Credits, references, and bibliography
Max Weber (1864-1920)-The Rationalization of Society:
Max Weber on the Rationalization of Society
"Max Weber’s (1864-1920) classical sociological theory is based on his work on social action. Action theory describes the subjective factors that influence action and serve as the foundation for society. In developing his theory, Weber distinguished between the concepts of behavior and action. Behavior is an automatic response that occurs with little thought, whereas action is the result of a conscious process in which people give meaning to their actions and the world around them. Weber was concerned only with the study of action and believed that the sociologist could understand the meaningful basis of peoples’ actions through the method of “understanding,” or verstehen. He distinguished between four ideal-types of action: affectual action, traditional action, value-rational action, and means-end rational action.
Max Weber’s classical theory also includes his formulation of four types of rationality: practical, theoretical, substantive, and formal. It is often argued that Weber’s focus was on formal rationality and the ways in which it contributed to a historical process — rationalization — that transformed the Western world. Weber’s intellectual interest in rationalization led him to study the historical forces that both enabled rationalization in the West and constrained it elsewhere. Foremost among these forces was religion. Weber argued that the Protestant ethic contributed profoundly to the rationalization of the Western world — to such an extent, in fact, that it spurred the development of modern capitalism. Weber also studied other religions — such as Confucianism and Hinduism — and concluded that the ethics of these religions constrained rationalization and the development of capitalism.
Weber was also interested in different types of authority, or forms of legitimate domination. He developed a typology of authority structures, which consisted of traditional, charismatic, and rational-legal types of authority. These types of authority are ideal types, or models that scholars can use to compare various specific examples of a phenomenon either across cases or over time. Weber was most interested in the rational-legal type of authority (and its organizational manifestation, the bureaucracy) and how empirical approximations to it contributed to rationalization. While Weber viewed the routinization of charisma as a revolutionary force, he thought that it was no match for the process of rationalization." (1)
"When the objection is raised that rational knowledge of causal sequences may be attained in the world of nature, but that the human world in not susceptible to rational explanation because of its unpredictability and irrationality, Weber counters by turning the tables. Our knowledge of nature must always be, as it were, from the outside. We can only observe external courses of events and record their uniformities. But in regard to human action, we can do more than write protocols of recurrent sequences of events; we can attempt to impute motives by interpreting men's actions and words. With this method, he of course opposes the positivists as well. "Social facts are in the last resort intelligible facts." We can understand (verstehen) human action by penetrating to the subjective meanings that actors attach to their own behavior and to the behavior of others. A sociology of the chicken yard can only account for regularities of behavior--in other words, for a pecking order. A sociology of human groups has the inestimable advantage of access to the subjective aspects of action, to the realm of meaning and motivation. Hence Weber's definition of sociology as "that science which aims at the interpretative understanding (Verstehen) of social behavior in order to gain an explanation of its causes, its course, and it effects." (3)
Go to http://media.pfeiffer.edu/lridener/DSS/Weber/WEBERW9.HTML
Read the brief passage on “Rationalization and Disenchantment” and answer the following questions:
a. The passage states that
modernity “has been deserted by the gods.” In Weber’s grand
theory, what does this mean?
b. How, according to this passage, did the rationalization of religious life affect magic?
c. What, according to this passage, was the impact of rationalization in the sphere of law?
d. How did rationalization affect music?
Big 3 Quiz
Verstehen: Max Weber’s Home Page
http://www.faculty.rsu.edu/~felwell/Theorists/Weber/Whome.htm This site extends the discussion to such topics as Weber’s notion of causality and a theory of sociocultural evolution. It also includes some lengthy quotations from Weber’s work.
Credits, references, and bibliography
Much of this page comes from the "Instructor's Manual" to accompany Contemporary
Sociological Theory and Its Classical Roots: The Basics, Second Edition,
George Ritzer, Mcgraw-Hill, 2007. The Instructor's Manual was prepared by James
Murphy, University of Maryland, College Park and Todd Stillman, Fayetteville
State University. These quotes come from chapter 2.
2. Ritzer, George. 2007/2010/2013. Contemporary Sociological Theory and Its Classical Roots: The Basics. 2nd/3rd/4th editions. St. Louis: McGraw-Hill
3. From Coser, Lewis. 1977. Masters of sociological thought: ideas in historical and social context. New York : Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Edition 2d ed, pages: 219-222.
Unless otherwise noted,
all pages within the web site http://www.umsl.edu/~keelr/ ©2013 by
Robert O. Keel.
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