For other people named Max Weber, see Max Weber (disambiguation).
Maximilian Karl Emil "Max" Weber (German:[ˈmaks ˈveːbɐ]; 21 April 1864 – 14 June 1920) was a German sociologist, philosopher, jurist, and political economist. His ideas profoundly influenced social theory and social research. Weber is often cited, with Émile Durkheim and Karl Marx, as among the three founders of sociology. Weber was a key proponent of methodological antipositivism, arguing for the study of social action through interpretive (rather than purely empiricist) means, based on understanding the purpose and meaning that individuals attach to their own actions. Unlike Durkheim, he did not believe in monocausality and rather proposed that for any outcome there can be multiple causes.
Weber's main intellectual concern was understanding the processes of rationalisation, secularisation, and "disenchantment" that he associated with the rise of capitalism and modernity. He saw these as the result of a new way of thinking about the world. Weber is best known for his thesis combining economic sociology and the sociology of religion, elaborated in his book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, in which he proposed that asceticProtestantism was one of the major "elective affinities" associated with the rise in the Western world of market-driven capitalism and the rational-legalnation-state. He argued that it was in the basic tenets of Protestantism to boost capitalism. Thus, it can be said that the spirit of capitalism is inherent to Protestant religious values.
Against Marx's historical materialism, Weber emphasised the importance of cultural influences embedded in religion as a means for understanding the genesis of capitalism. The Protestant Ethic formed the earliest part in Weber's broader investigations into world religion; he went on to examine the religions of China, the religions of India and ancient Judaism, with particular regard to their differing economic consequences and conditions of social stratification.[a] In another major work, "Politics as a Vocation", Weber defined the state as an entity that successfully claims a "monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory". He was also the first to categorise social authority into distinct forms, which he labelled as charismatic, traditional, and rational-legal. His analysis of bureaucracy emphasised that modern state institutions are increasingly based on rational-legal authority.
Weber also made a variety of other contributions in economic history, as well as economic theory and methodology. Weber's analysis of modernity and rationalisation significantly influenced the critical theory associated with the Frankfurt School. After the First World War, Max Weber was among the founders of the liberal German Democratic Party. He also ran unsuccessfully for a seat in parliament and served as advisor to the committee that drafted the ill-fated democratic Weimar Constitution of 1919. After contracting Spanish flu, he died of pneumonia in 1920, aged 56.
Early life and family background
Karl Emil Maximilian Weber was born in 1864, in Erfurt, Province of Saxony, Prussia. He was the oldest of the seven children of Max Weber Sr., a wealthy and prominent civil servant and member of the National Liberal Party, and his wife Helene (Fallenstein), who partly descended from French Huguenot immigrants and held strong moral absolutist ideas.
Weber Sr.'s involvement in public life immersed his home in both politics and academia, as his salon welcomed many prominent scholars and public figures. The young Weber and his brother Alfred, who also became a sociologist and economist, thrived in this intellectual atmosphere. Weber's 1876 Christmas presents to his parents, when he was thirteen years old, were two historical essays entitled "About the course of German history, with special reference to the positions of the Emperor and the Pope", and "About the Roman Imperial period from Constantine to the migration of nations". In class, bored and unimpressed with the teachers—who in turn resented what they perceived as a disrespectful attitude—he secretly read all forty volumes of Goethe, and it has been recently argued that this was an important influence on his thought and methodology. Before entering the university, he would read many other classical works. Over time, Weber would also be significantly affected by the marital tension between his father, "a man who enjoyed earthly pleasures", and his mother, a devout Calvinist "who sought to lead an ascetic life".
In 1882 Weber enrolled in the University of Heidelberg as a law student. After a year of military service, he transferred to the University of Berlin. After his first few years as a student, during which he spent much time "drinking beer and fencing", Weber would increasingly take his mother's side in family arguments and grew estranged from his father. Simultaneously with his studies, he worked as a junior lawyer. In 1886 Weber passed the examination for Referendar, comparable to the bar association examination in the British and American legal systems. Throughout the late 1880s, Weber continued his study of law and history. He earned his law doctorate in 1889 by writing a dissertation on legal history titled The history of commercial partnerships in the Middle Ages. This work was used as part of a longer work On the History of Trading Companies in the Middle Ages, based on South-European Sources, published in the same year. Two years later, Weber completed his Habilitationsschrift, Roman Agrarian History and its Significance for Public and Private Law, working with August Meitzen. Having thus become a Privatdozent, Weber joined the University of Berlin's faculty, lecturing and consulting for the government.
