Max Weber (1864-1920) | Sociology for CUET by Vikash Ranjan | Sociology Guru

Max Weber (1864-1920)

(Relevant for Sociology optional for UPSC CSE)
Paper-1 ,Unit-4 : Max Weber (1864-1920)

Max Weber (1864-1920)

Max Weber – Social Action, ideal types, authority, bureaucracy, protestant ethic, and the spirit of capitalism

Max Weber was born in Erfurt, Prussia (present day Germany) in April 21, 1864. Weber’s father was greatly involved in public life and so his home was constantly immersed in both politics and academia. Weber and his brother thrived in this intellectual atmosphere. In 1882, he enrolled at the University of Heidelberg, but after two years left to fulfill his year of military service at Strassburg. After his release from the military, Weber finished his studies at the University of Berlin, earning his doctorate in 1889 and joining the University of Berlin’s faculty, lecturing and consulting for the government.

In 1894, Weber was appointed professor of economics at the University of Freiburg and then was granted the same position at the University of Heidelberg in 1896. His research at the time focused mainly on economics and legal history. After Weber’s father died in 1897, two months after a severe quarrel that was never resolved, Weber became prone to depression, nervousness, and insomnia, making it difficult for him to fulfill his duties as a professor. He was thus forced to reduce his teaching and eventually left in the fall of 1899. For five years he was intermittently institutionalized, suffering sudden relapses after efforts to break such cycles by travelling.

He finally resigned his professorship in late 1903. Also in 1903, Weber became the associate editor of the Archives for Social Science and Social Welfare where his interests lied in more fundamental issues of social sciences. Soon Weber began to publish some of his own papers in this journal, most notable his essay The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, which became his most famous work and was later published as a book.

In 1909, Weber co-founded the German Sociological Association and served as it’s first treasurer. He resigned in 1912, however, and unsuccessfully tried to organize a left-wing political party to combine social-democrats and liberals. At the outbreak of World War I, Weber, aged 50, volunteered for service and was appointed as a reserve officer and put in charge of organizing the army hospitals in Heidelberg, a role he fulfilled until the end of 1915. Weber’s most powerful impact on his contemporaries came in the last years of his life, when, from 1916 to 1918, he argued powerfully against Germany’s annexationist war goals and in favor of a strengthened parliament. After assisting in the drafting of the new constitution and in the founding of the German Democratic Party, Weber became frustrated with politics and resumed teaching at the University of Vienna and then at the University of Munich.

Max Weber (1864-1920) argued against abstract theory, and he favored an approach to sociological inquiry that generated its theory from rich, systematic, empirical, historical research. This approach required, first of all, an examination of the relationships between, and the respective roles of, history and sociology in inquiry. Weber argued that sociology was to develop concepts for the analysis of concrete phenomena, which would allow sociologists to then make generalizations about historical phenomena. History, on the other hand, would use a lexicon of sociological concepts in order to perform causal analysis of particular historical events, structures, and processes. In scholarly practice, according to Weber, sociology and history are interdependent.

  • Weber’s sociology is much closer to Marx than Durkheim’s is, comprising a critique of so-called vulgar Marxism, i.e. the idea that social life, including culture, is a simple function of the economic structure. Weber took Marx for a vulgar Marxist— understandably, given the unavailability to him of Marx’s early writings, which unequivocally contradict such vulgar readings.
  • Coming from a very different philosophical background from that of Marx, Weber was allied to the Neo-Kantian rather than the Hegelian tradition in German thought. Neo-Kantians were philosophers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries who followed the teachings of Immanuel Kant (1724–1804). Kant saw human beings as existing only partly in the world of natural causality, and partly in a realm of freedom, governed by moral rules rather than causes. Consequently, human. beings could not be understood entirely by natural science; the study of their moral and spiritual life would have to be pursued by other means. Nevertheless, Weber shared some of Marx’s key assumptions and also his core concern with the nature of capitalism. However, he held very different conceptions of the nature of history, and also of the methodology of historical and sociological studies.
  • One legacy of Immanuel Kant’s philosophy is a sharp distinction between the realm of physical nature and that of human mental life. Physical nature is a realm of rigid, mechanical determination, while human mental life is one of freedom and the absence of causality. At the end of the nineteenth century, this distinction gave rise in German culture to a hot debate over the limits to scientific inquiry: were cultural phenomena, the topics of history, by their very nature precluded from the kind of scientific study applied to natural phenomena? This debate framed Weber’s own preoccupations. For him, the difference between natural science and history was not basically a result of the different natures of natural and social phenomena; rather, it came out of our relationship to them, out of the interests that we take in them. With respect to nature, we have, on the whole, an interest in understanding its general patterns; the difference between one rock and another hardly matters at all to us and certainly does not matter for its own sake. Rather, we are interested in the way in which rocks in general behave; we can therefore be satisfied with an understanding that is abstract and generalised. However, when it comes to human beings, their individuality captivates us. For example, our interest in Adolf Hitler derives not from the characteristics he had in common with other human beings, but from his distinctiveness, the extent to which he was quite unlike other politicians.
  • Weber did not conclude that there is no room for generalities in the social sciences; rather, that they are not their be-all and end-all in the way they are within the natural sciences. Generalities can be useful in the study of history and society as means to another end, i.e. in so far as they help us to understand better the individual case.


For Weber, sociology as a generalising approach was subordinate to history; it provided abstract concepts, which could be useful in understanding concrete, complex, individual historical cases. Such concepts were created not for their own sake but precisely for their usefulness in informing historical studies.

Weber’s own studies were wide-ranging geographically and historically; they encompassed the civilisations of the West from the time of the Greeks, and Asiatic societies such as India and China over thousands of years, and were meant to include the world of Islam also (though his study of Islam was barely launched, and most of the other studies, though lengthy, were unfinished). Their purpose was to tackle questions about the role of religion in social and economic change, and also the relationship between ideas and economic conditions of the sort posed by Marx. Nevertheless, understanding of the general issues and of the other societies was not sought for its own sake, but gathered with respect to its relevance to the situation at home, i.e. understanding the individuality of the Western European and North American capitalist civilizations (especially Germany, for Weber was strongly nationalist in sentiments) in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The ‘individuals’ with whom history was concerned could be quite large complexes, such as ‘Western civilization in the modern world’, and not just individual human beings. Further, historical/scientific knowledge had only a relatively subordinate role in relationship to politics. Weber wrote two major essays on politics and science as vocations, putting views that provoke controversy to this day.

Objectivity and value freedom:

Most contentious is the idea that science should be ‘value free’. A major political concern of
Weber’s was to ensure civic responsibility within modern society, where technical and scientific expertisewas assuming ever-increasing importance

Weber worried about the blurring of the roles of scientist and citizen and the use of the prestige of science to bolster the claims of demagogues. He feared that those who occupied the role of scientist would often be irresponsible enough to take advantage of the prestige given them by their position of scientific eminence, and of the authority deriving from their expertise, in order to advocate political policies, which can have no scientific basis or authority. He believed that in the universities of his time the. professors were exceeding the bounds of their scholarly competence in the lecture hall by delivering impassioned speeches about political issues in the guise of scholarly disquisitions. Academics and scientists are no less entitled to the right to present their political viewpoints than anyone else, but they are no more privileged in the political arena than anyone else and should therefore confine their political persuasion to the public, political arena. There the greatest historian, physicist or sociologist is just one more citizen, one more voice. The responsible discharge of scientific obligations requires sobe compliance with the usual rules of scholarly investigation and evidential proof, and abstinence from political polemics in the classroom.

Facts and values:

The distinction between the scientific and the political was, for Weber, the recognition of a long-standing philosophical distinction between facts and values. A very standard position, which Weber shared, is that values cannot logically be deduced from facts. Scientists can only report upon what happens and how things are; they cannot tell us how they should be, how we should live, or what we should do. The provision of research and evidence cannot relieve us of the necessity to make choices at the level of values.

This distinction was a key to Weber’s conception of human existence as well as sociological method: there is an irreducible variety of incompatible human values; and there is no possibility of a scientific or rational basis upon which to choose between them. We cannot excuse ourselves from the need to make a choice by arguing that science shows one value to be preferable to another, for science cannot do this. We have to make up our own minds about which ‘Gods or Demons’, as Weber put it, to affiliate ourselves to, which gods to worship, which leaders to follow and which causes to fight for. Such choice is a tragic aspect of human existence and surely a source of terrible conflicts within and between individuals. Consequently, Weber is sometimes spoken of as a decisionist, i.e. we have to choose our values, the things we treasure and strive for, from a range of possible and irreconcilable values, and must therefore make a decision to go one way rather than another and, having made it, live with its consequences.

Therefore, science can never displace politics, and the scientist can never, acting purely as scientist, be a political leader. The (legitimate) role of science in politics can only ever be advisory. Scientists understand what happens and how things work causally. They can, therefore, give good advice on how to make a certain thing happen. They can tell us, on the basis of their expertise, that certain ways of attempting to make something happen are more likely to bring about the desired result, but they cannot, from that same expertise, tell us whether we should desire that result or a different one. The question whether we want X or Y is a political decision, a matter for the political leadership to deal with. Scientific knowledge can be of great value to politics, but it cannot displace or substitute for politics. It is an illusion to think that politics can be made scientific, for politics entails struggle between values, not the facts of empirical knowledge.

Weber never sought to keep the social scientist out of politics but merely to keep distinct the two roles a scientist might play, as disciplined inquirer and as active citizen. Within the sphere of scholarship, the scientist can be objective, since objectivity requires only sober compliance with the obligations of the scientific role to proceed according to the standard rules of evidence and proof. Within politics, the danger is that the difference between the scientific and political roles is obscured, giving a false authority to someone who just happens to be a scientist. In the administration of politics, those serving as scientific
advisers to politicians might exceed their role, might begin to usurp the decision-making prerogative of the legitimate political leader through attempting to reduce real issues of value decision to matters of mere technical choice or by obscuring the political issues in talk that sounds like science. Science itself, as Weber recognized, also rests upon values. For example, if we do not value knowledge for its own sake, then what would be the point of pursuing scholarship? ‘Value freedom’ as Weber understood it operates within the framework of accepted scientific values. He himself was not abashed at being politically active or in seeking to use scientific knowledge in the formation of social policy. Indeed, he was concerned about the absence of decisive, heroic political leadership, leading some critics to see in his ideals a prefiguration of the kind of leadership Hitler would shortly offer the German people.

