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

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University of Toronto Mississauga
Barry Green

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 depression. - 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 Webers 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 bureaucracy - seemed essential to democracy and yet at the same time was its greatest threat. It is the mark of Webers brilliance that he was largely able to achieve these syntheses in his work Webers 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 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 behaviour 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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