LECTURE WEEK 2
1. Max weber
b. Sociology as a science of an action
c. Natural is social science
• Defined as a separate discipline
• Trying to create a new formalized bureaucratized official scientific discipline.
• What is the modern world? These topics are selected by the authors to address
• Capitalism and bureaucracy.
• Simmel: greatest theorist of modern city. More people live in modern cities. Also
analyst of individuality.
• Max weber: what power consists off
• Born 1864 oldest 7 children.
• Lots of political literary cultural people surrounding him.
• He joined the military and became close to his aunt and uncle that were
encouraging of his intellectual pursuits. Engaged to his cousin.
• Moved back to berlin, was a student, a lawyer for a while then studying to
become a professor.
• Financially dependent on his parents. Resents his father. He’s a workaholic.
• He became a monk for a while?
• Mariane weber, his wife. Leading intellectual.
• Had an affair in his 40s. Started to write about the spiritual value about eroticism
and sex and extra marital sex.
• His father’s death, he had a mental breakdown for 5 years.
• 1903, his powers returned, got back to work. He founded intellectual journals
devoted to sociology. He began to write the methological documents.
• WW1. Weber had nationalist sympathies for Germany. He says it’s a great and
• Science as a location.
• How our spiritual values guide our arbitrary practices
• The truth is the truth.
Sociology is a science of action
• To understand the logic of society. That is its aim. • You have to understand human beings doing things in reference to one another
and in particular, what motivates people. What their values are. Concerns in life
• Why are people doing things the way they are? Understand their motives. Look at
patterns, symbols, and sequences. Study that and think about the structure of the
organization or why they are there. What they hope to get out of the experience.
Where do certain ideas come from? The consequences of actions? He takes
peoples ideas and motivations seriously.
• Durkheim interested in the structure of institution.
• Weber looks at the subjective meaning to understand why people are attached to
the things they do.
• Sociology is about the science of action.
• There are a lot of people in the world. How do you study that in a systematic
way? How do you understand the meaning and reasons that drive people to do
• You need a theory of action. What it means and what its basis is
Theory of action
• What types of actions there are? What to look for to analyze things people are
doing. Neighborhoods classrooms etc. it’s a theory of things people do. What are
the different kinds of meanings that motivate action?
• 4 major types of action.
• Start from an image of people doing strange things and ask WHY they are doing
Theories of action
1. Purposive rationality .
a. Goal oriented action. Teleological. Beating someone to get their money is
goal action. Its all about getting your goal. Its rational, based on trying to
match the means that you have available to you in the most efficient way.
Done without emotion. What matters is the outcome. An engineer building
a bridge to cross water regardless of personal views or consequences
2. Value oriented rationalit
a. Look at people fighting and try to find out why they’re fighting. Try to
come up with a solution to the reason. Every action has a structure,
organization, meaning to it. i.e. defending your honor leads to a fight.
Certain things become rational in the light of that value. Someone violates
that honor, you need to fight him or her. Key differences between 1 and 2.
2 is focused on the intention rather than the consequences, while 1 focuses
on the consequences. The person defending their mothers honor will do it
come what may, what’s important is that you are staying true to that value;
defend it no matter what the consequences. 1 focuses on consequences so
if they change, or the means to it change, you change what you’re doing,
for example if someone gives you money, you stop beating someone up
for their lunch money. However, if you pay off someone for insulting their
mother, it will not change their mind.
3. Affective: emotional . a. Based on the emotional condition of people doing it. Anger. Bad mood.
There’s no rationality to it. Expression of emotion. Religious expression,
war, listening to music.
a. Where your action is based on taken for granted actions or habits.
Sometimes they do things because that’s the way they’ve always been
done. Path dependency. Habits, customs. People fighting because they just
do. Tradition. A long feud.
Weber saw 2 major reasons for making these distinctions to have these theories
1. Systematic typological distinctions
a. Basically you’re able to classify and compare different societies groups
and organizations. One is more affective and other is traditional. Classify
whole ranges of life in a systematic way.
2. Study historical development
a. Study change over time in how much a society emphasizes one or the
other action. Over time, these types of actions were fading away. Society
is now defined by cold calculation to achieve your end. Capitalism,
bureaucracy. Don’t care about values. Only profit. Filling out the right
forms. He saw this change happening everywhere, art culture,
Natural vs. social science
• Is the study of human beings going to be scientific?
• 2 camps:
1. The positivists
a. We explain something in a scientific way when we can bring it under a
general law. If there is going to be a science of society, it needs to find
general laws of human behavior. That’s what Comte thought. Produce
general laws of human behaviors. We would have a scientific theory of
revolution if we can lay out the law of revolution. If these things happen,
revolution happen. i.e. economic inequality, political crisis.
a. Impossible to make generalizations like that when ti comes to human
beings. Human beings don’t follow the same sources of regularities as
objects do. we are free to make decisions which cant be explained fully by
any law.. historical situation is always unique. It would be foolish to try to
understand a revolution by laying out a general law like that. The specific
historical trajectory to study that revolution. Don’t generalize a universal
theory of revolution.
Weber saw merit in both those positions. He developed his own concept to bridge the
divide. What he said against the historicists: scientific understanding has to proceed by
generalization and abstract. General categories, that’s what science is. When you study all
these revolutions you look at what they have in common. General processes that produce
Against positivists: human beings cant be understood by their external behavior. Take
into account their meanings motivations and values. When you understand natural objects, these things don’t matter. When you look at chickens running around, you don’t
try to understand what a chicken is really trying to do. However, you can misunderstand
people. You need to see what they’re trying to do. Are they trying to save their souls? You
need to understands the emotions of the people, the meaning of their actions
In this way, social science can penetrate deeper into the world than natural science.
Natural science are just surface objects. Social science is much deeper. People have
deeper layers of drivers of what they’re doing than rocks.
Third wave of social science to combine these approaches:
1. Direct interpretation:
a. Captures both approaches. Understand people’s motivation. Enter into
their minds. That’s the first step. Empathetic. Seeing the world the way
they see it. It’s only the first step. Understand militant fighters, see it from
their eyes. Closer to historicists
2. Move to explanation.
a. Closer to positivists: once you have a view, use it in an explanation.
Warlords view the world in a certain way. Struggle between friends and
family. Now an explanation: where did that come from? Why do they
think that? Look at the conditions, experiences.