The rationalisation of social life:

On several occasions we have used the term rational, persistently mentioning it as a leading feature of modern Western capitalism. The rational In Weber’s usage, ‘rational’ refers to the attempt to work out means to ends, and to the attempt to develop a systematic understanding of things so that ends can also be worked out systematically and can even be ranked by calculation.

Weber thought that all actions could take only a few basic forms. Many actions are traditional or habitual in character, i.e. they are done without thought or calculation. There are two kinds of action worthy of the title ‘rational’. One type he calls value rational actions, where the means have no practical relationship to the end, but are simply a way of acting out, of realising, a value the actor holds. His own example is the captain who goes down with the ship; his action does not achieve anything practical, but it does continue the commitment to dignity, integrity and honour which the captain may have made the hallmark of a whole life. The other kind of rationality is the practical: the working out of the best, most effective means of getting towards the end that one desires. It is most prevalently exhibited in our economic affairs and our civilisation, drawing extensively and dependently upon scientific understanding. Because we have such a worked-out understanding of the natural world, we are able to calculate with great effect and in very fine detail the best technical solution to any practical business, administrative or other problem.

In the West there has been a progressive process of rationalisation, i.e. the extension of this practical kind of action, thereby giving a systematic understanding and calculability of practical meansends relationships throughout the whole of society. This development has been massively accelerated under capitalism and has been especially associated with the rise of science. Though distinctive in its particular character and in the sheer extent of its development in the modern Western world, the process has very deep roots in Western culture. Weber traced its origins not only to early Greek civilisation—with its scientific mentality—but also, as part of the comparative studies of world religions, to the traditions of ancient Judaism, which were formatively influential upon Christianity. For example, he argued that Judaism was notably hostile to magic, a hostility that it bequeathed to Christianity. In itself, magic is intensely traditionalizing in binding people to the repetitive performances of prescribed actions; to be effective, the magical action must be done in the same way on every occasion. Consequently, the
possibility of attempting to think out the conditions of effective action, of envisaging how the action might be made more effective by being reorganized, is inhibited. In these ways, the rationalizing process has remote roots in Western civilisation and a long history of development. Its apotheosis came with the capitalist phase, when we have not only rationalised our understanding of nature and our mastery of practical actions, but also rationalized our human relations in the form of bureaucracy. For bureaucracy is nothing other than an attempt to rationalise, i.e. to make calculable, predictable and controllable, our own relations and activities. For Weber, it was the one of most inimical features of life today.

While Weber’s work has had a profound impact on sociology – as well as other disciplines – it is not without its critics. Some critics question the consistency and applicability of Weber’s method of verstehen. Others are puzzled by Weber’s methodological individualism as it is applied to macrosociology. Some critics have rebuked Weber for failing to offer any alternatives to rationalization, capitalism, and bureaucracy. Finally, many critics decry Weber’s unflagging pessimism about the future of rationalization and bureaucracy.

According to him, behavior of man in society is qualitatively different from that of physical objects
and biological organism. (What accounts for these differences?)

The presence of ‘meanings and motives’ which underlie the social behavior of man. Thus any study of
human behavior in society must take cognizance of these meanings to understand this behavior.

  • The objectives of sociological study are, therefore, different from those of positive science, while positive science seeks to discover the underlying patterns of interactions between various aspects of physical and natural phenomena, the social science, on the other hand, seek to understand the meanings and motives to explain the social phenomena in terms of these motivations.
  • Hence positive science method alone would prove inadequate to study the social behavior. However, Weber was not opposed to building generalization in social sciences, but, he pointed out that given the variable nature of social phenomena, only limited generalization can be made.

Subject Matter:

  • Weber conceived of Sociology as a comprehensive science of social action which constitutes the basic unit of social life.
  • In consonance with his general perception of the nature of social reality, he defined social action as the ‘the meaningful act oriented towards other individuals.’ Presence of meanings as well as other individuals is equally important for any behavior to qualify as social action.
  • However, an insolated social act does not exist in real social life. Only at the analytical level can one conceptualized an isolated social act. What exists in reality is an on-going chain of reciprocal social actions.


  • According to Weber the aim of Sociology is different from those of Physical and Natural Sciences. Natural Sciences are primarily interested in search for laws or the underlying patterns of interconnections. Sociology seeks to understand social behavior in terms of meanings and motives, though sociology also attempts to arrive at limited generalization. Therefore, social science cannot rely on positive science method alone.
  • Weber advocated ‘Verstehen method’ to study the social phenomena. This method seeks to understand social action at the ‘level of meanings’ and then tries to sequence of motive which underlie the social action. First step involved in this method is ‘Direct Observational Understanding’ of the obvious subjective meanings of actor’s behavior. Second step involves, establishing an empathetic liaison with the actior.
  • Here, the observer identifies himself with the actor by imaginatively placing himself in the actor’s situation and then tries to interpret the likely meanings which the actor might have had given to the situation and the consequent motives which would have given rise to the action. Weber argues further that application of this method is not confined to the study of present social behavior; it can be applied equally to understand historical events. In Weber’s words, “one need not be a Caesar in order to understand Caesar.
  • Further, Weber states that social reality by its very nature is infinitely compiled and cannot be comprehended in its totality by the human mind. Therefore, sociologists should build “ideal types”. Ideal type is a one-sided view of social reality which takes into account certain aspects of social life while ignoring others. Which aspects are to be given importance to, and which are to be ignored depends upon the object of study.
  • Thus, although ideal type is rooted in reality, it does not represent reality in totality. It is a mental construct. Weber claims that ideal type in a social science equivalent of experimentation in physical and natural sciences. Thus, the methodology of sociology consists in building ideal types of social behavior and applying Verstehen method to explain these ideal types for value neutrality. This means that subjective meanings and motives of the actor should be interpreted by the observer in an objective manner.
  • According to Weber, the social reality is extremely complex and therefore no social phenomena can be explained adequately in terms of a single cause. An adequate sociological explanation must therefore be based on the principle of causal pluralism. Weber’s thesis on “the Protestant Ethics and Spirit of Capitalism” is a very good example of the application of this methodology. Besides contributing directly to the development of sociology by suggesting the ‘Verstehen’ approach and ‘ideal types’, Weber’s general conception of the nature of social reality influenced the emergence of other approaches in sociology. For example, Alfred Schutz, a German Social Philosopher was inspired by the ideas of Max Weber. He contributed to the rise of phenomenological approach which in turn gave rise to ethnomethodological approach in sociology.

Social Action

Weber defined sociology as “a science which attempts the interpretive understanding of social action in order thereby to arrive at a causal explanation of its course and effect”. For Weber, the combined qualities of ‘action’ and ‘meaning’ were the ‘central facts’ for sociology’s scientific analysis. The technical category of ‘action’ described in Weber’s work is all human behavior to which an actor attaches subjective meaning. According to Weber “Action is social, in so far as, by virtue of subjective meaning attached to it by the acting individual, it takes account of the behavior of others and is thereby oriented in its course.” The refinement and utilization of this technical category of ‘action’ provided Weber with an objective facticity necessary to apply his other subjective category called ‘meaning,’ a term which refers to the rationalized reasons put forth by an individual as explanation for specific action.

What intrigued Weber was the actually assigned ‘reason’ for identifiable behavior given by actors themselves. These behavior complexes, oriented by individuals within specifiable socio-historical settings, were the subjects of sociological analysis. In the absence of assigned ‘meanings’ by the individuals, the actions are meaningless and thus outside the purview of sociology. The behavioral complex or matrix fell
into one of four types in Weber’s work:

  • Zweckrational action or rational action in relation to a goal: The actor determines the goal and chooses his means purely in terms of their efficiency towards achievement of goal. In this action both means and ends are rational. It means that in a specific situation, by determining once goal, a person acts in a planned way that is why this action is completely rational. For example building up of a structure by an engineer, actions done in bureaucracy, actions done by modern man in a planned way for his bright future. In modern era, the importance of this action his substantially increased because, in Weber’s words, the world is tending towards more and more bureaucratization, which means our dependency of bureaucracy is thoroughly increasing day by day. Obviously rationality is also increasing.
  • Wertrational action or rational action in relation to a value: Here means are chosen for their efficiency but the ends are determined by value. The action of a captain who goes down with the sinking ship or that of a gentleman who allows himself to be killed rather than yield in a duel are examples. It is that action which is performed on any artistic religious or moral basis and which is accepted without any logical reasons. It means that in this action, means are rational, but not the ends and ends are accepted on the basis of social values. Actions related with attainment of salvation or heaven come under the purview of this action.
  • Affective for emotional action: Here emotion or impulse determines the ends and means of action as in the case of a mother who slaps her child or a player who throws a punch at a partner in a game. They are those which are instigated by emotions and invitation. Such behaviour is affected by love, hatred, and enmity or angry and they are mostly rational. For example a father gets angry suddenly on the failure of his son.
  • Traditional actions where both ends and means are determined by customs: Rituals, ceremonies and practices of tradition fall in this category. They are those which are controlled by that social action, which have been followed by several people over a long period of time. Such actions are followed for a reason, like many people have been doing likewise since long past, there is no place of logic, and value, sentiment in the action. The examples of such action can be seen in the kinship and in the patriarchal or matriarchal families. The quantity of such actions has decreased in due course of time and it is being replaced by rational legal actions.

