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SOC231H5 Study Guide - Final Guide: Traditional Authority, Social Fact, Longrun

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Zaheer Baber
Study Guide

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1. Provide an account of Weber’s analysis of the emergence of modern, rational capitalism.
Your answer must include a discussion of substantive/value rationality versus
formal/instrumental rationality.
Weber’s “central question” is a concern with the nexus between forms of life conduct, the ways in which
individuals attempt to give meaning to their lives, and the universal constraints imposed by the
differential distribution of power
Systematic process of rationalization
oRationalization describes a constellation of ubiquitous interrelated processes that
systematically transformed Western European societies by a long-run tendency to bring
order and perfection to what is less ordered and imperfect
oPractical development brought about by man’s technological genius
oStriving for perfection
Process of rationalization involved the decline of magical interpretations and explanations of the world,
decreasing authority of the church, erosion of the social status of the clergy
oDecline of traditional domination and the rise of legal-rational systems of authority
In social terms, rationalization involves the extension of scientific rationality to the conduct of social life
itself  modern systems of surveillance and the rise of bureaucratic forms of administration
Practical rationality
oAssumes no external mystical causes affecting the outcome of human actions and sees reality in
terms of what is given
Theoretical/technical rationality
oInvolves a cognitive effort to master the world through causality and logical deduction and
oAllows individuals to understand the meaning of life by means of abstract concepts and
conceptual reasoning
Formal/instrumental rationality
oApplication of technically appropriate modes of calculation (means) that go into decisions to
ensure consistency of outcome and efficiency in attaining specific goals (ends)
oPractical orientation of social action in relation to goals or ends
oMeans to an end
oEverything becomes an object that can be used for my ends, but the ends are not embedded in
my actions
Substantive/value rationality
oThe degree to which human action is guided or shaped by a value system regardless of the
outcome of the action
oOrientation to values
oAny action framed by larger concerns, and when the acton is an end in itself
oNot a means to an end where the action provides meaning/goals
oWhat you’re doing is not to fulfill another goal
Protestantism did prove to be amenable to rational capitalism (to be alterable)
Weber asserts that a high degree of formal rationality characterizes capitalism as a modern phenomenon
and that the process of rationalization affects all dimensions of social life
A new attitude to work and the pursuit of wealth, in which work becomes a means of demonstrating
godliness, was linked to the rise of Calvinism and that this cultural shift was associated with the rise of
rational capitalism
Catholic school students were averse to studying commerce helps explain the low participation rate of
Catholics in capitalist business life
Protestants had “an inner affinity toward an ascetic lifestyle that made them especially receptive to the
rational capitalist culture
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Individual has a duty to accumulate wealth, which is assumed to be an end in itself
Followers of Calvinism came to believe that their predestined future left them with no means of
knowing or altering their ultimate destination
Wealth was taken as a manifestation of being among God’s elect, thereby encouraging believers to apply
themselves rationally to acquire wealth through their ascetic lifestyles
Religious legitimacy for the exploitation of human labor
2. How does Durkheim apply the Rule of Sociological Method to the study of suicide. You
answer must include a discussion of Durkheim’s understanding of the individual-society
Collective life did not arise from individual life, it is the latter that emerged from the former
Social facts = external to individuals and that affect how people act
oExternal because individuals do not create them and only become aware of their existence
through education or socialization
oPossess a coercive power and impose themselves upon the individual
oPeople consent and conform to the type of conduct expected of them and do not experience
constraint unless they try to resist these social constraints when they become aware of the force
People do not completely determine themselves, most of our ideas and tendencies come from without
A social fact is every way acting, fixed or not, capable of exercising on the individual and external
Social phenomena that convey the way in which the group conceives itself in relation to objects which
affect it  objective because individuals cannot alter them with their will, and an understanding of them
that reflects their nature has to be developed empirically
Collective representations, emotions and tendencies are caused not by certain states of consciences of
individuals but by the conditions in which the social group in its totality is placed
Suicide is an objective social fact
oEach society has its own tendency to produce voluntary deaths, and it is the social causes of
these rates that constitute the sociological study of suicide
Egoistic suicide  originates from excessive individualism
Religion and egoistic suicide
oProtestantism allows “a great deal more freedom of enquiry” than Catholicism which, is a more
traditional hierarchal system of authority in which believers accept a ready-made faith
Family  larger domestic groups have greater integration because there is a more intense and
continuous interaction between relatives
Altruistic suicide  performed as a duty, insufficient individualism
oEx. Death from old age/sickness was a disgrace, old men would kill themselves to avoid
oSocieties might reinforce these practices with the belief that those who took their own lives
would enter a beautiful world
oSocially defined duty
oFor this suicide to exist, there has to be little concept of individual personality, and the individual
has to be absorbed into a highly integrated group
Second type of altruistic suicide
oCulturally condoned act in defense of person’s honour  conventional for someone to commit
suicide after offending someone, or being a disappointment
Third type  acute
oTaking their own lives for the pleasure of sacrifice
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