In the years between the completion of his dissertation and habilitation, Weber took an interest in contemporary social policy. In 1888 he joined the Verein für Socialpolitik, a new professional association of German economists affiliated with the historical school, who saw the role of economics primarily as finding solutions to the social problems of the age and who pioneered large scale statistical studies of economic issues. He also involved himself in politics, joining the left-leaning Evangelical Social Congress. In 1890 the Verein established a research program to examine "the Polish question" or Ostflucht: the influx of Polish farm workers into eastern Germany as local labourers migrated to Germany's rapidly industrialising cities. Weber was put in charge of the study and wrote a large part of the final report, which generated considerable attention and controversy and marked the beginning of Weber's renown as a social scientist. From 1893 to 1899 Weber was a member of the Alldeutscher Verband (Pan-German League), an organization that campaigned against the influx of the Polish workers; the degree of Weber's support for the Germanisation of Poles and similar nationalist policies is still debated by modern scholars. In some of his work, in particular his provocative lecture on "The Nation State and Economic Policy" delivered in 1895, Weber criticises the immigration of Poles and blames the Junker class for perpetuating Slavic immigration to serve their selfish interests.
Also in 1893 he married his distant cousin Marianne Schnitger, later a feminist activist and author in her own right, who was instrumental in collecting and publishing Weber's journal articles as books after his death, while her biography of him is an important source for understanding Weber's life. They would have no children and it is usually acknowledged that their marriage was never consummated. The marriage granted long-awaited financial independence to Weber, allowing him to finally leave his parents' household. The couple moved to Freiburg in 1894, where Weber was appointed professor of economics at the university, before accepting the same position at the University of Heidelberg in 1896. There Weber became a central figure in the so-called "Weber Circle", composed of other intellectuals such as his wife Marianne, Georg Jellinek, Ernst Troeltsch, Werner Sombart and Robert Michels. Weber also remained active in the Verein and the Evangelical Social Congress. His research in that period was focused on economics and legal history.
In 1897 Max Weber Sr. died two months after a severe quarrel with his son that was never resolved. After this, Weber became increasingly prone to depression, nervousness and insomnia, making it difficult for him to fulfill his duties as a professor. His condition forced him to reduce his teaching and eventually leave his course unfinished in the autumn of 1899. After spending months in a sanatorium during the summer and autumn of 1900, Weber and his wife travelled to Italy at the end of the year and did not return to Heidelberg until April 1902. He would again withdraw from teaching in 1903 and not return to it till 1919. Weber's ordeal with mental illness was carefully described in a personal chronology that was destroyed by his wife. This chronicle was supposedly destroyed because Marianne Weber feared that Max Weber's work would be discredited by the Nazis if his experience with mental illness were widely known.
After Weber's immense productivity in the early 1890s, he did not publish any papers between early 1898 and late 1902, finally resigning his professorship in late 1903. Freed from those obligations, in that year he accepted a position as associate editor of the Archives for Social Science and Social Welfare, where he worked with his colleagues Edgar Jaffé (de) and Werner Sombart. His new interests would lie in more fundamental issues of social sciences; his works from this latter period are of primary interest to modern scholars. In 1904, Weber began to publish some of his most seminal papers in this journal, notably his essay The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, which became his most famous work and laid the foundations for his later research on the impact of cultures and religions on the development of economic systems. This essay was the only one of his works from that period that was published as a book during his lifetime. Some other of his works written in the first one and a half decades of the 20th century—published posthumously and dedicated primarily from the fields of sociology of religion, economic and legal sociology—are also recognised as among his most important intellectual contributions.
Also in 1904, he visited the United States and participated in the Congress of Arts and Sciences held in connection with the World's Fair (Louisiana Purchase Exposition) in St. Louis. A monument to his visit was placed at the home of relatives whom Weber visited in Mt. Airy, North Carolina.
Despite his partial recovery evident in America, Weber felt that he was unable to resume regular teaching at that time and continued on as a private scholar, helped by an inheritance in 1907. In 1909, disappointed with the Verein, he co-founded the German Sociological Association (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Soziologie, or DGS) and served as its first treasurer. He would, however, resign from the DGS in 1912. In 1912, Weber tried to organise a left-wing political party to combine social-democrats and liberals. This attempt was unsuccessful, in part because many liberals feared social-democratic revolutionary ideals.
