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SOCY 122 (65)

Weber and the Interpretive Understanding of Social Action

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Queen's University
SOCY 122
Rob Beamish

Elective Affinity -associated with Max Weber’s thesis on modern capitalism -concerns the linage, attraction, or inner affinity between the Protestant Ethic/Protestant sects and the spirit of modern capitalism -Inner affinity in several things, especially between this-worldly asceticism of sects and the underlying spirit of modern capitalism -Two things that are connected Postmodern Culture -things associated with the second half of the twentieth century -represents instances of dramatic historical and ideological change where modern narratives of progress and social holism is seen as contradictory -opposite of modern culture -knowledge must take into account the multiplicity of experience and the possibility of new, unanticipated experiences that will assist in making sense of reality in ways either not permitted or not imagined by modernist ideology -continually being transformed by technology -anti-modernist calls to narrative totalization Postmodern Social Theory -deconstructs scientific claims to universal truth -considered dead because of the few major contributions -not considered dead because few people believe in it -directs attention to consumption, the body, and signs -loss of history, disorienting sense of geography, and a breakdown between nature, culture, and society -opposes theory is irrational, anti-science, and anti-essentialist Modernity - triumph of social reason Modernization -process of massive social change -human societies are progressing -new concept because it didn’t exert significant control over the environment, it was helplessly exposed to natural forces, economy had a steady-state equilibrium -technological progresses give humanity increasing control over nature The Spirit of Capitalism, Modernity, and the Postmodern World -Weber though that his position on infinite complexity and the social world and how it might situate him as a bridging figure between classical modernist sociology and postmodernist conceptions of sociology found in contemporary approaches to sociological analysis -Weber feared that the growing domination of goal-orientated action in the modern world could leave humanity trapped in reason -Weber critiques Meyer because Weber believes that pure epistemological or methodological reflections have never contributed to the development of methodology in social sciences -‘spirit of modern capitalism’ is a culturally significant entity that is comprised of a number of social factors that draws together and studies the complex unity of several factors is typical of Weber’s approach to sociological analysis which is important in the examination of how these different factors combined to yield a specific social impact and it’s based on a religious system -the economic rationalism of capitalism is based on people’s willingness to organize their lives in a particular rational manner -the consolidation of feudalism created the social conditions -Calvinism is a religion that accepts the existing world of impoverishment and urges believers to lead a life committed to stoic survival in the hope that they’re among the elect -Puritans believed that it was the absolute duty of all people to have faith that they were among the chosen and to conduct their lives accordingly, and comprised of a value system-> Weber believes it is against all enjoyment of life -Weber discovers an important ‘elective affinity’-a mutually reinforcing association-between the spirit of ascetic Protestantism and the emerging ethos of modern capitalism-> Weber establishes it through analysis of language and historical relationship -The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism is an empirical examination of the impact that different denominations of Protestantism has upon the development of capitalism-> critique of the historical school and Stammler, Meyer, Roscher, and Knies-> challenge to historical materialism -Weber believed that in a secularized and industrialized society, religion’s influence on people’s lives are less obvious -Weber rejects any one-sided or single-factor explanations of social life, he believes everything is made of different factors -Marx influenced by the grand narrative of progress -Weber sees no universal direction to history, his sociology centres on case studies rather than on sweeping analyses and predictions -Marx thought that his study of history, political economy, and dynamics of industrial capitalist society increases a long-term social change and progress-> Weber more cautions of the question of progress -Marx advocated for the revolutionary transformation of capitalism to socialism -Weber didn’t believe the Marx’s theory of production developing themselves within the bourgeois society create the material conditions for the solution of antagonism-between the forces and relations of production and Marx’s theory of the development of modern industry is the foundation of the bourgeoisie produces and the appropriate products, its falls and victory of the proletariat are equally unavoidable -Weber views the social, economic, and political trends in society would lead it to be increasingly bureaucratic, dominated by goal-rational action, and organized on the basis of a legal-rational order-> the rule of law -Antonio Labriola, Karl Korsch, and Georg Lukacs argued that Marx’s materialist analysis took into account issues of consciousness, class consciousness, political struggle, and class struggle, the trajectory of Marx’s belief that the deep, underlying dynamics of capitalist production were of fundamental importance for sociologists and political activists to grasp more important for social change -Weber is aware of the importance of economic relations, but his sociology emphasizes the significance of meaning and meaning construction in social life -Weber’s work on interpretative meaning and Marx’s work
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