Weber argued persuasively that “because individuals in a social situation undergo certain experiences, the sociologist cannot avoid including in his purview the psychological causes and effects of these experience” unlike Durkheim, weber wanted to enter into the subjective dynamics of human behaviour in order to grasp more fully its intended purpose or meaning as thought of and perceived by the acting individual himself.

Of course, for Weber, the ability to grasp the subjective quality of human behaviour is dependent upon the scientist’s ability to interpret the causal meaning of human action. According to Weber “a correct causal interpretation of a concrete course of action is arrived at when the overt action and the motives have both been correctly apprehended and at the same time their relation has become meaningfully comprehensible.”


  • Max Weber himself has talked about the role of social action, indirectly in the formation of social system and directly in the formation of different authorities specially bureaucratic authority.
  • Bureaucracy (Rational-Legal Action)is growing day by day and in that way it is making the whole social action as relevant everything is done in the frame of interaction which is possibly in social action only.
  • The interaction is not only important at domestic level but also internationally. In the context of globalization, it has become even more important, though earlier we were having many regional and continental organizations. In this way the international organization and globalization both are making the whole world as one having the similar culture, which is entirely possible with social action only. This shows that the whole world had consider similar kinds of actions and in this way, it is going to finish all kinds of problems related with particular interpretation. This shows the great significance of social actions.
  • Another important point related with it is that after identifying similar traits of culture, we are now in a position to trace some of the unwanted activities like separatist activities, terrorist activities and for that cause also, the world is becoming one-to fight against it to eradicate it from the system. Now The terrorist attacks anywhere in the world receive worldwide condemnation and also help to fight it.


  • In the context of “empathetic liaison” theodre obel criticizes Weber that Verstehen is not easy to be followed because it is highly based on subjectivity and in that way. Subjective perception may come in frequently. And it will be difficult for the investigator to considers the action properly.
  • In context of rational action in relation to a goal: Since everything is rational and is not based on one’s emotion or sentiment. Then why not all bureaucrats successfully accomplish their task. Only few achieve Excellence.
  • Rational action related with values and in relation to tradition, becomes very much situational for observer. If the observer belongs to some traditions and value he can empathies it to some extent. But if he does not belong to the same tradition and value it would be quite difficult for him to empathies.
  • Affective action are very sensitive because they attached emotions, impulses and so the outburst and therefore they cannot be followed easily.
  • In the context of Value Neutrality, it is tough for an observer to empathies the action done before. And in this way values of the observer come in his studies. But even though, he is successful in this part he cannot stop the values of the actor to come in. Weber himself was very much conscious of this situation. He wanted to establish sociology as value neutral. For this he suggested one thing that the observer should not orient himself to the end but rather focus heavily in the means use by the actor. And if to gets the same result it will show that he has not taken actors values come in the studies. And in this way his studies would be value neutral.
  • In the context of different situation, Weber did not talk about one thing that how should an actor decide to act in a particular situation. In case of dilemma between two actions, how would he resolve the problem? Talcott Parson in his concept of pattern variables talked about this situation and explains it very systematically.

Ideal Types

Ideal type may conceptualise as a kind, category, class or group of objects, things or persons with particular character that seems to be the best example of it. Weber used ideal type in a specific

To Weber, ideal type is a mental construct, like a model, for the scrutiny and systematic characterization of a concrete situation. Indeed, he used ideal type as a methodological tool to understand analyse social reality.

  • Methodology is the conceptual and logical research procedure by which knowledge is developed. Max Weber was particularly concerned with the problem of objectivity in social sciences. Hence he used ideal type as a methodological tool that looks at reality objectively. It scrutinizes, classifies, systematizes and defines social reality without subjective bias.
  • The ideal type has nothing to do with values. Its function, as a research tool, is for classification and defines social reality without subjective bias. To quote Max Weber: “the ideal typical concept will develop our skill in research. It is not a description of reality but it aims to give unambiguous means of expression to such description”.
  • In other words, ideal types are concepts formulated on the basis of facts collected carefully and analytically for empirical research. In this sense, ideal types are constructs or concepts which are used as methodological devices or tools in our understanding and analysis of any social problem.

Construction of Ideal Type:

  • Ideal types are formulated by the abstraction and combination of an indefinite number of elements which found in reality, are rarely or never discovered in specific form. Therefore, Weber does not consider that he is establishing a new conceptual method. He emphasizes that he is making explicit what is already done in practice.
  • For the construction of ideal types, the sociologists selects a certain number of traits from the whole which is otherwise confusing and obscure, to constitute an intelligible entity.

For example, if we wish to study the state of democracy in India (or for that matter of secularism, communalism, equality, and court of law) then our first task will be to define the concept of democracy with the help of its essential and typical characteristics. Here we can mention some of the essential characteristics of democracy, viz., existence of a multi-party system, universal adult franchise, formation of government by people’s representatives, people’s participation in the decision making, equality before law, respect to majority verdict and each others view as well. This formulation of a pure type or an ideal type concept of democracy will guide as and work as a tool in our analysis. Any deviation from or conformity to it will unfold the reality.

  • Ideal types, therefore, focus on the typical and the essential characteristics. Though ideal types are constructed from facts existing in reality, they do not represent or describe the total reality, they are of pure types in a logical sense. ……According to Weber in its conceptual purity, this ideal mental construct may not be found empirically anywhere in reality’.

Characteristics of Ideal Type :

  1. Ideal types are not general or average types. That is, they are not defined by the characteristics common to all phenomena or objects of study. They are formulated on the basis of certain typical traits which are essential to the construction of an ideal type concept.
  2. Ideal types are not a presentation of total reality or they do not explain everything. They exhibit partial conception of the whole.
  3. Ideal types are neither a description of any definite concept of reality, nor a hypothesis, but they can aid both in description and explanation. Ideal types are different in scope and usage from descriptive concepts. Its descriptive concepts can be used, for instance, in the classification of different sects, and if one wants to apply the distinction in order to analyse the importance of these for the economic activity then one has to reformulate the concept of sect to emphasise the specific components of sectarianism which have been influential in the economic pursuit. The concept then becomes an ideal typical one, meaning that any descriptive concept can be transformed into an ideal type through abstraction and recombination of certain elements when we wish to explain or analyse rather than describe a phenomenon.
  4. In this sense we can say that ideal types are also related to the analytic conception of causality, though not, in deterministic terms. They also help in reaching to general propositions and in comparative analysis. Ideal types serve to guide empirical research, and are used in systematization of data on historical and social reality.

Purpose of Ideal Type:

  • Ideal types are constructed to facilitate the analysis of empirical question. Most researchers are not fully aware of the concepts they use. As a result their formulations often tend to be imprecise and ambiguous, or as Weber himself says’ the language which the historians talk contain hundreds of words which are ambiguous constructs created to meet the unconsciously conceived need for adequate expression, and whose meaning is definitely felt, but not clearly thought out’.
  • Ideal types are not formed out of a nexus of purely conceptual thought, but Are created, modified and sharpened through the empirical analysis of concrete problems. This, in turn, increases the precision of that analysis. Ideal types are a methodological device which not only helps us in the analysis of empirical question, but also in avoiding obscurity and ambiguity in the concepts used, and in increasing the accuracy of our analysis.
  • Device in understanding historical configurations or specific historical problems. For this we construct ideal types, that is, to understand how events had actually taken place and to show that if some antecedents or other events had not occurred or had occurred differently, the event we are trying to explain would have been different as well, For example, because of the implementation of the land reform laws and penetration of other modernizing forces, like education, modern occupation etc. the joint family system has broken down in rural India. This means that there is a causal relation between the event (land reform, education and modern education) and the situation (the joint family). In this ideal type concept also helps in the causal explanation of a phenomenon.
  • In Weber’s work such analysis of causal relations was related to his interest in world wide comparisons or in analysis of events and establishment of general preposition. That is, he used ideal types to build up a conception of a particular historical case, and used the same ideal type conceptions for a comparative analysis. This interdependence of history and sociology appears most clearly in Weber’s conception of the ideal type.
  • Besides examining any particular case Max Weber also used idela types to analyse the abstract elements of social reality and to explain particular kinds of social behaviour.

Ideal Types In Weber’s Work:

Protestent Ethics & Rise Of Capitalism

Weber constructed ideal type of capitalism by selecting a certain number of traits from the historical whole to constitute intelligible entity. This was to show that there was a spiritual affinity between Calvinism and the economic ethics of modern capitalist activity. For this he identified those components of Calvinist doctrine which he considered as of particular and significant importance for the formation of capitalist spirit.

  • The essence of capitalism according to Weber is embodied in those enterprises whose aim is to make maximum profit or to accumulate more and more. These are based on the rational organization of work and production. It is the conjunction of desire for profit and rational discipline which constitutes the historically unique feature of western capitalism. The desire for profit is satisfied not by speculation or conquest or adventure, but by discipline and rationality. This is possible with the help of legal administration of the modern state or rationality. This is possible with the help of legal administration of the modern state or rational bureaucracy. Hence capitalism defined as an enterprise working towards unlimited accumulation of profit and functioning according to bureaucratic rationality.
  • Weber tried to show that there was a close affinity between this type of economic activity and elements of Calvinist doctrine. According to the Calvinist ethic, God is all powerful and above common man. Man has to work for God’s glory on earth and this can be done through handwork and labour which are rational, regular and constant. The calling of the individual is to fulfill his duty to God through the moral conduct of his day to day life whether he is rich or poor. For him work is worship and there is no room for idleness and laziness. This specific character of Calvinistic belief accounted for the relation between Calvinist doctrine and the spirit of capitalism which was characterized by a unique devotion to the earning of wealth through legitimate economic activity. This is rooted in a belief in the value of efficient performance in the chosen vocation as a duty and a virtue.


