Max Weber (18641920)
A. Mentors/training/intellectual tradition
Weber was the son of a prominent Berlin layer typical of the educated bourgeoisie of
the German empire under Wilhelm I, immobilized between his abstract attachment to
liberal values and his actual predilection for national power. [ER 9710]
Grew up in a Lutheran home. [ER 9710]
Weber would eventually become a leading, if not the leading, figure of the cultural
and political elite of the early twentiethcentury Germany. [ER]
Enrolled in the University of Heidelberg as a law student, later he was transferred to
the University of Berlin.
Colleagues and associates include, Ernst Troeltsch, Friedrich Naumann as well as the
young Georg Lukacs, the revolutionary Ernst Toller, and the poet Stefan George
would frequent his home. [ER]
He was an editor of the most distinguished social scientific journal of the time, the
Archiv für Sozialwissenshaft und Sozialpolitik. [ER]
“Socialists of the chair” (a group of university professors advocating social reforms
using the Verein fur Sozialpolitik as a source of collective research)[ER 9710]
He did some of his own most important writing for the encyclopedic project that he
planned with Joseph Shumpeter, Werner Sombart, and others, the Grundriss der
Sozialökonomik, 14 vols. (19141928). [ER]
He frequently contributed articles and editorials to the press.
He was a member of the German delegation to the Versailles peace conference (he
abjured the treaty), however died before the Weimar Republic or the Third Reich.
B. Principal geographical and historical concerns
Foremost, Max Weber was concerned with a selfcriticism of Protestantism
Mesopotamia, and the MiddleEast
China and India
C. Principal thematic concerns
He was interested in the effects of religion on society, however unlike Durkheim he
was concerned with how religion acts as a source for social change.
In one of his earlier books, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Weber
focuses on explaining the progression and development of the economic system of
capitalism within the West.
An opposition to both evolutionary and historical materialist approaches to religion
(as well as society), and prefers a more “diffusionist” approach.
Idealism > Materialism D. Attitude toward modern culture
Capitalism was a new form of economic system, different to those of the East and
even more so to those of traditional societies and that religion rather than economics
and divisions of labor were the driving force for this change into this new way of
thinking in the world.
Religion found in modern culture was the result of various historical developments
within different societies, a deemphasis on the linear construction of societies
A deemphasis on the superiority of modern Western culture. II. Method/Mode of Operation
Research of ancient societies, middleeastern societies, eastern societies and western
No fieldwork of nonEuropean cultures.
Personal background in 19 20 ce. Century Protestantism and German politics.
Inner and outer worldly mysticism
Inner and outer worldly asceticism
Ethical Prophets – Zoroaster and/or Mohammad
Exemplary Prophets Buddha
The ancient Greeks, Romans, Zoroastrians, Persians, Indians, Chinese
Magician / Priest / Prophet
The modern religions, Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism, Islam,
Hinduism, and Buddhism
Western society and Eastern society
Interactionist, suggesting a mutual interaction between ideas and behavior.
Methodological antipositivist, suggesting tha