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 views on the war and the expansion of the German empire changed during the course of the conflict. Early on he supported the nationalist rhetoric and the war effort, though with some hesitation as he viewed the war as a necessity to fulfill German duty as a leading state power. In time, however, Weber became one of the most prominent critics of German expansionism and of the Kaiser's war policies. He publicly attacked the Belgian annexation policy and unrestricted submarine warfare and later supported calls for constitutional reform, democratisation and universal suffrage.
Weber joined the worker and soldier council of Heidelberg in 1918. He then served in the German delegation to the Paris Peace Conference and as advisor to the Confidential Committee for Constitutional Reform, which drafted the Weimar Constitution. Motivated by his understanding of the American model, he advocated a strong, popularly elected presidency as a constitutional counterbalance to the power of the professional bureaucracy. More controversially, he also defended the provisions for emergency presidential powers that became Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution. These provisions were later used by Adolf Hitler to subvert the rest of the constitution and institute rule by decree, allowing his regime to suppress opposition and gain dictatorial powers.
Weber also ran, unsuccessfully, for a parliamentary seat, as a member of the liberal German Democratic Party, which he had co-founded. He opposed both the leftist German Revolution of 1918–1919 and the ratification of the Treaty of Versailles, principled positions that defied the political alignments in Germany at that time, and which may have prevented Friedrich Ebert, the new social-democratic President of Germany, from appointing Weber as minister or ambassador. Weber commanded widespread respect but relatively little influence.Weber's role in German politics remains controversial to this day.
In Weber's critique of the left, he complained of the leaders of the leftist Spartacus League—which was led by Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg and controlled the city government of Berlin while Weber was campaigning for his party—"We have this [German] revolution to thank for the fact that we cannot send a single division against the Poles. All we see is dirt, muck, dung, and horse-play—nothing else. Liebknecht belongs in the madhouse and Rosa Luxemburg in the zoological gardens.”  Weber was at the same time critical of the Versailles Treaty, which he believed unjustly assigned "war guilt" to Germany when it came to World War I. Weber believed that many countries were guilty of starting World War I, not just Germany. In making this case, Weber argued that “In the case of this war there is one, and only one power that desired it under all circumstances through its own will and, according to their political goals required: Russia. …It never crossed [my] mind that a German invasion of Belgium [in 1914] was nothing but an innocent act on the part of the Germans."
Later that same month, in January 1919, after Weber and Weber's party were defeated for election, Weber delivered one of his greatest academic lectures, Politics as a Vocation, which reflected on the inherent violence and dishonesty he saw among politicians—a profession in which only recently Weber was so personally active. About the nature of politicians, he concluded that, "In nine out of ten cases they are windbags puffed up with hot air about themselves. They are not in touch with reality, and they do not feel the burden they need to shoulder; they just intoxicate themselves with romantic sensations."
Frustrated with politics, Weber resumed teaching during this time, first at the University of Vienna, then, after 1919, at the University of Munich. His lectures from that period were collected into major works, such as the General Economic History, Science as a Vocation and Politics as a Vocation. In Munich, he headed the first German university institute of sociology, but never held a professorial position in sociology. Many colleagues and students in Munich attacked his response to the German Revolution and some right-wing students held protests in front of his home. Max Weber contracted the Spanish flu and died of pneumonia in Munich on 14 June 1920. At the time of his death, Weber had not finished writing his magnum opus on sociological theory: Economy and Society. His widow Marianne helped prepare it for its publication in 1921–22.
Max Weber's thought
Max Weber's bureaucratic theory or model is sometimes also known as the "rational-legal" model. The model tries to explain bureaucracy from a rational point of view via nine main characteristics or principles; these are as follows:
Max Weber's bureaucratic model (rational-legal model)
Weber wrote that the modern bureaucracy in both the public and private sector relies on the following principles.
"First, it is based on the general principle of precisely defined and organized across-the-board competencies of the various offices. These competencies are underpinned by rules, laws, or administrative regulations." For Weber, this means
- A rigid division of labor is established that clearly identifies regular tasks and duties of the particular bureaucratic system.
- Regulations describes firmly established chains of command and the duties and capacity to coerce others to comply.
- Hiring people with particular, certified qualifications supports regular and continuous execution of the assigned duties.
