Final Test Notes (chs. 14, 12, 11)

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Published on 15 Dec 2010
Chapter 14 - Max Weber
Max Weber - a historian, sociologist, and philosopher who left an indelible mark on the
philosophy of history and on social science methodology. He lived in Germany.
Observed the outbreak of WWI. He experienced long periods of severe
-He argued strongly against the any simplified analyses or unitary theories of
social change, emphasizing instead the complex multi causality and inherently
probabilistic character of all theories of human action.
human action - the outcome of free will, and such freedom can never be
described through fixed relations of cause and effect
Weber’s Scholarship
-struggled to synthesize the very different intellectual traditions that were prevalent in
Europe at the time
idealism - emphasis on ideas and values as the distinctive moving force of
human history
historical materialism - contended that class conflict was the driving force of
history and the primary determinant of human fate
positivists - sought to apply the methods of the natural sciences to the study of
human behaviour, seeking predictive or deterministic laws of action
-Weber tried to reconcile the commitment to notions of individual freedom and religious
values with the apparently contradictory commitment to scientific study of human
behaviour and to an emphasis on economic materialism in history
-He tried also to reconcile the obvious commitment of all researchers to political goals
and values with the demand of objectivity in social science research
-He tried to reconcile the objective of democracy, with its commitment to representative
government based upon participation of an informed population and the mechanism of
bureaucracy - seemed essential to democracy and yet at the same time was its
greatest threat. It is the mark of Weber’s brilliance that he was largely able to achieve
these syntheses in his work
Weber’s Methodological Contribution
-he sought out to synthesize the objective, empirical methods of the natural sciences
with the intuitive aspects of the humanities
nomothetic - law-like
-our actions determined not only by objective conditions and forces but by the
subjective meanings that we attach to our actions
-he also wanted to avoid the trap of idealism
-actions are not determined by outside forces and so are not predictable
-he argues meaningful behaviour is not unique and unpredictable or without any pattern
or order.
-he argues there is no real contradiction between free will and determinism
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-he defines sociology as “the sciences which attempts the interpretive understanding of
social action in order thereby to arrive at a causal explanation of its cause and effects”
-sociological analysis must do two things: explore the meaning of actions for the people
involved and show how this meaning provides a causal explanation for the behaviour
social action - any human conduct that is meaningfully oriented to the past,
present, or future expected behaviour of others
-people do what they do because it is meaningful to them
-Verstehen involves putting ourselves in the position of the people we are studying and
trying to reconstruct the interpretations that they might give to their own action
-Weber is well aware that human motives may require much deeper searching and that
human motives are complex
-he argues that explanations in sociology must take the form of probabilities rather than
the absolute predictions characteristic of the natural sciences
-his model of typical characteristics of Calvinist values in contrast with typical Catholic
values, makes possible broad generalizations about the relationship between religious
ethnics and business practices in Europe of that period
-he argues that functionalism is useful and indispensable in providing a place from
which to begin analysis, but sociologists need to go beyond functional uniformities
-society is converted into a thing and then is used in explanations as if it were an acting
unit with its own consciousness: society does such and such, or society has certain
needs etc
-he rejects the opposite extreme of psychological reductionism (the attempt the explain
collective social processes by reference only to the psychological processes within the
individuals involved
-he draws a careful distinction between the related disciplines of sociology and history
history - concerned with the causal analysis of particular culturally significant
events and personalities
sociology - deals with the observation and explanation of general patterns of
causal pluralism - on searching for multiple causes for social phenomena
-it is through subjective understanding and analysis that these objective conditions
come to influence human actions as they do
-he advocated ideal-type constructs as a method of inquiry that would be adequate at
the level of meaning or interpretive understanding of actions and would at the same
time make possible objective and replicable analysis
ideal-type model - theoretical model that is designed to highlight the typical
characteristics of the kind of social organization being studied
Objectivity in Social Science
-Weber analyzed the struggle for revolutionary socialism in these terms:
-the goals of freedom that are part of the ideal and socialism are threatened by
the use of force as a means of achieve socialism and by the political repression
ineveitably associated with the use of force
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-predicted that the consequences of trying to establish a socialist economy
within a largely hostile capitalist world would result in multiple difficulties that
would undermine the practice of socialism
-the most important - he predicted that whatever means were used to bring
about socialism, the ideals of socialism would be compromised by the
organizational means needed to co-ordinate such a society, namely the
bureaucratic state
- Weber distinguishes between 2 fundamental ethics to address these ethical dilemmas:
ethic of ultimate ends - a term used by Weber to refer to morality based on
obedience to religious doctrine or to what is perceived as the will of God, or some
absolute value, regardless of the consquences
ethic of responsibility - For Weber, moral principles that take account of the
probable consequences of actions
-neither ethic is in and of itself morally superior to the other. The ethic of ultimate ends
is essentially religious.
-those who accept the ethic of responsibility must take account of the consequences of
their actions or means chosen to further their goals
Weber’s Substantive Contribution - Types of Action Orientation
-his model of types of action orientation outlines 4 basic kinds of meaningful action or
typical orientations that individuals may adopt in relations with each other
(1)traditional-rational behaviour - the simplest, comprises action based on habit, least
amount of conscious, traditional-rational actions are always done that way
(2)affective-rationality - based on emotions, actions expressions of emotions, passions,
and immediacy that involves neither calculated weighing of means or consequences nor
commitment to values
(3) value-rational - focus upon an overriding ideal, deeply committed people do not ask
the consequences of their actions. Do what they believe is right, underlies the ethic of
ultimate ends
(4)purposive-rational action - most important, rational selection among alternative
means of action, rational consideration of consequences in relation to other goals,
easiest to understand and analyze, basic assumption of theory in economics
-this serves to guide research into the meaning of action from the perspective of the
participants’ own view of that action
Model of Authority
-he uses this typology as a basis for his subsequent model of legitimacy of political
-distinction between power that is based on authority and power based on brute force
-authority is legitimate in that the subordinates themselves accept that those in
authority in practice as the probability that a given order will be obeyed by a specific
group of people. Three bases of authority:
-traditional - simplest and historically most prevalent basis for authority is
tradition, inherited status, stable and unchanging societies
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