  • Weber’s ideal type of bureaucracy comprised various elements…. such as a high degree of specialization and a clearly-defined division of labour, with tasks distributed as official duties. Hierarchical structure of authority with clearly circumscribed areas of command and responsibility. Establishment of a formal body of rules to govern the operation of the organization and administration based on written documents. Impersonal relationships between organizational members and the clients. Recruitment of personnel based on ability and technical knowledge. Long term employment, promotion on the basis of seniority and merit, fixed salary and the separation of private and official income.
  • Though examples of developed bureaucracies existed in different parts of the world prior to the emergence of modern capitalism, it is only within this that organizations are found which approximate to this deal typical form. Weber used these abstract elements of bureaucracy to explain a concrete phenomenon.
Types of Authority

To understand the various aspects of authority Max Weber constructed its ideal types in terms of three types of authority. These are traditional, rational and charismatic.

  • Traditional authority is based upon the belief in the sanctity of age old customs and rules.
  • Rational authority is maintained by laws. Decrees, regulations.
  • Charismatic authority is characterized by exceptional virtue possessed by or attributed to the leader
    by those who follow him, have confidence in him and are devoted to him.

These three ideal type of concepts may be used to understand concrete political regimes, most of which contain certain elements of each.

Type of Action

According to Max Weber “Sociology is a science which attempts the interpretative understanding of social action in order thereby to arrive at a causal explanation of its course and effect”. Here we can point out a few important elements of social action:

  • It includes all human behaviour
  • It attaches a subjects meaning to it.
  • The acting individual or individuals take into account the behaviour of others
  • It is oriented in its course

Hence the construction of an ideal type of social action helps the sociologists social action“which has the merit of clear understandability and lack of ambiguity”.

Weber has talked about four types of social action……… Since reality present a mixture of the four pure types of action, for out analysis and understanding we separate them analytically into pure or ideal types. For instance, the use of rational ideal types can help in measuring irrational deviation and we can understand particular empirical action by interpreting as to which of the four types of action it most closely approximates.

Power and Authority

In ordinary usage, the term ‘power’ means strength or the capacity to control. Sociologists describe it as the ability of an individual or group to fulfill its desires and implement its decisions and ideas. It involves the ability to influence and/or control the behaviour of others even against their will.

  1. For Max Weber, power is an aspect of social relationship. It refers to the possibility of imposing one’s will upon the behaviour of another person. Power is present in social interaction and creates situations of inequality since the one who, has power imposes it on others. The impact of power varies from situation to situation. On the one hand it depends upon the extent to which it is opposed or resisted by the others. Weber says that power can be exercised in all walks of life.
  2. It is not restricted to a battlefield or to politics. It is to be observed in the market place, on a lecture platform, at a social gathering, in sports, scientific discussion and even through charity. For example, giving alms or ‘daan’ to a beggar is a subtle way of exercising your superior economic power.
  3. Weber discusses two contrasting sources of power. These are as follows:
    • Power which is derived from a constellation of interests that develop in a formally free market. For
      example, a group of producers of sugar controls supply of their production in the market to maximize their profit.
    • An established system of authority that allocates the right to command and the duty to obey. For
      example, in the army, a jawan is obliged to obey the command of this officer. The officer derives his power through an established system of authority.
Additional Notes:

Power and the Forms of Social inequality;

Weber also provided some general concepts for sociological analysis, which shaped the form taken by his descriptions of the world religions. Most basically, Weber looked upon the organization of society as involving struggles for power. For Weber, no less than for Marx, social life is about inequality, which can
take many forms. In a given situation, inequality is not necessarily economic. Economic inequality is important and frequently plays a leading part, but it is only one form taken by inequality. Inequalities are the basis for the organization of groups, and the struggle over inequalities is most commonly between
groups. Therefore, the key element in Weber’s account of society is his account of stratification.


Inequalities are arranged on three dimensions, but all are forms of power. In Weber’s terminology, power is the capacity to get done what you want despite resistance from others. For example, economic wealth is a form of power, giving the capacity to get what one desires. All forms of inequality are inequalities in power. The three dimensions of power are (1) economic, (2) prestige and (3) pure power. They are the basis for three characteristically different forms of grouping: the class, the status group and the party. It is among and between these three kinds of groups that the historically decisive struggles over power are apt to take place.

Weber’s conception of social class is much akin to Marx’s. Class is defined in terms of position in the process of economic production, specifically in terms of one’s relationship to a market: what does one have to sell on the market? Is it labour power, or does one have products, or what? Weber does not think of classes as real groups, i.e. persons self- consciously interacting with one another; rather, they are merely categories, the product of a sociological analyst’s definitions.


A class is more a category than a group, i.e. a collection of people identified together on the basis of some common characteristic. We can have as many or as few classes as we like, depending on how grossly or finely we draw the criteria.

We can reduce the number of classes basically to two, by making the distinction between those who sell labour power on the market and those who buy it, i.e. Marx’s proletariat and bourgeoisie. Within just the one category, e.g. those (workers) who sell labour power, we can increase the number of categories by distinguishing the broad kinds of labour power sold, e.g. is it skilled or unskilled, manual or non-manual? We can multiply it up to an enormous number of classes by making the criterion of common position the specific kind of labour power being disposed of, e.g. is it the capacity to fix plumbing, to repair electronic wiring, to lay bricks, or to dig ditches? Contrary to Marx’s assumption, there is nothing naturally unified about a class, and the social conditions which cause classes to act as co-ordinated social units in the struggle for power only rarely arise. The members of a class often react to situations in the same way—what Weber termed ‘mass action’—because, of course, they share a similar background and experience, but they are not aware of one another’s response and are certainly not acting out of any sense of a joint venture in so responding.

The second form Weber describes is the status group. Status groups are real groups: the very specification of such a group involves and is dependent upon mutual recognition by its members. The inequality which separates classes is economic, the kind of returns which can be expected from the market relative to the things to be sold there, but status groups are differentiated by prestige, i.e. the level of esteem in which people hold themselves and are held by others.

Status Groups:

A status group is a collection of people who recognise themselves as equals, who look upon one another as equally worthy, and who look up to and down on other social groups. A status group involves shared understandings, mutual recognition among its members and, of course, acknowledgement from its superiors and inferiors of its standing in the general scale of social position.

Thus there is mutual awareness and some—at least diffusely—co-ordinated action integral to the very existence of a status group. The mechanism of such a group’s existence is closure. It includes some and excludes others; it takes steps to ensure that those who are not equals are kept out.

From an economic point of view, a status group is defined in terms of consumption, not production. What makes someone an equal is how he or she lives, the lifestyle, as Weber termed it. For example, to lead the life of an educated, cultured and leisured person might be the basis for mutual acknowledgement. In the end the status group is dependent upon economic inequality because the capacity to lead a certain kind of life presupposes the wealth to fund it. It is not the wealth as such, however, that is decisive. Further, the status group’s attempt to preserve its existence and identity through closure characteristically involves economic intervention in attempts to restrain the operation of the market in order to prevent the hallmarks of a lifestyle becoming available to mere purchase (which would directly link them to wealth). The Indian caste system is the extreme case of a status group system, where the operation of the market has been restricted to such an extent that even jobs are retained within the various caste groups through inheritance. Inevitably, class and status are mutually inimical forms of social organisation, since the existence of one—status group—involves some reduction in the operation of the conditions—the market—conducive to the formation of class. The conditions under which the status group can thrive, Weber held, are those of long-term social stability—which is why they occupy such prominence in his discussion of traditional China and India. In situations of rapid social and economic change, social class possesses greater prominence.

The party is the third element in Weber’s scheme. Whereas the status group has a diffuse sense of solidarity and common interest, providing a more promising basis for the organisation of coordinated collective action than that available to the class, this capacity for collective action is not easily going to amount to the focused, carefully calculated pursuit of common interest, which is what the party is all about.


The party is a self-conscious organisation for the pursuit of power. As a body created specifically for the
purpose of struggling for power, it therefore works out its objectives and organisation to maximise its chances of attaining power.

The party, as Weber intends this term, is an analytical notion and does not just refer to formal political parties. It includes any and all associations developed purely for the sake of winning power. For example, it can include factions in business, leisure and religious organisations as well as large-scale political power. Such a group has self-awareness, mutual recognition among its members of shared specific purposes, and the capacity for closely concerted action in pursuit of them. It is the most effective vehicle in the struggle for power in society. Parties can, of course, attempt to base themselves in specific social groups; they can set out the goal of winning power in society for a specific category, e.g. a socialist party might aim to take political power for the working class, setting out to recruit from among its members, and therefore actively seek working-class members. However, they need not do so, and may seek power for goals and interests that are not those of one, or any specific, class, and may draw their membership from different social categories.

Element of Authority

For a system of authority to exist the following elements must be present:

  • An individual ruler/master or a group of rulers/masters
  • An individual/group that is ruled
  • The will of the ruler to influence the conduct of the ruled which may be expressed through commands
  • Evidence of the influence of the rulers in terms of compliance or obedience shown by the ruled.
  • Direct or indirect evidence which shows that the ruled have internalized and accepted the fact that the ruler’s commands must be obeyed.

We see that authority implies a reciprocal relationship between the rulers and the ruled. The rulers believe that they have the legitimate right to exercise their authority. On the other hand, the ruled accept this power and comply with it reinforcing its legitimacy

Types of Authority:

According to Weber are three systems of legitimation, each with its corresponding norms which justifies, the power to command. It is these systems of legitimation which as designated as the types of authority. They are:

  • Traditional authority
  • Charismatic authority
  • Rational-legal authority
Traditional authority:

This system of legitimation flows from traditional action. In other words, it is based on customary law and the sanctity of ancient traditions. It is based on the belief that a certain authority is to be respected because it has existed since time immemorial.