Weber notes that these three aspects "...constitute the essence of bureaucratic administration...in the public sector. In the private sector, these three aspects constitute the essence of a bureaucratic management of a private company."
Main principles (characteristics):
- Specialized roles
- Recruitment based on merit (e.g., tested through open competition)
- Uniform principles of placement, promotion, and transfer in an administrative system
- Careerism with systematic salary structure
- Hierarchy, responsibility and accountability
- Subjection of official conduct to strict rules of discipline and control
- Supremacy of abstract rules
- Impersonal authority (e.g., office bearer does not bring the office with him)
- Political neutrality
Merits: As Weber noted, real bureaucracy is less optimal and effective than his ideal-type model. Each of Weber's principles can degenerate—and more so, when they are used to analyze the individual level in an organization. But, when implemented in a group setting in an organization, some form of efficiency and effectiveness can be achieved, especially with regard to better output. This is especially true when the Bureaucratic model emphasizes qualification (merits), specialization of job-scope (labour), hierarchy of power, rules and discipline.
Demerits: However, competencies, efficiency and effectiveness can be unclear and contradictory, especially when dealing with oversimplified matters. In a dehumanized bureaucracy, inflexible in distributing the job-scope, with every worker having to specialize from day one without rotating tasks for fear of decreasing output, tasks are often routine and can contribute to boredom. Thus, employees can sometimes feel that they are not part of the organization's work vision and missions. Consequently, they do not have any sense of belonging in the long term. Furthermore, this type of organization tends to invite exploitation and underestimate the potential of the employees, as creativity of the workers is brushed aside in favour of strict adherence to rules, regulations and procedures.
Weber's thinking was strongly influenced by German idealism, and particularly by neo-Kantianism, which he had been exposed to through Heinrich Rickert, his professorial colleague at the University of Freiburg. Especially important to Weber's work is the neo-Kantian belief that reality is essentially chaotic and incomprehensible, with all rational order deriving from the way the human mind focuses attention on certain aspects of reality and organises the resulting perceptions. Weber's opinions regarding the methodology of the social sciences show parallels with the work of contemporary neo-Kantian philosopher and pioneering sociologist Georg Simmel.
Weber was also influenced by Kantian ethics, which he nonetheless came to think of as obsolete in a modern age lacking in religious certainties. In this last respect, the influence of Friedrich Nietzsche's philosophy is evident. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the "deep tension between the Kantian moral imperatives and a Nietzschean diagnosis of the modern cultural world is apparently what gives such a darkly tragic and agnostic shade to Weber's ethical worldview". Another major influence in Weber's life was the writings of Karl Marx and the workings of socialist thought in academia and active politics. While Weber shares some of Marx's consternation with bureaucratic systems and maligns them as being capable of advancing their own logic to the detriment of human freedom and autonomy, Weber views conflict as perpetual and inevitable and does not host the spirit of a materially available utopia. Though the influence of his mother's Calvinist religiosity is evident throughout Weber's life and work, and though he maintained a deep, lifelong interest in the study of religions, Weber was open about the fact that he was personally irreligious.
As a political economist and economic historian, Weber belonged to the "youngest" German historical school of economics, represented by academics such as Gustav von Schmoller and his student Werner Sombart. But, even though Weber's research interests were very much in line with that school, his views on methodology and the theory of value diverged significantly from those of other German historicists and were closer, in fact, to those of Carl Menger and the Austrian School, the traditional rivals of the historical school. (See section on Economics.)
Unlike some other classical figures (Comte, Durkheim) Weber did not attempt, consciously, to create any specific set of rules governing social sciences in general, or sociology in particular. In comparison with Durkheim and Marx, Weber was more focused on individuals and culture and this is clear in his methodology. Whereas Durkheim focused on the society, Weber concentrated on the individuals and their actions (see structure and action discussion) and whereas Marx argued for the primacy of the material world over the world of ideas, Weber valued ideas as motivating actions of individuals, at least in the big picture.
Sociology, for Max Weber, is:
... a science which attempts the interpretive understanding of social action in order thereby to arrive at a causal explanation of its course and effects.
