What connections can be drawn between Max Weber's life story and his theory? How did childhood, education, work, and personal relationships shape his sociological ideas and research?
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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
For other people named Max Weber, see Max Weber (disambiguation).
German political economist and sociologist
Born April 21, 1864
Died June 14, 1920
Maximilian Weber (April 21, 1864 - June 14, 1920) was a German political economist and sociologist who is considered one of the founders of the modern, antipositivistic study of sociology and public administration. His major works deal with rationalization in sociology of religion and government, but he also wrote much in the field of economics. His most recognized work is his essay The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, which began his work in the sociology of religion. Weber argued that religion was one of the primary reasons for the different ways the cultures of the Occident and the Orient have developed. In his other famous work, Politics as a Vocation, Weber defined the state as an entity which possesses a monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force, a definition that became pivotal to the study of modern Western political science. His theory later became widely known as Weber's Thesis.
1 Life and career
1.1 Weber and German politics
2.1 Sociology of religion
2.1.1 The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
2.1.2 The Religion of China: Confucianism and Taoism
2.1.3 The Religion of India: The Sociology of Hinduism and Buddhism
2.1.4 Ancient Judaism
2.2 Sociology of politics and government
3 Interpretations of Weber's liberalism
5 Attacks from conservatives
7 See also
8 External links
Life and career
Weber was born in Erfurt, Germany, the eldest of seven children of Max Weber Sr., a prominent politician and civil servant, and his wife Helene Fallenstein. His younger brother Alfred Weber was also a sociologist and economist. Because of his father's engagement with public life, Weber grew up in a household immersed in politics, and his father received a long list of prominent scholars and public figures in his salon. At the same time, Weber proved to be intellectually precocious. His Christmas present to his parents in 1876, when he was thirteen years old, took the form of 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". It seemed clear, then, that Weber would apply himself to the social sciences. At the age of fourteen, he wrote letters studded with references to Homer, Virgil, Cicero, and Livy, and he had an extended knowledge of Goethe, Spinoza, Kant, and Schopenhauer before he entered university studies.
Max Weber and his brothers Alfred and Karl in 1879.
In 1882 Weber enrolled in the University of Heidelberg as a law student. Weber joined his father's duelling fraternity and chose as his major study his father's field of law. Apart from his work in law, he attended lectures in economics and studied medieval history. In addition, Weber read a great deal in theology. Intermittently he served with the German army in Strasbourg. In the fall of 1884 Weber returned to his parents' home to study at the University of Berlin. For the next eight years of his life, interrupted only by a term at the University of Goettingen and short periods of further military training, Weber stayed at his parents' house, first as a student, later as a junior barrister in Berlin courts, and finally as a Dozent at the University of Berlin. In 1886 Weber passed the examination for "Referendar", comparable to the bar examination in the American legal system. Throughout the late 1880s, Weber continued his study of history. He earned his doctorate in law in 1889 by writing a doctoral dissertation on legal history entitled The History of Medieval Business Organisations. Two years later, Weber completed his "Habilitationsschrift", The Roman Agrarian History and its Significance for Public and Private Law. Having thus become a "Privatdozent", Weber was now qualified to hold a German professorship.
In the years between the completion of his dissertation and habilitation, however, Weber also began pondering contemporary social policy. In 1888 he had joined the "Verein für Socialpolitik", the new professional association of German economists affiliated with the Historical school who saw the role of economics primarily in the solving of the wide-ranging social problems of the age, and who pioneered large-scale statistical studies of economic problems. In 1890 the "Verein" established a research program to examine "the Polish question", meaning the influx of foreign farm workers into eastern Germany as local labourers migrated to Germany's rapidly industrializing cities. Weber was put in charge of the study and wrote a large part of its results. The final report was widely acclaimed as an excellent piece of empirical research, and cemented Weber's reputation as an expert on agrarian economics.
Max Weber and his wife Marianne in 1894.
In 1893 he married his distant cousin Marianne Schnitger, later a feminist and author in her own right, who after his death in 1920 was decisive in collecting and publishing Weber's works as books which previously had only appeared as articles in journals. In 1894 the couple moved to Freiburg, where Weber was appointed professor of economics at Freiburg University, before accepting the same position at the University of Heidelberg in 1897. The same year his father Max Weber sen. died two months after a severe quarrel with his son, making it impossible to resolve the conflict. Following this incident Weber was more and more prone to "nervousness" and insomnia making it increasingly impossible for him to lecture and fulfill his duties as a professor. He had to reduce his teaching and gave his last course in the fall of 1899, unable to finish it. After months in a sanatorium in the summer and fall of 1900, Max Weber and his wife Marianne travelled to Italy at the end of the year, not to return to Heidelberg until April 1902.
Max Weber in 1917.
After his immense productivity in the early 1890s he did not publish a single paper between early 1898 and the end of the year 1902 and finally resigned as a professor in the fall of 1903. However, being freed of this burden he accepted a position as associate editor of the Archives for Social Science and Social Welfare next to his colleagues Edgar Jaffé and Werner Sombart. In 1904 Max Weber began to publish some of his most seminal papers in this journal, notably his essay The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. It 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. Incidentally this essay was the only one of his works that was published as a book during his lifetime.
In 1912, Weber tried to organize a left-wing political party to combine social-democrats and liberals. This attempt was unsuccesful because many liberals feared social-democratic revolutionary ideals.