  • In traditional authority, rulers enjoy personal authority by virtue of their inherited status. Their commands are in accordance with customs and they also possess the right to extract compliance from the ruled. Often, they abuse their power. The persons who obey them are ‘subjects’ in the fullest sense of the term. They obey their master out of personal loyalty or a pious regard for his time honoured status.
  • Why did the ‘lower’ castes bear the atrocities inflicted by the ‘upper’ castes for centuries? One way of explaining this is because the authority of the ‘upper’ castes had the backing of tradition and antiquity. The ‘lower’ castes, some say, had become socialized into accepting their oppression. Thus, we can see that traditional authority is based on the belief in the sacred quality of long-standing traditions. This gives legitimacy to those who exercise authority.
  • Traditional authority does not function through written rules of laws. It is transmitted by inheritance down the generations. Traditional authority is carried out with the help of relatives and personal favorites.
  • In modern times, the incidence of traditional authority has declined. Monarchy, the classic example of traditional authority still exist, but in a highly diluted form. The Queen of England is a traditional figure of authority but as you may be aware, she does not actually exercise her authority. The laws of the land are enacted in her name, but their content is decided by the legislators, the representatives of the people.
  • Briefly, traditional authority derives its legitimacy from longstanding traditions which enable some to command and compel others to obey. It is hereditary authority and does not require written rules. The ‘masters’ exercise their authority with the help of loyal relatives and friends. Weber considers this kind of authority as irrational. It is therefore rarely found in modern developed societies.
Charismatic authority:

Charisma means an extraordinary quality possessed by some individuals. This gives such people unique powers to capture the fancy and devotion of ordinary people. Charismatic authority is based on extraordinary devotion to an individual and to the way of life preached by this person. The legitimacy of such authority rests upon the belief in supernatural or magical powers of the person. The charismatic leader ‘proves’ his her power through miracles, military and other victories or the dramatic prosperity of the disciples. As long as charismatic leaders continue to prove ‘their miraculous powers in the yes of their disciples, their authority stays intact, type of social action that charismatic authority is related to is affective action.

  • Charismatic authority is not dependent on customary beliefs or written rules. It is purely the result of the special qualities of the leader who governs or rules in his personal capacity. Charismatic authority is not organized; therefore is no paid staff or administrative set-up. The leader and his assistants do not have a regular occupation and often reject their family responsibilities. These characteristics sometimes make charismatic leaders revolutionaries, as they have rejected all the conventional social obligations and norms.
  • Based, as it is, on the personal qualities of an individual, the problem of succession arises with the death of disappearance of the leader. In order to transmit the original message of the leader, some sort of organization develops. The original charisma gets transformed either into traditional authority or rational legal-authority. Weber calls this Routinisation of charisma.
  • If the charismatic figure is succeeded by a son/daughter or some close relative. Traditional authority
    results. If on the other hand, charismatic qualities are identified and written down, then it changes into rational legal authority, where anyone acquiring these qualities can become a leader. Charismatic authority can thus be described as unstable and temporary.
  • Saints, prophets and some political leaders are examples of such authority, Kabir, Nanak, Jesus, Mohammed, Lenin and Mahatma Gandhi, to name a few were charismatic leaders. They were revered by people for their personal qualities and the message they preached, not because they represented traditional or rational-legal authority.

Rational-legal authority:

The term refers to a system of authority which is both, rational and legal. It is vested in a regular administrative staff who operate in accordance with certain written rules and laws. Those who exercise authority are appointed to do so on the basis of their achieved qualifications which are prescribed and codified. Those in authority consider it a profession and are paid a salary. Thus, it is a rational system.

  • It is legal because it is in accordance with the laws of the land which people recognize and feel obliged to obey. The people acknowledge and respect the legality of both, the ordinance and rules as well as the positions or titles of those who implement the rules.
  • Rational-legal authority is a typical feature of modern society. It is the reflection of the process of rationalization. Remember, Weber consider “rationalization as the key feature of western civilization”. It is, according to Weber, a specific product of human thought and deliberation. Example of rational-legal authority- We obey the tax collector because we believe in the legality of the ordinances he enforces. We also believe that the tax collector has the legal right to send us taxation notices. We stop our vehicles when the traffic policemen order us to do so because we respect the authority vested in him by the law. Modern societies are governed not by individuals, but by laws and ordinances. We obey the policeman because of his position and his uniform which represents the law, not because he is Mr. ‘X’ or Mr. ‘Y’. Rational-legal authority exists not just in the political and administrative spheres, but also in economic organizations like banks and industries as well as in religious and cultural organizations.


Max Weber’s Concept and Types of Power and authority is relevant in modern era in following

  • Bureaucratic authority is unusually accepted phenomenon and mostly its works on the basis on of the model of Max Weber. It works as a controlling and regulating mechanism for human being.
  • Charismatic authority also functions worldwide even today. Political leaders, religious leaders, sports person put a charismatic impact on the mind of the people. Pope, Shankaryacharya, Dalai Lama are a few examples to quote here. There are some new emerging ones like Nirmal Baba etc.
  • Traditional Authority is seen in families. In India the situation is seen in the form of caste politics for which Andre Beteille has given the term Caste Arithmetic, Whereas Dipankar Gupta has described it in the form of Caste Chemistry. Apart from it, caste Associations and parties based on caste are also prevalent in India.


J. Haebermas has criticized Weber’s concept of authority under the title Legitimation Crisis in different ways:

  1. Weber has talked about three kinds of authority and that people community work under different authorities in different situations. Apart from it Weber has defined authority as legitimate power and legitimacy is nothing but the acceptance given by people on certain traits.
  2. But it is very much clear that the co-existence of rational legal authority and traditional authority is not possible because in most of cases, they are in contradiction with each other. In this way weber has created crisis of legitimacy while describing there under the same head authority. Actually both are different and they must have been assigned different names.
  3. Haebermas, says that Weber has not appropriately presented the distinction between authority and power forexample the description of attaining power through party is wrong in the sense that, it is rather authority and not power.
  4. It is also wrong to say that a particular persons in a party gets enormous power because that person himself acts under the indentation of legitimacy.


Bureaucracy is the machinery which implements rational-legal authority. Max weber was the first to give an elaborate account of the development of bureaucracy as well as its causes and consequences. His work is usually taken as the starting point in the sociology of organizations. Weber believed that bureaucracy is the defining characteristic of modern industrial society. His work is mainly concerned with a comparison of bureaucracy and the forms of organisation found in pre-industrial societies. Weber’s view of bureaucracy must be seen in the context of his general theory of social action. He argued that all human action is directed meanings. Thus in order to understand and explain action, the meanings and motives which lie behind it must be appreciated. Weber identified various types of action which are distinguished by the meanings on which they are based. These include ‘affective’ or ‘emotional action’, traditional action’ and ‘rational action’.

Rational action involves a clear awareness of goal. Rational action also involves a systematic assessment of the various means of attaining a goal and the selection of the most appropriate means. Thus a capitalist in the building trade aimed to maximize profit would carefully evaluate factors such as alternative sites raw materials, building techniques, labour costs and the potential market in order to realize his goal. This would entail precise calculations of costs and careful weighing of the advantages and disadvantage of the various factors involved. His action is rational since, in Weber’s words, rational action is the methodical; attainment of a definitely given and practical end by means of an increasingly precise calculation of means.

Weber believed that rational action had become the dominant mode of action in modern industrial society. He expressed it in a wide variety of areas: in state administration, business, education, science and even in western classical music. He referred to the increasing dominance of rational action as the process of rationalization.

Bureaucratization is the prime example of this process. A bureaucratic organisation has a clearly define goals. It involves precise calculation of the means to attain this goal and systematically eliminated those factors which stand in the way of the achievement of its objectives. Bureaucracy is therefore rational action in an institutional form.

Bureaucracy is also a system of control. It is a hierarchical organisation in which superiors strictly
control and discipline the activities of subordinates. Weber argued that in any large-scale task, some
must coordinate and control the activities of others. He states that “the imperative coordination of the
action of a considerable number of men requires control of staff persons”.

In order for this control to be effective it must be regarded as legitimate. There must be a ‘minimum of voluntary submission’ to higher authority. Legitimacy can be based on various types of meanings. This legitimacy can take the form of traditional authority or rational authority. The form of the organizational structure derives from the types of legitimacy on which it is based. In Weber’s words ‘according to the kind of legitimacy which is claimed, the type of obedience, the kind of administrative staff developed to guarantee it and the mode or exercising authority, will all differ fundamentally’. To understand bureaucracy, it is therefore, necessary to appreciate the type of legitimacy on which bureaucratic control is based.

Weber attributed the following characteristics to bureaucracy:

  • Formal Organization of Work.
  • The principles of fixed and official jurisdictional areas which are generally ordered by rules. The regular activities associated with each status are distributed in a fixed way as OFFICIAL DUTIES.
  • The structure of authority is clearly delineated and strictly delimited by rules.
  • The principle of office hierarchy and of levels of graded authority with a firmly ordered system of super-ordination and subordination in which there is a supervision of the lower offices by the higher ones.
  • A division of labour based on specialized functions and responsibilities.
  • A system of written documents (‘the files) defining the procedure as well as the rights and duties of people in all positions.
  • Office management based on thorough and expert training.
  • Selection for employment and promotion based on technical competence, specialized knowledge or skill.
  • Office-holding as a ‘vocation.’ Official work is no longer a secondary activity but something that demands the full working capacity of the official.
  • Provision for pecuniary compensation as a fixed salary.
  • Appointment of employees by higher officials, rather than by election.
  • The system of tenure for life. Normally the position of the bureaucrat is held for life as specified by contract.
  • A clear distinction between the sphere of office and that of the private affairs of the individual. The bureaucratic official is not an owner of the enterprise and therefore not entitled to the use of official facilities for personal needs except as defined by strict rules.
  • The practice of performing specialized administrative functions according to purely objective considerations and the official discharge of business according to calculable rules and ‘without regard for persons.’

Weber mentions the following characteristics of officials in bureaucratic set-up:

  • Office-work is a ‘vocation’ for officials
  • They are specially trained for their jobs.
  • Their qualifications determine their position or rank in the office
  • They are expected to do their work honestly.

Their official positions also have a bearing on their personal lives. Let us see how.