— Max Weber
Weber was concerned with the question of objectivity and subjectivity. Weber distinguished social action from social behavior, noting that social action must be understood through how individuals subjectively relate to one another. Study of social action through interpretive means (Verstehen) must be based upon understanding the subjective meaning and purpose that individuals attach to their actions. Social actions may have easily identifiable and objective means, but much more subjective ends and the understanding of those ends by a scientist is subject to yet another layer of subjective understanding (that of the scientist). Weber noted that the importance of subjectivity in social sciences makes creation of fool-proof, universal laws much more difficult than in natural sciences and that the amount of objective knowledge that social sciences may achieve is precariously limited. Overall, Weber supported the goal of objective science, but he noted that it is an unreachable goal—although one definitely worth striving for.
There is no absolutely "objective" scientific analysis of culture.... All knowledge of cultural reality ... is always knowledge from particular points of view.... an "objective" analysis of cultural events, which proceeds according to the thesis that the ideal of science is the reduction of empirical reality to "laws", is meaningless ... [because] ... the knowledge of social laws is not knowledge of social reality but is rather one of the various aids used by our minds for attaining this end.
— Max Weber, "Objectivity" in Social Science, 1904
The principle of methodological individualism, which holds that social scientists should seek to understand collectivities (such as nations, cultures, governments, churches, corporations, etc.) solely as the result and the context of the actions of individual persons, can be traced to Weber, particularly to the first chapter of Economy and Society, in which he argues that only individuals "can be treated as agents in a course of subjectively understandable action". In other words, Weber argued that social phenomena can be understood scientifically only to the extent that they are captured by models of the behaviour of purposeful individuals—models that Weber called "ideal types"—from which actual historical events necessarily deviate due to accidental and irrational factors. The analytical constructs of an ideal type never exist in reality, but provide objective benchmarks against which real-life constructs can be measured.
We know of no scientifically ascertainable ideals. To be sure, that makes our efforts more arduous than in the past, since we are expected to create our ideals from within our breast in the very age of subjectivist culture.
— Max Weber, 1909
Weber's methodology was developed in the context of a wider debate about methodology of social sciences, the Methodenstreit. Weber's position was close to historicism, as he understood social actions as being heavily tied to particular historical contexts and its analysis required the understanding of subjective motivations of individuals (social actors). Thus Weber's methodology emphasises the use of comparative historical analysis. Therefore, Weber was more interested in explaining how a certain outcome was the result of various historical processes rather than predicting an outcome of those processes in the future.
Many scholars have described rationalisation and the question of individual freedom in an increasingly rational society, as the main theme of Weber's work. This theme was situated in the larger context of the relationship between psychological motivations, cultural values and beliefs (primarily, religion) and the structure of the society (usually determined by the economy).
By rationalisation, Weber understood first, the individual cost-benefit calculation, second, the wider bureaucratic organisation of the organisations and finally, in the more general sense as the opposite of understanding the reality through mystery and magic (disenchantment).
The fate of our times is characterised by rationalisation and intellectualisation and, above all, by the "disenchantment of the world"
— Max Weber
Weber began his studies of the subject in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, in which he argued that the redefinition of the connection between work and piety in Protestantism and especially in asceticProtestantdenominations, particularly Calvinism, shifted human effort towards rational efforts aimed at achieving economic gain. In Protestant religion, Christian piety towards God was expressed through one's secular vocation (secularisation of calling). The rational roots of this doctrine, he argued, soon grew incompatible with and larger than the religious and so the latter were eventually discarded.
Weber continued his investigation into this matter in later works, notably in his studies on bureaucracy and on the classification of legitimate authority into three types—rational-legal, traditional and charismatic—of which the rational-legal (through bureaucracy) is the dominant one in the modern world. In these works Weber described what he saw as society's movement towards rationalisation. Similarly, rationalisation could be seen in the economy, with the development of highly rational and calculating capitalism. Weber also saw rationalisation as one of the main factors setting the European West apart from the rest of the world. Rationalisation relied on deep changes in ethics, religion, psychology and culture; changes that first took place in the Western civilisation.
What Weber depicted was not only the secularisation of Western culture, but also and especially the development of modern societies from the viewpoint of rationalisation. The new structures of society were marked by the differentiation of the two functionally intermeshing systems that had taken shape around the organisational cores of the capitalist enterprise and the bureaucratic state apparatus. Weber understood this process as the institutionalisation of purposive-rational economic and administrative action. To the degree that everyday life was affected by this cultural and societal rationalisation, traditional forms of life—which in the early modern period were differentiated primarily according to one's trade—were dissolved.