During the First World War, Weber served for a time as director of the army hospitals in Heidelberg. In 1915 and 1916 he was a member of commisions that tried to retain German supremacy in Belgium and Poland after the war. Weber was a German imperialist and wanted to enlarge the German empire to the east and the west. He became a member of the worker and soldier council of Heidelberg in 1918.
In 1918 Weber became a consultant to the German Armistice Commission at the Treaty of Versailles and to the commission charged with drafting the Weimar Constitution. He argued in favour of inserting Article 48 into the Weimar Constitution. This article was later used by Adolf Hitler to declare martial law and seize dictatorial powers.
From 1918, Weber resumed teaching, first at the University of Vienna, then in 1919 at the University of Munich. In Munich, he headed the first German University institute of sociology, but he never held a personal sociology appointment in his life. Weber left politics due to right wing agitation in 1919 and 1920. Many colleagues and students in Munich despised him for his speeches and left wing attitude during the German revolution of 1918 and 1919. Right-wing students protested at his home.
Max Weber died of pneumonia in Munich on June 14, 1920. It should be noted that many of his works famous today were collected, revised and published posthumously. Significant interpretations of Weber's writings were produced by such sociological luminaries as Talcott Parsons and C. Wright Mills.
Weber and German politics
Max Weber had a large influence on German policy towards the germanisation of Eastern Germany. He proposed closing the border to Polish workers from Russia and Austria-Hungary in his speech at the congress of the Evangelical Social Party in 1894. He feared that Germany would eventually lose these eastern territories. He advocated the recolonization of empty lands on the large estates of the Prussian Junkers by German settlers from the west, who would start small farms. The congress was mainly against Weber's demands because it supported the Prussian Junkers, but Weber influenced his friends and allies, including the influential politician Friedrich Naumann.
In 1905, Weber changed his mind. He was impressed by the attitude of the Russian liberal party, which wanted to change Russian nationalism by accepting ethnic minorities as Russians. Weber wanted the Germans to absorb other ethnic groups, especially the Poles, who should have become a part of a huge German empire. Weber thought that the only way that German culture would survive was by creating an empire. Power politics was to be the basis for defending the German culture and economy and to prevent it from becoming a powerless country like Switzerland.
Weber disliked the empty nationalist ideas of many German nationalists. He thought that power alone was not an acceptable goal, that politicians should stand for certain ideas but that they need a strong will to power to win. This idea of the will to power is originally from Nietzsche who was very popular in the Germany of the 1890s. But Nietzsche meant a strictly individual will to power and not a will to power to make a collective (like Germany) stronger as advocated by Weber. Weber wanted Germany to strengthen its economy by creating a huge empire. He was afraid of the huge world population that would lead to German unemployment in the long run and believed that the only way to support the German workers was to create an empire. He was afraid that an end would come to economic expansion and that countries would protect their own ecomomy with tariff walls. He did not foresee the technological advances and the profits of international trade for the national economy in the twentieth century.
Weber wanted the end of the power of the nobility. He despised the red scare of the middle classes, because the middle classes let the nobility rule.
In his opinion, the socialist parties were harmless, because they would turn into middle classes in due time. The nobility was only holding Germany up to become a major power in the world. In his opinion, which he expressed in the media and his politics, the middle classes should have united against the aristocracy. This led to a lot of dismay in right wing Germany. Weber was against the student fraternities which idolized military ranks. He wanted to stop the agrarian lobby damaging the regulations in the stock exchange. He was especially against the buying of titles and noble land by the upper class of the bourgeoisie. Weber wanted unlimited economic growth. Not military ranks, but ability and talent should be important for one's prospects. Money should be put into a company and not wasted in a useless piece of land. Weber feared the inefficiency of the economy in Roman Catholic, non-puritanical countries and was afraid that Germany would become like Austria: 'Verösterreicherung Deutschlands'.
Weber was against the German annexation plans during the First World War, but he was also against a dishonorable peace. He didn't believe that Germany could dominate the ethnic minorities after the war was won but that Germany should work together with German-dominated nations and make them enthusiastic about German imperialism.
Weber wrote a series of newspaper articles in 1917, entitled "Parliament and Government in a Re-constructed Germany." These articles called for democratic reforms to the 1871 constitution of the German Empire.
Weber argued that Germany's political problems were essentially a problem of leadership. Otto von Bismarck had created a constitution that preserved his own power, but limited the ability of another powerful leader to succeed him, because of the limited experience of the political establishment with decision-making. In January, 1919, Weber's brother was a founding member of the German Democratic Party.
Weber advocated democracy as a means for selecting strong leaders. Weber viewed democracy as a form of charismatic leadership where the "demagogue imposes his will on the masses." For this reason, the European left is highly critical of Weber for, albeit unwittingly, "preparing the intellectual groundwork for the leadership position of Adolf Hitler."
Like Nietzsche, Weber was strongly anti-communist. He despised the anti-imperialist stance of the Marxist parties. Even more damning from Weber's point of view, the command economy required of a communist state would increase bureaucratization, and result in even less freedom for the individual. Germany required strong charismatic leadership, not more burueacracy.
He opposed the social-democratic party because of the socialists' lack of nationalism. First he wanted to make the working classes enthusiastic about Germany and German imperialism, but later on he realized that this was impossible. Later on he changed his mind and realized that the imperial expansion of Germany was not in the interest of the working classes and only strengthened the power of the German establishment. Only the middle classes could make Germany into a huge empire. Weber wanted to unify Germany and to give the German working classes coresponsibility in the German government, but not out of an ideal of equality. He was against compassion. He wanted to create responsibility. Hard work and efficiency should bring wealth for successful members of the working classes. The ...
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