  • Bureaucratic officials enjoy a high status in society.
  • Often, their jobs carry transfer liabilities. By this we mean that they may be transferred from one place or department to another leading to some instability in their professional and personal lives. Officials receive salaries not in accordance with productivity but status. The higher their rank, the higher their salaries. They also receive benefits like pension, provident fund, medical and other facilities. Their jobs-are considered very secure.
  • Officials enjoy good career prospects. They can move from the lower rungs of the bureaucratic ladder to higher ones if they work in a disciplined manner.
Causes of development of Bureaucracy:
  1. Money economy: Weber maintains that a developed money economy is necessary before a bureaucratic administrative can come into being. A bureaucratic administration requires a stable system of taxation; the later in turn requires a money economy. No proper bureaucratic administration could develop in olden days due to the prevalence of barter system and the absence of a money economy.
  2. Increase in organizational size: The large size of the modern nation state, the joint stock company and the industrialized factory gave rise to bureaucratic administration. A large size necessarily requires division of labour. Technical efficiency requires expertise. Coordination requires hierarchy and rules. Hence bureaucratic administration tends to grow up in every large-scale organization.
  3. Nature of administrative tasks: The increasing complexity of civilization and the consequent demands upon administration also led to bureaucratization. Thus, the growing wealth of the influential strata and the desire for the possession and consumption of goods and services of various kinds led to the performance of new function requiring new expertise and widespread networks.
  4. The increased emphasis on law and order and the demand for functions of social welfare give rise to new agencies and development of old ones. Modern means of transport and communication, such as highways, railways, telegraph and telephone, facilitate the functioning of bureaucracies and help bureaucratization.
  5. Requirement of efficiency: Capitalist market economy is based upon competition and competition compels increasing efficiency among all competitions. Since efficiency requires bureaucratization, modern capitalist enterprises are unequalled models of strict bureaucratic organisation.
  6. Market economy: A market functions without regard for person. Hence a market economy necessarily leads to impersonality, which in turn helps bureaucratization.
  7. Rule of law: The emergence of the conception of the rule of law in modern times has also led to bureaucratization. The rule of law means equality before the law, or lack of arbitrariness, which is ensured by bureaucratization to some extent.
  8. Concentration of the means of administration: The rise of the bureaucratic structure has been associated with the concentration of the means of management in the hands of the master. Thus, the bureaucratization of the army took place after the transfer of army service from the propertied to the propertyless. Earlier, the soldier was himself the owner of the material means of warfare that the army took a bureaucratic form. Before the rise of the national state, feudal vassals and tax farmers owned the means of administration. In the nation state, feudal vassals and tax farmers owned the means of administration. In the nation state these means came to be owned by the central authority resulting in bureaucratization.
  9. Levelling of social differences: Bureaucracy has mainly resulted from modern mass democracy, which has involved the levelling of economic and social difference. Mass democracy makes a clean sweep of feudal privileges in administration and replaces these with equality before the law.
  10. Permanent Character of the Bureaucratic Machine: Weber points out that once it is fully established, bureaucracy is among those social structures which are hardest to destroy. It is powerful instrument of the first order, and hence is used to fulfil societal objectives and the objectives of those who happen to capture power.

A Critical Evaluation Weber’s theory of bureaucracy:

Weber’s theory of bureaucracy may be said to be classical. It has come to be widely accepted. In particular it has come to be adopted by bureaucrats in justification of their behaviour. However, it has been subjected to much criticism also. We deal with some of the criticisms below.

  1. R.k. Merton: dysfunctions of bureaucracy: R.K. Merton argued that certain aspects of the bureaucratic procedure may be dysfunctional to the organization. In particular, this may encourage behaviour that inhibits they realization of organizational goals.
    • Firstly, the bureaucrat is trained to comply strictly with the rules. But when the situation arises which may not be covered by the rules, then this training may lead to inflexibility and timidity. The bureaucrat has not been taught to improvise and innovate and in addition he may well be afraid to do so. His career incentives such as promotions are designed to reward. Thus he may be inclined to bend the rules.
    • Secondlythe devotion to the rules encouraged in bureaucratic organizations may lead to displacement of goals. There is a tendency for conformity of official regulation to become an end in itself rather than means towards an end. In this way so called bureaucratic red tape may stand in the way of providing an efficient service to the clients of the organisation.
    • Thirdly, the emphasis on impersonality in bureaucratic procedures may lead to friction between officials and the public. For example, clients in a job centre or maternity clinic may expect concern and sympathy for their particular problems. The business like and impersonal treatment they might receive can lead to bureaucratic being seen as unsympathetic and arrogant. As a result clients sometimes feel that they have been badly served by bureaucratic
  2. Peter blau and alvin gouldner: formal and informal structure: Peter Blau and Gouldner have criticized Weber for his over emphasis on elements of formal structure in the ideal type. According to Weber, the bureaucracy with the former type of organizational structure is likely to be more efficient in attaining organizational goals. On the basis of his study of the functioning of federal enforcement agency in washington peter blau argues that the presence of both formal and informal structures in the organisation may together enhance the efficiency of the organization, on the other hand the presence of formal structure may act as a hindrance towards the attainment of organizational goals.
  3. Alvin gouldner on the basis of his studies of the gypsum plant in usa shows that formal structures may not always be effective in attaining the organizational goals. In fact the types of organizational structure depend on the nature of goals to be attained and the nature of the environment in which the goals are to be pursued. Gouldner found that enforcement of formal regulations in the processing unit of the gypsum plant proved functional for attaining greater efficiency but similar efforts in mining unit proved dysfunctional. It was realized that the mining units functioned more efficiently with an informal organisation set up than a formal one. Thus both these studies highlighted fact that formal structure alone is not always the most efficient way to attain the organizational goals.
  4. Tom burns and g. M. Stalker: mechanistic and organismic system: Gouldner conclusions are supported by the finding of research by Burns and Stalker. From a study of 20 Scottish and English firms mainly in the electronics industry, Burns and Stalker argue that bureaucratic organizations which are formal and rigid and are termed as mechanistic system. They are suitable for dealing with predictable familiar and routine situations. They are not well suited to the rapidly changing technical and commercial situations of many sectors of modern industry such as electronic industries. Since change is a hall mark of a modern society, mechanistic type of bureaucratic organizations may well be untypical of the future. Instead organic type of organizational structures are more likely represent the future trend. In the organic type if organizations the areas of responsibility are not clearly defined, the rigid hierarchies and specialized division of labour of mechanistic systems tend to disappear, the individual is also motivated to employ his skills to further the goals of the organization rather than simply carry out a pre-determined operation. When a problem arises all those who have knowledge and expertise to contribute to the solution. Tasks are shaped by the nature of the problem rather than being pre-defined. Communication consists of information rather than command of information, advice rather than instruction and decision. Although a hierarchy exists, decision tends to become blurred as communication travels in all directions and top management no longer has the sole prerogative over important decisions nor is it monopolized knowledge necessary to make them.
  5. Bureaucracy: A Marxian perspective: To Weber, bureaucracy is a response to the administrative requirements of all industrial societies. Whatever, capitalistic or communist, the nature of owners of the factors of production makes relatively little difference to the need for bureaucratic control? But from the Marxian perspective, bureaucracy can only be understood in relation to the factors of production. Thus, in capitalistic societies, where the forces of production are owned by a minority, the ruling class, the state bureaucracy will inevitable, represent the interest of that class. Therefore, from the Marxian point of view bureaucracy is an agent of exploitation of one class by the other. According to Marxian theory, in socialist society, the bureaucracy should be replaced by new truly democratic institutions.
  6. Lenin believed that after the dictatorship of the proletariat was established there would be a steady decline in state bureaucracy. He recognized that some form of administration was necessary but look forward to the proposal outlined by Marx and Engels. He thought that administrators should be directly appointed and should be simplified to the point where basic literacy was sufficient for their performance. In this way everybody would have the skills necessary to participate in the administrative process.
  7. An even more valiant attempt to remove bureaucratic control as made in China under the leadership of Chairman Mao during the cultural revolution wherein Mao introduced certain innovative ideal like role shifting system and collective decision making to free the administrative organizations form the rigid hierarchy and centralized decision making. Similar attempts have also been made in Yugoslavia and some other countries.
  8. However, neither Lenin nor Mao succeeded in doing away bureaucracy from Russian and chines societies respectively. Milovan Dijilas also draws a similar picture about the erstwhile USSR with particular emphasis on what he sees as exploitative nature of bureaucratic control. According to Dijilas political bureaucracy in the erstwhile USSR directed the economy for their own benefits. The mass of population appeared to have had little opportunity to participate in or control the state administration. Thus the Marxian dream of democratically governed society freed from bureaucratic control remains only a dream.

Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.

In order to overcome the methodological problem of defining Capitalism and Protestant Ethic (Religion and Economy), Max Weber made use of the concept of ideal type. Protestant Ethic does not refer to any particular theological doctrine but a set of values and belief system that make up a religious ideal. Capitalism, in its ideal type, is thought of by Weber to be that complex activity designed specifically to maximize profit through the careful and intentional exercise of rational organization and management of production. But capitalism as an economic enterprise designed to maximize profit existed all over the world. However, there is something unique about Western capitalism – the idea of unlimited accumulation beyond the notion of maximum profit and the conviction that the desire for profit must be tempered (mediated) by discipline and science, not by speculation and adventure.

