
  • rational organisation of the machinery and the labour
  • free market in labout is essential to this rational organisation
  • supposedly voluntart but actually compelled by "the whip of hunger"
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Rational organisation:

  • depends on being able to calculare the effect on your income of things.
  • enterprise has to be able to rely on the consistency of the law.

Rational Technology: 

  • calculability also means having a rational technology.
  • calculation has gone into the desing of every bit of it
  • this implies mechanisation

what the west had the east didnt?

  • rational state.
  • rational law
  • a concept of citizens (as there were proper cities in the west)
  • science
  • a rational ethic for the conduct of life. 
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Magic and Superstition

  • irrational law and mafic obstructed capitalism in the East
  • these obstructions were swept away in the west.

irrationality sets up differences between people so that:

  • you cannot work with these people
  • or sell to these people
  • or buy from those
  • and cannot give this peron their real due becasue you must give it to someone else.

west is best?

  • these differneces are overcome in cities where everyone is a citizen like the west.
  • obviously overcome where everyone has a national attitude
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Ascetic religion of the Monks:

  • monks order and organise their lives
  • monks even use clocks
  • its all a means to an end: thir lives after death

the reformation:

  • rings the monkish sort of religion out of the monasteries
  • ordinary believers are now supposed to organise things as a means to an end (salvation)
  • this puts an end to the backward sloping supple curve of labour.

Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism: 

  • 'salvation anxiety'
  • Clavinist doctrine of predestination
  • think of work as a duty
  • good works were a sign of being saved
  • but doesnt wealth lead to a fall from grace? 
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Clavinism solves the Problem:

  • only administering and not enjoying,
  • its a duty, a calling (being called to god) 
  • the religious task demanded of the individual is to reject ideas of flight from the world in favour of working together with others in rational discipline. 


  • religion shaped modern world in the way that if people followed a certain religion it would effect the way they acted and subsiquentialy contributed to the modern world - calvinism
  • capitalism in northern europe evolved when the protistant (calvinist) influenced larger numbers of people to engage with work in the secular worl, developing thier own enterprises, and trade... they were predestined by faith/god to work. 
  • Asceticism - is a way of life/lifestyle characterised by abstinance and various different pleasure with the aim of persuiting religious and spiritual goals:
  • this was significant to Weber as such ascetism according to Weber leads people from work in a call and religion
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