Law and Society
Week 8 Lecture 9
The Sociology Of Weber and Durkheim
Max Weber (1864 1920)
• German sociologist, philosopher and political economist
• Wanted to understand the processes of Rationalization, secularization and ‘Disenchantment’ associated
with the rise of capitalism and modernity. (I.E: dis/order in society).
▯Secular claims to be neutral in relation to religion. Weber was studying the process of what society
considered itself to be secular and becoming more secular.
▯Disenchantment: society is being disenchanted with the religious notions in society. Losing faith in the
structures of society.
What constitutes order?
• Order exists when conduct is oriented to maxims
▯People un/consciously take into consideration some stable set of commonly accepted
assumptions/rules of behavior
• Individuals may orient their conduct to the maxims because of coercive sanctions or because they feel
the law is legitimate.
• There is no unique cause, but rather several forces together exerting an influence.
Two Dimensions of law:
• Rational (when it follows general criteria applicable to all)
• Irrational (when all similar cases are dealt with informally)
• Formal (the application of rules and procedures that are internal to any given legal system)
• Substantive (the application of rules and procedures that are outside of the formal system – I.E:
employing external criteria.
Degrees of Rationality/ Formality:
• Formally irrational: Decision making rests on magic, the oracle, or revelation;
• Substantively Irrational: Each concrete situation determines the decision. Each case employs any one of
a number of ethical, political, ideological, moral or emotional consideration(s).
• Formally Rational: Internal rules are applied to all similarly situated cases in an identical manner. Here
rules are abstract and general.
• Substantively Rational:
Weber’s Theory of Authority (Legit Dom)
• Two features of Weber’s theory of authority:
1) General notion of authority
2) Division of the different forms of authority into three “pure types” (I.E: traditional, legalrational and
• Authority is one form of power; the most stable and enduring form:
Weber’s Types of Authority: Traditional:
• Modeled on the relation between a ‘master’ and ‘servant’. • Fundamental difference in Social position/ natural endowments.
• (I.E: Social Hierarchy justified by a ‘natural’ order)
• Based on model of an ‘orderly household’; natural participation and routine.
▯ ecause there is a hierarchy in place, the cities, home all work perfectly. There is a sense of
consistency, routine that is known by all.
• Traditional Authority often dominates pre=modern societies. It is based on the belief in the sanctity of
tradition, of ‘the eternal yesterday’.
▯validity of the order comes from habit, custom and tradition.
▯modeled upon the relationship of servant/ master, father/ child
▯premised on a relationship of unequal’s: what Weber calls …
Weber’s Types of Authority: Legal Rational:
• Belief in the legality of enacted rules
• Consistent system of abstract rules that have been intentionally established.
• “a system of consciously made rational rules”
• Relationships seen as ‘membership’ in an ‘organiza