The Transitional Work of Weber

Max Weber’s concern in capitalism was preoccupied with the nature of capitalism in general, and in particular focused on the condition in Germany in the late nineteenth century. He was a passionate German nationalist, as well as an economic historian, a historian of culture, a student of law, and also a sociologist. He “confronted” the work of Marx, and also “the succession” of Otto von Bismarck in the legacy of nation state of Germany. The capitalism of Germany was centered at bourgeoisie capitalistic; upon the power of the Junker landowners. Weber wanted the bourgeoisie to take control from the Prussian aristocracy and order Germany’s development according to political objectives.

            In Economy and Society, Weber discussed about the fundamental ideal-types of social action of political sociology. Weber used these four ideal-types to analyze particular substantive patterns of behavior. The four ideal-types are different from each other. Firstly, Purposive-rational Action which isthe action is based upon rational calculation designed to secure some desire end or goal. Secondly, Value-rational Action, which is behavior oriented to some ultimate ideal. Thirdly, Affective Action which is action, informed by emotional commitments. Fourthly, Traditional Action which is action, governed by custom or habit.

Weber also elucidated the influence of historically specific cultures upon development. He sought the relation between the development of capitalism and the cultural analyses of the religious of ancient Israel, China and India, through the “religious doctrines” of the three civilizations. Weber’s writing on the religious and cultures of China and India summarized below:

Ultimately… what he sees are really crucial is that despite the rational, scientific elements in the East, and the existence there of economic strata and forms seemingly conducive to the emergence of a modern rational economy, the East remained an enchanted garden. This meant that all aspects and institutions of Oriental civilization were permeated and even dominated by the magical mentality—which became a brake on economic developments in particular and on rationalization of the culture as a whole. On the other hand, Occidental civilization, already in its early stages of development, had undergone significant disenchantment… This disenchantment began with the scriptural Judaic prophets… and are generated the process which has made Western civilization as a whole fundamentally different from that of the East.

[I. Zeitlin 1968 Ideology and the Development of Sociological Theory, New York. Prentice Hall, p.145].

            Ethic and method in Weber’s work summarized as an ‘interpretive social science’. Others presented Weber as the arch-priest of value-free sociology. There are four elements of methodological commitments made by Weber: (a) Weber grants that social science is concerned with ideal phenomena but insists that objectivity and causal analysis must also be retained; (b) Weber insists upon the absolute separation of matters of fact from matters of value and so scientific enquiry can provide the means but it cannot identify the ends; (c) the human world for Weber is composed of persons, and this entails an anti-holistic anti-organicist voluntarist-stance methodologically, and it also denies the possibility of a universal ethics as the social world comprises a realm of competing ideals; (d) Weber respected that politics can be oriented either to ultimate ends (and thus it is essentially religious) or to pragmatic calculation (where social science is of use).

            In Weber’s era a number of major intellectual figures denied the possibility of any simple methodological borrowings from the natural sciences. Recent work in the philosophy of social science has rejected the positivist model of explanation in natural science and its extension into the sphere of the social. Weber was trying to bridge the gap between positivism and idealism, by using rational ideal-types in the first place and causal adequacy of explanation.

            In his political sociology Weber found that patterns of social relationship are seen to be stable to the extent that they are informed by beliefs that the social order structuring this relationship is a legitimate order. That a social order is seen as legitimate entails that power relationships within the social complex are accepted: the power of superiors is accepted by subordinates as legitimate authority. The three types of legitimacy are: (a) traditional authority, where patterns of social order are legitimated by custom; (b) legal authority, where patterns of social order are legitimated by rational bodies of rules; and (c) charismatic authority, where patterns of social order are legitimated by the person of the ruler. Weber used this pattern to elucidate the analysis of the capitalism in Germany in the post-Bismarckian era. Weber was disappointed that the bourgeoisie was not mature enough to control the state. Weber argues that the German state was constructed in a top-down manner by Otto von Bismarck. The power was based on the power of Prussia and thus upon the power of the Junker landowners, the civil service bureaucracy and the officer corps.  Carlo Antoni argues: ‘All of his activities centered on the nature of Bismarck’s succession’. Weber himself could never forgive Bismarck for having refused to allow the formation around him of a group of political talents capable of assuming the burden of his legacy. In the differentiation from Marx’s work Weber elucidate the logic of capitalism in the protestant ethic. In The Protestant Ethic Weber discusses the role which certain religious doctrines played in facilitating the emergence of capitalistic social forms. Weber rejects the Marxian view that Protestantism was simply the ideological consequence of earlier economic changes and instead advances the claim that ascetic Protestantism actually aided the emergence of capitalism. This is the opposite of Marx idea about the growing of the Protestantism (in particular, Calvinist) is also increasing the developing of capitalism. But Weber argued that it is the Protestantism that ‘creating’ the capitalism. The belief system of the Calvinists led them to act in such a way that they served as the catalyst for widespread changes in the economic (character of society).

            Weber’s work are complex, it must be understood in terms of private contexts as well as public happenings. His work focuses on the German state, as he was a German nationalist.

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