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Lecture 5

Sociology 2240E Lecture 5: DURKHEIM VS WEBER

Course Code
SOC 2240E
Charles Levine

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Difference between Durkheim’s conception of sociology as a science and
Webers conception of sociology as a science
DURKHEIM = not a nominalist
- Interested in social facts
- Correlation analysis
- Functional analysis
WEBER = a nominalist
- Cares what is going on between your ears
- What he will argue is that empirical data is not sociologically relevant,
unless it can be related to the meanings of the people it describes
- In the most general sense,
- Deals with meanings with individuals or groups
- Only cares about correlation if there is an explanation for it based on the
meanings of the minds based on the people it describes
- AKA he wants to know what you are thinking as a participant in that
2 very different conceptions of what sociology is
- Weber will agree with Durkheim that correlation can be used within
- Disagrees with Durkheim saying that we must use history with sociology
- And instead of studying social facts we have to study social action
Durkheim ignores people Weber respects people
Webers definition of sociology:
- As a science that attempts the interpretive understanding of social action,
in order to derive a causally adequate explanation for its course and its
- Every word is EXTREMELY important
- Tension between science and interpretation scientists observe
Democratic nature of eachother
- the fact that we talk to eachother really means that the objectivity of this
fact is not interdependent
Social Action:
- any behaviour that could be attached
- not interested in habit
- echos something in chapter 13
Weber is interested in social action
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- Any action because of the subjective meaning attached to it, the actor
takes into account the behaviour of others when he or she acts
- Weber says we are going to do a scientific investigation and figure out its
- Its course and its effects
- Has to interpret the meanings of the actors in that bracket
- Whats the easiest way to know what something is thinking… ASK HER…
but if they have been dead for 300 years
- The problem is we are going to find out that he is a historical sociologist.
The meanings he finds are from dead people
Causally adequate:
- Looking for causal adequacy
- Reasonable explanation and proof about something
- He would never say he has found THE proof or THE cause
- Durkheim says he has found a REASONABLE explanation
- Power must be equally distributed
How is Weber going to study social action???
- There are 3/4/5 things
1. Verstehend: understanding
- In the act of interpreting he is trying to understand the meaning of the
- Know one defines interpreting… its reasoning and intelligence
- Trying to understand
- People have stand points
- Perspectives of others
- What he is assuming is that what people think has a great deal to do with
what people do (NOMINALISM)
- Sometimes this hits a roadblock, because of bias and personality
- This method doesn't actually work as well as it should
2. Ideal Type
- Weber insists of talking about meaning
- Not only because he wants to understand what is going on in the head
- He cannot let go of meaning (what people mean)
- And logically we can all have different meanings
- He must aggregate and assign meanings to a collective
- This is an issue because: wants to know the effect
- Create an exaggeration example of there meanings
- Not interested in taking an average sample of human beings
- Wants to paint a protestant picture of menaing
- Develop a stereotype of the protestant
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- IDEAL TYPE = STEREOTYPE (without any negative or positive
- We stereotype ALL the time
- We don't know everything about anything
- Our knowledge about anything is that it overlooks something you don't
- Trying to construct a reasonable explanation
3. History- meaning
- Interested in actual events in history
- Substantive historical episodes
- Why is this????
- History means the past
- 1 second ago, one month, thousands
- Identity stage and identity crisis (we don't know where we will be going)
- Identity has become a self respective project
- We don't know the relationship between our biography and the present
- These things don't tell us who we will be
- Most of the meanings that influence what we do, come from culture and
historical tradition
- People do a lot of things because they think they have meanings
meanings transcend time
- Wants to be able to argue that certain historical events are important
- And others aren’t that important
- Objective possibility: Take any event in history and imagine that it
happened in the opposite way. If, on the basis of research, you can then
demonstrate that the present would have been different, then the actual
event constitutes an adequate cause of the present
- Accidental cause- not irrelevant but not an adequate cause
- This was his methodology
4. Causal Adequacy or Adequate Causality
- Weber’s substantive sociology
- Conception and perception of reality
- People have meaning and this influences what they do
- Must build an ideal type of social action (HIS FOCUS)
- Begin his studies with an ideal typology of social action
- Must think about the underlying patterns of social action in which they are
1. Zweckrational action (rationally purposefully action)
Means = vary
Ends = vary
- We are in charge of what happens
- In our minds
- Is it a common form of action?
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