— Jürgen Habermas, Modernity's Consciousness of Time, 1990 
Features of rationalisation include increasing knowledge, growing impersonality and enhanced control of social and material life. Weber was ambivalent towards rationalisation; while admitting it was responsible for many advances, in particular, freeing humans from traditional, restrictive and illogical social guidelines, he also criticised it for dehumanising individuals as "cogs in the machine" and curtailing their freedom, trapping them in the bureaucratic iron cage of rationality and bureaucracy. Related to rationalisation is the process of disenchantment, in which the world is becoming more explained and less mystical, moving from polytheistic religions to monotheistic ones and finally to the Godless science of modernity. Those processes affect all of society, removing "sublime values... from public life" and making art less creative.
In a dystopian critique of rationalisation, Weber notes that modern society is a product of an individualistic drive of the Reformation, yet at the same time, the society created in this process is less and less welcoming of individualism.
How is it at all possible to salvage any remnants of "individual" freedom of movement in any sense given this all-powerful trend?
— Max Weber
Sociology of religion
Weber's work in the field of sociology of religion started with the essay The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism and continued with the analysis of The Religion of China: Confucianism and Taoism, The Religion of India: The Sociology of Hinduism and Buddhism and Ancient Judaism. His work on other religions was interrupted by his sudden death in 1920, which prevented him from following Ancient Judaism with studies of early Christianity and Islam. His three main themes in the essays were the effect of religious ideas on economic activities, the relation between social stratification and religious ideas and the distinguishable characteristics of Western civilisation.
Weber saw religion as one of the core forces in society. His goal was to find reasons for the different development paths of the cultures of the Occident and the Orient, although without judging or valuing them, like some of the contemporary thinkers who followed the social Darwinist paradigm; Weber wanted primarily to explain the distinctive elements of the Western civilisation. In the analysis of his findings, Weber maintained that Calvinist (and more widely, Protestant) religious ideas had had a major impact on the social innovation and development of the economic system of the West, but noted that they were not the only factors in this development. Other notable factors mentioned by Weber included the rationalism of scientific pursuit, merging observation with mathematics, science of scholarship and jurisprudence, rational systematisation and bureaucratisation of government administration and economic enterprise. In the end, the study of the sociology of religion, according to Weber, focused on one distinguishing part of the Western culture, the decline of beliefs in magic, or what he referred to as "disenchantment of the world".
Weber also proposed a socioevolutionary model of religious change, showing that in general, societies have moved from magic to polytheism, then to pantheism, monotheism and finally, ethical monotheism. According to Weber, this evolution occurred as the growing economic stability allowed professionalisation and the evolution of ever more sophisticated priesthood. As societies grew more complex and encompassed different groups, a hierarchy of gods developed and as power in the society became more centralised, the concept of a single, universal God became more popular and desirable.
The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
Main article: The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
Weber's essay The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism is his most famous work. It is argued[by whom?] that this work should not be viewed as a detailed study of Protestantism, but rather as an introduction into Weber's later works, especially his studies of interaction between various religious ideas and economic behaviour as part of the rationalisation of the economic system. In The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Weber put forward the thesis that Calvinist ethic and ideas influenced the development of capitalism. He noted the post-Reformation shift of Europe's economic centre away from Catholic countries such as France, Spain and Italy, and toward Protestant countries such as the Netherlands, England, Scotland and Germany. Weber also noted that societies having more Protestants were those with a more highly developed capitalist economy. Similarly, in societies with different religions, most successful business leaders were Protestant. Weber thus argued that Roman Catholicism impeded the development of the capitalist economy in the West, as did other religions such as Confucianism and Buddhism elsewhere in the world.
The development of the concept of the calling quickly gave to the modern entrepreneur a fabulously clear conscience—and also industrious workers; he gave to his employees as the wages of their ascetic devotion to the calling and of co-operation in his ruthless exploitation of them through capitalism the prospect of eternal salvation.