  • His theory is one of important studies of weber’s historical sociology. This is one of the best manifestations of the application of weber’s methodological principles i.e. causal pluralism, ideal type and verstehen approach. Besides exploring the nature of two important sociological phenomena, religion and modern capitalism, it also enunciates the basis for an alternative theory of social change which focuses on ideas as an independent source of change.
  • Weber begins with the rejection of the then contemporary Marxist view which regarded economic substructure as the ultimate cause of all social change. According to Weber, such a one sided view is over simplification of the complex social reality. No social phenomenon can be adequately explained in terms of a single cause alone. In fact each social phenomenon is the result of a number of causes interacting simultaneously. According to Weber, Marxian view on the development of capitalism can at best be regarded as an ideal type construction highlighting the role of economic factor which contribute to the rise of capitalism.
  • He also rejected Engel’s view that Protestantism rose in Europe as a legitimizing ideology to nascent capitalism which had already come into existence. Instead he emphasized the role of ideal as an independent source of change. Refuting Engel’s argument he further states that capitalism existed in an embryo form in Babylon, Roman, Chinese and Indian societies and in China and India other material conditions required for the development of capitalism also existed at certain stages in their history. But nowhere does it characterize the development of modern capitalism. This phenomenon is peculiar to western society alone. The question arises as to why these embryos developed into the modern form of capitalism only in the west and nowhere else. An explanation in terms of the internal dynamics of economic forces alone is unable to account for this peculiarity. It is necessary to take into account specific ethos of the early European capitalistic entrepreneurs and realize that this was precisely what was absent in other civilizations.
  • On the basis of an analysis of statistical records weber begins with the statistical fact – business leaders and owners of capital as well as the higher grades of skilled labour personnel of modern enterprises were overwhelmingly protestant. This was not merely a contemporary phenomenon but also a historical fact, tracing the association back to early centers of capitalistic development in the 16th and the 17th centuries. After establishing the statistical relationship between protestant population and the development of capitalism, weber proceeds to explore the possibility of a logical relationship between the two. Weber started to search for the ideas which contribute to form psychological motivations manifested in the spirit of capitalism. For Weber, these ideas lay in the beliefs and the practices of certain Protestant groups – Calvinists, whose manner of life was characterized by asceticism. Weber elaborated these motivations in the form of an ideal type which should be as coherent as possible without aspiring thereby to reflect historical reality. He sought by means of this rational utopia to understand how these motivations operated in the actuality too.

According to Weber, Capitalists needs a great desire of having more and more property. And this desire did not only come with the advent of industrialization. But rather it was in the system inn one of the other forms. Followings types of capitalism are noted:

  • Booty Capitalists: When capital is acquired by theft, robbery etc, it is called booty capitalists. It was popular in ancient days.
  • Pariah Capitalists: This kind of capitalism where money was lent to earn more interest and so more profit.
  • Traditional Capitalists: This kind of capitalism was proved in Medieval Europe in which capital was gained by traditional methods. That is why there informal relations between masters and workers.
  • Modern Capitalists: Efficiency and discipline are necessary for modern capitalism. The labourer are greatly controlled and so they consider hard work as their religion. The development of modern capitalism is the result of the industrial revolution in which new model of production were developed like Mechanization, factory system, formal rules and regulations and the only reason of high inclination of people towards this system was profit making.

The initial impetus for Weber’s famous work, (1904-1905), “The Protestant Ethnic and the Spirit of Capitalism”, centered around two general observations, viz, in countless places in the world great material achievements had resulted from the work of monastic orders dedicated to a life of the spirit, and specifically ascetic protestant sects were noted for their economic success. “There appeared to (be) a paradoxically positive relationship between ascetic religious belief and economic enterprise. By looking specifically at Calvinism, Weber began to see indisputable signs of causal correlations.

Weber identified a number of values embedded in Protestantism which are in harmony with the spirit of capitalism.

  • The shift from ritualistic and other-worldly orientation to down-to-earth pragmatism: The finite mind of man cannot comprehend the infinite mind of the absolute and transcendent God who created the world for His own glory. Therefore, there is no point in indulging in mysticism; rather, man should seek to understand the natural order. This is essentially an anti-ritualistic attitude that favors the development of science and rational investigation.
  • Changed attitude toward work (hard work): Protestant Ethic proclaims work as a virtue, something not only good and desirable but contributing to the glory of God as well. Since Adam and Eve were evicted from the Garden of Eden with the punishment that they should henceforth earn their livelihood with the sweat, the Catholic ethic regarded work as a punitive necessity, the reminder of the original sin, and hence valued leisure. The Protestant Ethic not only encourages gainful enterprises but also insists that work is a virtue in itself since it contributes to the glory of God.
  • The concept of calling: This idea emerged from the Calvinist doctrine of predestination according to which every soul is predestined at birth for heaven or hell and that nothing an individual does in this life can change his ultimate fate. But there are signs by which god indicates to every individual whether he is among the elect, success in life being the most important one. Since every man is anxious to know if he is marked for salvation or damnation, he should select a calling, vocation, work hard at it and be successful. The economic impact of this doctrine was profound indeed. No longer was it necessary for ‘religious’ men to take the vow of poverty, enter a monastery, undertake a pilgrimage or indulge in self-torture, some of the Catholic means of salvation popular in the Middle Ages. The new doctrine exhorts men to seek gainful enterprises, accumulate wealth and prove their destiny.
  • The new attitude toward the collection of interest on loans: The theological doctrine of Catholicism proscribed the collection of interest on loans. This prohibition discouraged the operation, at least open and legal operation, of lending houses and accumulation of capital. Approving in Calvinism a practice that had been proscribed in Catholicism. This promoted a spurt of economic activity: establishment of lending houses, new investments, and new floating capital.
  • Strictures on alcoholism: Protestant ethic prohibits the consumption of alcoholic beverages; there is no comparable theological doctrine in Catholicism. Indeed, prohibition movement in Western societies was always spearheaded by Protestant.
  • Encouragement of literacy and learning: Based on the conviction that every man should read his own Bible rather than depend on priestly interpretations, Protestant ethic placed great emphasis on literacy and learning which led to significant breakthrough in the sphere of education, leading to the development of mass education (rather than education of the clergy) and of specialized skills.
  • Rejection of holidays: The Catholic calendar is full of holy days and almost every holy day is a holiday. This is consistent with the Catholic belief that one needs leisure to honor God with ritualistic celebrations. However, since work contributes to the glory of God in Protestant ethic, there is no need for holy days and celebrations. This means factories and other business enterprises can function seven days week throughout the year, thus making maximum utilization of capital and other investments leading to greater productivity.
  • Protestant asceticism: Protestant ethic also incorporates the notion that earthly things and flesh belong to the order of sin and death and therefore, one should abstain from the pleasures of the world. Thus, on the one hand, Protestant ethic exhorts people to “accumulate and accumulate” and on the other hand, it forbids the use of wealth for enjoyment. This means a ceaseless pursuit of profit, not for the sake of enjoying the pleasure of life, but simply for the satisfaction of producing more and more, undoubtedly a condition par excellence for development of capitalism.

Comparative Study of Other Religion:

Now having established the essential harmony between Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism, Weber turned to other religions to see if there is in them a discernible cluster of values comparable to Protestant ethic that is favourable to the rise of capitalism. He found a variety of non-religious social and economic conditions conducive to the development of capitalism in China and India but the ethical system of Confucianism and the doctrine of karma in Hinduism were not particularly favourable. Moreover, the combination of religious values that constituted the Protestant ethic was unique: an unusual blend of two apparently inconsistent notions; namely limitless accumulation of wealth and abstention from enjoyment.

He followers of Hinduism did not have any interest in material and worldly success. For the same reason, the followers of Hindu religion stood first in the world for spiritual progress, instead of worldly progress. Hindu religion is based on the doctrine of (Dharma Karma and Punarjanama). The principle of Karma says that man gets the fruit of sin and piety in the next birth. But to get rid of cycle of birth and rebirth he will have to devote to religion and to God at maximum. In this way, Hinduism stresses on other worldly asceticism.

Similarly Islam, has been emphasized proper use of wealth in that no single people can have the disproportion to property.

  • In Confucianism or Buddhism there is a focus on right knowledge through right action and right mediation. It says that only right knowledge will solve all kinds of problems and related with life and not the wealth which will do so.
  • In Catholicism people are discipline in the way that they couldn’t think about change and self constructions. These valus have been obstructions in the development of capitalism.
  • The followers of Judaism have always migrated from one place to another with the desire of getting lot of money and everywhere they work hard and but were highly greedy so were left isolated from the system. Therefore, they couldn’t become capitalists.

Was it possible that Capitalism gave rise to Protestant ethics?

  • It would be erroneous to assume that Weber replaced a one-sided economic determinism with a onesided “ideological determinism.” He considered a variety of factors-social economic, and political—but the confluence of values inherent in religion played a central role in the matrix of interrelationships.
  • Weber called scientific attention to three forms of relationship which exist between social organization and religious ideas, and which he believed warranted further investigation. These ideas were as follows:
    • FIRST, social groups with particular economic interests often show themselves to be more receptive to some religious ideas than to others. For example, peasants typically incline toward some form of nature worship and aristocrats toward religious ideas compatible with their sense of status and dignity.
    • SECOND religious ideas lead to the formation of certain groups, such as monastic orders, guilds of magicians, or a clergy, and these groups may develop quite extensive economic activities.
    • THIRD, the distinction between the elite and the masses is as pertinent to the religious sphere as to others—the gap between the elite and the masses poses a problem with which each of the great world religions has had to cope.
  • The origin of protestant religion is traced back to 15th-16th century by data, while the modern capitalism in 18th century. In this way, we find that modern capitalism which came late can’t place any role in the creation of Protestant Ethics. But if we talk about capitalism itself than we would have a different argument to support that its elements had been responsible for the origin of Protestant Ethics.
  • Weber himself has added that the capitalism was their since earlier time but it was not rational, that’s why the growth of capitalism was unpredictable. Booty capitalism, Pariah capitalism traditional capitalism were all rational form of capitalism. It was during the period of 15th-16th century that some people organized themselves to make capitalism, stable and rational. For this purpose, they wanted to qualify the basic elements of capitalism in one form and they did it so in the form of protestant ethics, which in turn created protestant religion. In this way it can be aptly said that the elements of capitalism would have definitely being responsible in the origin of Protestant Ethics.