— Max Weber
Christian religious devotion had historically been accompanied by rejection of mundane affairs, including economic pursuit. Weber showed that certain types of Protestantism—notably Calvinism—were supportive of rational pursuit of economic gain and worldly activities dedicated to it, seeing them as endowed with moral and spiritual significance. Weber argued that there were many reasons to look for the origins of modern capitalism in the religious ideas of the Reformation. In particular, the Protestant ethic (or more specifically, Calvinist ethic) motivated the believers to work hard, be successful in business and reinvest their profits in further development rather than frivolous pleasures. The notion of calling meant that each individual had to take action as an indication of their salvation; just being a member of the Church was not enough.Predestination also reduced agonising over economic inequality and further, it meant that a material wealth could be taken as a sign of salvation in the afterlife. The believers thus justified pursuit of profit with religion, as instead of being fuelled by morally suspect greed or ambition, their actions were motivated by a highly moral and respected philosophy. This Weber called the "spirit of capitalism": it was the Protestant religious ideology that was behind—and inevitably led to—the capitalist economic system. This theory is often viewed as a reversal of Marx's thesis that the economic "base" of society determines all other aspects of it.
Weber abandoned research into Protestantism because his colleague Ernst Troeltsch, a professional theologian, had begun work on the book The Social Teachings of the Christian Churches and Sects. Another reason for Weber's decision was that Troeltsch's work already achieved what he desired in that area: laying the groundwork for a comparative analysis of religion and society.
The phrase "work ethic" used in modern commentary is a derivative of the "Protestant ethic" discussed by Weber. It was adopted when the idea of the Protestant ethic was generalised to apply to the Japanese people, Jews and other non-Christians and thus lost its religious connotations.
The Religion of China: Confucianism and Taoism
Main article: The Religion of China: Confucianism and Taoism
The Religion of China: Confucianism and Taoism was Weber's second major work on the sociology of religion. Hans H. Gerth edited and translated this text into English, with an introduction by C. K. Wang. Weber focused on those aspects of Chinese society that were different from those of Western Europe, especially those aspects that contrasted with Puritanism. His work also questioned why capitalism did not develop in China. He focused on the issues of Chinese urban development, Chinese patrimonialism and officialdom and Chinese religion and philosophy (primarily, Confucianism and Taoism), as the areas in which Chinese development differed most distinctively from the European route.
According to Weber, Confucianism and Puritanism are mutually exclusive types of rational thought, each attempting to prescribe a way of life based on religious dogma. Notably, they both valued self-control and restraint and did not oppose accumulation of wealth. However, to both those qualities were just means to the final goal and here they were divided by a key difference. Confucianism's goal was "a cultured status position", while Puritanism's goal was to create individuals who are "tools of God".
This is a chronological list of works by Max Weber. Original titles with dates of publication and translated titles are given when possible, then a list of works translated into English, with earliest-found date of translation. The list of translations is most likely incomplete.
Weber wrote all his books in German. Original titles published after his death (1920) are likely to be compilations of unfinished works (note the term 'Collected Essays...' in the titles). Many translations are of parts or selections from various German originals, and the names of the translations often do not reveal which German works they are drawn from.
- The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (original - 1904 to 1905, translation - 1930)
- From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology (translation - 1946) ISBN 0-19-500462-0
- The Theory of Social and Economic Organization (Talcott Parsons' translation of volume 1 of Economy and Society) (original - 1915?, translation - 1947)
- Max Weber on the Methodology of the Social Sciences (translation 1949)
- General Economic History - The Social Causes of the Decay of Ancient Civilisation (original - 1927, translation 1950)
- The Religion of China: Confucianism and Taoism (translation - 1951)
- Ancient Judaism (original 1917-1920, part of Gesammelte Aufsatze zur Religionssoziologie in 1920-1921, translation - 1952)
- Max Weber on Law in Economy and Society (translation - 1954)
- The City (original - 1921, translation - 1958)
- The Religion of India: The Sociology of Hinduism and Buddhism (translation - 1958)
- Rational and Social Foundations of Music (translation - 1958)
- The Three Types of Legitimate Rule (translation - 1958)
- Basic Concepts in Sociology (translation - 1962)
- The Agrarian Sociology of Ancient Civilizations (translation - 1976)
- Critique of Stammler (translation - 1977)
- Economy and Society : An Outline of Interpretive Sociology (translation - 1978)
- On Charisma and Institution Building (translation - 1994)
- Weber: Political Writings (translation - 1994)
- The Russian Revolutions (original - 1905, translation—1995)
- Essays in Economic Sociology (translation - 1999
- Weber's Rationalism and Modern Society: New Translations on Politics, Bureaucracy, and Social Stratification" (original 1914-1919, translation-2015)
Translations of unknown date:
Works available online
See 'External links' section of Max Weber article for a list of websites containing online works of Max Weber.