Critical Evaluation:

  1. R H tawney: Famous English historian R H Tawney has pointed out that the empirical evidence on which weber’s interpretation of Protestantism was based was too narrow. According to him, England was the first country to develop capitalism. However, the English Puritans did not believe in the doctrine of predestination.
  2. Secondly there were aspects of traditional catholic teaching which were equally compatible with capitalism. Yet capitalism was extremely slow in some Catholic dominated areas. Weber seems to have ignored crucial developments in Catholicism which occurred after reformation, and which modernized Catholicism form within.
  3. Next Weberian thesis of Capitalism seems to be contradictory in that it requires the consumption of commodities as well as saving for future investment. Protestant asceticism aids the latter, but the former may require hedonism. Finally, the present-day Capitalists are no longer guided by inner worldly asceticism. The modern-day lifestyle is increasingly hedonistic.
  4. Criticizing Weber’s theory T.C. HALL says that all the time Calvinist should became rich because of their values. Calvinism is strongly supported among the people of highlands of Scotland and hilly regions of south America, but they are poor. It shows that a religious belief believe does not make a person wealthy, but situations make him so.
  5. Weber’s thesis can be defended against some of the criticism by pointing out that it was only an ideal type of construction which sought to establish a connection between certain aspects of Protestantism with only some aspects of early entrepreneurial type of capitalism. All that Weber was trying to say was protestant ethic contributed to the rationalization which preceded modern capitalism. At no stage did weber claim it to be the sole cause, in fact, weber did admit to the possibility of building other ideal types linking other contributory factors to capitalism. Thus, Weber’s thesis should not be treated as a general theory of capitalism development. Further Weber clearly states that the spirit of capitalism was only one component, albeit an important one. There are other components too which together with the spirit constituted the modern capitalism. These components are:
    • Private ownership of the means of production.
    • Technological progress to the degree that production can be calculated in advance. For example, Mechanization or automation.
    • Formally free labour.
    • The organization of capitalist producers into joint stock companies.
    • Calculable law that is the universalistic legal system which applied to everyone and is administered equitably.

These elements form the basis of the ideal type of modern capitalism.


  1. Weber has focused on hard work and rational organization of production, process in his theory of Protestant Ethics and Rise of Capitalism (religion and economy). Weber believes that both this conditions were visible in Calvinists because their religious ethics motivated them to do so.
  2. Weber has also talked about one specific characteristics of Calvinist that they were so progressive that they have been given the opportunity to make changes everywhere and in that way, they change their religious elements as a whole. Now if the same phenomenon becomes visible on other parts of the world, in the following of other religions that is they become change oriented, this could be called a parallel process to Calvinism. In this way, it can be said that even those people who are unaware of Calvinism become capitalists because they accepted all those elements knowingly or unknowingly of protestant religion.
  3. In the way the development of capitalism in other parts of world, prohibited. The situation talked by T.C. Hall is meant for ‘physical resources’. It is clear that Weber has not neglected this aspects he has emphatically made this point in his theory that two element are necessary in the development of modern capitalism. Substance and spirit. Hence substance means physical resources itself. It means that capitalism did not grow in certain circumstances appear to have of lack of physical resources.


Weber Theory economy is relevant in two ways:

  1. In the form of Capitalism: Capitalist has grown in the entire world and among the followers of all the religions, in many Asian countries like in Japan, China, India, Asian Tigers, Islamic countries. Capitalism is working and growing, inspite of the fact that different religions are followed in these countries. It is so because, changes are seen in all religions and people are becoming progressive which in orienting them towards Capitalism. The same happens in other continents as well. WEBER IS RELEVANT IN THE SENSE THAT WHEREVER HARD WORK IS PUT IN, THE RELIGION WILL BECOME AN INSPIRATIONAL ELEMENT TO MAKE PEOPLE CAPITALISTS.
  2. In other fields, Weber’s Relevance is seen in all walks of life and in different fields where in people want to excel that is in political, in Civil services or bureaucracies, in media, in film industry, in management, in fashion industries in social work, etc. In all this fields, people are getting name and fame with their hard work and motivation & inspiration from religious values..
An Assessment Of Weber:
  1. A prolific writer and original thinker, Weber made extensive use of his knowledge of history, philosophical tradition, religious system and social structures to refine his concepts and to develop general theoretical schema dealing with a variety of social phenomena.
  2. Wary of the kind of the conceptual ramification he observed in the works of Marx and Durkheim, Weber refused to conceptualize the whole social reality with its variegated complexity and manifold ramifications.
  3. However, he analyzed structures and processes and their inter-relationship and developed a cogent sociological mosaic, giving a coherent image of the whole retaining the functional independence of the elements. Weber was a man of values but not a man of faith; while he passionately upheld certain values, he insisted on objectivity in scientific enterprises;
  4. Weber’s contribution to modern sociology is multidimensional so much so that he can be legitimately considered as one of the founding fathers of modern sociology. He contributed a new perspective on the nature of subject matter of sociology and laid down the foundations of interpretative sociology. In addition, he carried out penetrating analysis of some of the crucial features of western society like social stratification, bureaucracy, rationality and growth of capitalism.
  5. Also he devoted his efforts to building up typologies especially in the studies of political sociology. One major shortcoming of his work lies in the fact that although he defined sociology as an interpretative understanding of social action yet most of his efforts were directed primarily towards building typologies and generalizations of empirical nature rather than investigating social phenomenon through interpretative understanding of behavior.
  6. By viewing the subject matter of sociology in terms of social action, he highlighted the significance of subjective meanings and motives in understanding social behavior. This view of weber presented an alternative and a corrective to the positivist approach in sociology. The positivists like Durkheim by assuming a deterministic perspective had almost totally ignored the role of the individual’s subjectivity in shaping social behaviour. They had restricted the study of social behaviour to externally observable aspects only. Thus, weber’s emphasis on exploring the subjective dimension provided a corrective to the overtly social determinist perspective of the positivist.
  7. Another great contribution of weber lies in enriching methodology of social sciences. Three important aspects of weber’s methodology are:
    • Causal pluralism: According to Weber, the social reality is extremely complex and therefore no social phenomena can be explained adequately in terms of a single cause. An adequate sociological explanation must therefore be based on the principle of causal pluralism.
    • Ideal type: Given the complex and variegated nature of social reality, Weber believed that it cannot be comprehensively understood by the human mind in a single attempt. Therefore an attempt to study social reality must take one aspect of social reality into account at a time. Thus the social scientists should build a one sided model of the phenomenon taking into account and highlighting only those aspects which are to be explored. This one sided model has been termed as ideal type. Although Weber conceded that in advocating the ideal type he was not suggesting something very new in fact social scientists had often been building ideal types without being aware of it. Thus the importance of Weber’s contribution lies in the fact that he for the first time articulated the need for building ideal types.
    • Verstehen approach: This was the method he advocated for interpretative understanding of social action. Weber thought that methods of positive science alone are inadequate for a comprehensive study of social behavior and needed to be supplemented by new methods which are characteristic of social science. However, Weber has been criticized on this account by Alfred Schultz. According to him, Verstehen is not a method but a particular form in which human thinking takes cognizance of the social and cultural world while having nothing to do with interpretation.
  8. Weber’s study of power, authority, bureaucracy etc. Have stimulated research in political sociology. Studies of political parties, political elite and pressure groups, voting behavior, bureaucracy and political changes in developed and developing societies both are inspired by Weber’s studies.
  9. Weber was one of the earliest sociologists to try to study economic behaviour in its social context.This approach initiated by Weber influenced many scholars. Sombart, Schumpeter and John Strachey have attempted to deal with economic phenomena in the context of the social structure as a whole rather than treating it in isolation, as had been the practice before.
  10. A direct influence of Weber can be seen in Schumpeter’s work. At one place Weber wrote that puritans wanted work as a calling: we are forced to do so. This point has been elaborated by Schumpeter also. He argues in his book that the decay of capitalism will be largely caused by the rejection of bourgeoisie values and not economic breakdown. Further on the lines suggested by Weber’s work Parsons and Smelser have attempted to show in their book ‘Economy and Society’ that economic theory is only part of the general sociological theory. The role of sociological factors in economic development has been realized by economists like Arthur Lewis who in his book ‘The theory of Economic Growth’ has highlighted the significance of sociological factors like the desire for goods, attitude to work, influence of property system, social mobility, the religious and family structures, population growth, the role of government etc in determining economic growth.
  11. Weber conceded at the outset that perfect causality is not possible in social sciences. General statements indicating trends alone can be formulated, as for example, the one between Protestant ethics and capitalism. This view has been supported by a later day social scientists. According to Bottomore such statements would run like this, whenever there are conditions of the kind C there will be a trend of the kind T. This approach is exemplified in Weber’s studies on the origin of capitalism, development of modern bureaucracy the economic influence of world religions. The same approach has been followed by C W Mills in his work White Collar.
  12. Weber’s emphasis on causal pluralism and on the role of ideas in social change has provided a corrective to the orthodox Marxist view. Weber’s theory of social stratification and his views on the nature of socialism show a greater correspondence with empirical reality as compared to those of Marx. Weber’s revision of the Marxists account of the origin of capitalism has been continued by historians and sociologists form Tawney up to the present time. The important representatives of this approach to social problems are Birnbaum, Austin and Turner.

Although, he founded no schools, he influenced every school and branch of sociology with his erudite studies which are rich in insights, far-reaching in scope and based on a mass of data both historical and contemporary. Although the foundations of the conflict approach to the study of social phenomena were laid down by Karl Marx. However to adapt this approach to contemporary societies, it had to be interpreted in the light of the criticism and modification suggested by Weber. Thus, the imprint of Weber’s ideas is clearly visible in the works of contemporary conflicts theorists like C W Mills and Ralf Dahrendorf. Even those belonging to the Frankfurt School of thought namely Adorno, Marcuse, Habermas etc. have also been influenced by Weber’s ideas.

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