Read each of the following items.
Max Weber was continually beset by psychic torment. It is impossible to understand his work without reference to the inner conflicts that attended his intellectual production. But it would be inadvisable to focus here on all the details of Weber's psychic turmoils. The commentator should discriminate; otherwise he will succumb to what Hegel once called the "psychology of the valet," the detailed analysis of small human particularities that do not touch upon a man's historical and intellectual significance.
Weber's inner tensions stemmed largely from the tangled web of his relations with his family, as well as from his attempts to escape from the stultifying political atmosphere of the Kaiser's Germany in which he lived and worked. His ambivalence toward authority in his personal life and his fascination with the topic in his writings, his double concern with rationality and with the ethic of responsibility, his attraction to innerworldly asceticism and his partial identification with the heroic life-styles of charismatic leaders--these and many other themes in his work have their source in his biography.
Max Weber was born on April 21, 1864, the eldest of seven children of Max Weber and his wife Helene. Both parents descended from a line of Protestants, who had been refugees from Catholic persecution in the past but had later become successful entrepreneurs. Weber's paternal grandfather had been a prosperous linen dealer in Bielefeld, where the family had settled after being driven from Catholic Salzburg because of their Protestant convictions. While one of his sons took over and expanded the family business, another, Weber's father, worked for a while in the city government of Berlin and later as a magistrate in Erfurt (where Max was born) but then embarked upon a political career in the capital. In Berlin he was first a city councillor and late a member of the Prussian House of Deputies and of the German Reichstag. He was an important member of the National Liberal Party, the party of those liberals who had made their peace with Bismarck and now supported most of his policies. Very much a part of the political "establishment," the older Weber lived a self-satisfied, pleasure-loving, and shallow life. He was a fairly typical German bourgeois politician, at home in the wheeling and dealing of political affairs and not given to engage in any "idealistic" ventures that might undercut his solid anchoring with the established powers.
Weber's mother, Helene Fallenstein, came from a similar background but was made of wholly different cloth. Her father, who descended from a line of school teachers, had been a teacher himself, a translator, and romantic intellectual. After having fought in the war of liberation against Napoleon, he settled down to the rather prosaic life of a Prussian civil servant. When his first wife died, he married Emilie Souchay, the daughter of a prosperous merchant in Frankfurt. His financial position now assured, her retired to live in Heidelberg where he endeavored to be a kind of patron of the resident academic community. The Souchays descended from Huguenot emigrants who had been driven from their native France after Louis XIV had outlawed French Protestantism. They became very wealthy in Germany but continued the cultivation of an intense Calvinist religiosity.
The young Weber grew up in a cultured bourgeois household. Not only leading politicians but leading academic men were among its frequent house guests. Here Weber met, at an early age, historians Treitschke, Sybel, Dilthey and Mommsen. But his parents' marriage, though at first a seemingly happy one, was soon to show signs of increasing tension, which could hardly be hidden from the children. Weber's mother, with her strong religious commitments and her ingrained Calvinist sense of duty, had little in common with a husband whose personal ethic was hedonistic rather than Protestant.
Max Weber was precocious, yet sickly, shy, and withdrawn. His teachers complained about his lack of respect for their authority and his lack of discipline. But he was an avid reader. 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.
The parental household was ruled with a strong authoritarian hand by his father, who may perhaps have compensated for his flexibility in things political by being an inflexible disciplinarian at home. Although his mother made efforts to draw Max to her side and to cultivate in him the Christian piety she prized so highly, Max tended in his youth to identify with his father rather than with her. This identification may explain why the previously withdrawn and encapsulated young Weber suddenly became very much "one of the boys" when he went to the University of Heidelberg at eighteen. He joined his father's duelling fraternity and chose as his major study his father's field of law. He became as active in duelling as in drinking bouts, and the enormous quantities of beer consumed with his fraternity brothers soon transformed the thin and sickly looking young man into a heavy-set Germanic boozer proudly displaying his fencing scars.
These distractions did not keep Weber from his studies. Apart from his work in law, he attended Knies' lectures in economics and studied medieval history with Erdmannsdoerffer and philosophy with Kuno Fischer. Immanuel Bekker introduced him to Roman law and Roman institutions. In addition, Weber read a great deal in theology in the company of his elder cousin, the theologian Otto Baumgarten. After three terms, Weber left Heidelberg for military service in Strasbourg. Here he came under the influence of his uncle, the historian Hermann Baumgarten, and his wife Ida, Helene's Weber's sister.
The Baumgartens soon became a second set of parents for Weber. Their influence on his development proved decisive. Hermann Baumgarten had been a liberal comrade-in-arms of his father, but unlike him, had never made peace with the Bismarckian Reich and still adhered to the unalloyed liberalism of his youth. He refused the compromises that had advanced the political career of Weber's father. Baumgarten was content with a maverick role as an unreconciled 1848 liberal, one who was basically at odds with the dominant tendencies of the day and preferred the role of a German Jeremiah. His wife Ida was in many ways like her sister, Weber's mother, sharing her deep Calvinist piety and a thorough devotion to religious principles. She differed from her, however, in being forceful, even dominant, rather than withdrawn.
Unlike his father, who treated young Weber with patronizing authoritarianism, the uncle regarded the nephew as an intellectual peer. From the Strasbourg days to the time of Baumgarten's death in 1893, as Weber's letters eloquently testify, the uncle was his main mentor and confidant in matters political and intellectual. The influence of his aunt was equally strong. Contrary to his mother, who had not succeeded in stirring his interests in religion, his aunt led him to immerse himself in religious reading, especially in her favorite theologian, the New England divine William Ellery Channing. More generally, Weber was greatly impressed with Ida's forceful personality, the uncompromising religious standards with which she ran her household, and her deep sense of social responsibility which led her to spend a great deal of time in charitable work. He came to appreciate the values and orientations of his mother when seeing them put into action by her sister. It is most probably in the Strasbourg period that Weber acquired his lifelong sense of awe for the Protestant virtues, even though he was unable to share the Christian belief on which they were based. He never lost respect for men who not only believed as Channing did but who actually lived his moral philosophy.
In the Strasbourg days, Weber partly freed himself from the model of a father whom he came to see as an amoral hedonist. He now tended to identify, though never fully, with the moral sternness represented in different, and even partly contradictory, ways by his uncle and aunt. He was to live with the strain created by these identifications for a long period to come.
Weber's first love was his cousin, the Baumgartens' daughter Emmy. His engagement to her lasted for six years, throughout which time the relationship was tension-ridden and brittle. Emmy was in frail health both physically and mentally. After years of agonizing doubts and guilt feelings, Weber finally broke the engagement to Emmy, who had been confined to a sanitarium for much of that time.
In the fall of 1884, his military service over, Weber returned to his parents' home to study at the University of Berlin. His parents wanted him back not only to control his rather free- wheeling ways but also to remove him from the influence of the Baumgartens. 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 those years Weber was financially dependent on a father he increasing disliked. He had developed a greater understanding of his mother's personality and her religious values during his stay in the household of her sister, and he came to resent his father's bullying behavior toward her.
From Coser, 1977:234-237.
(Special acknowledgement to Larry R. Ridener and The Dead Sociologists' Society) http://raven.jmu.edu/~ridenelr/personal/VITA.HTML
As a student at Berlin, Weber developed a strong antipathy for Treitschke's patriotic blustering and ranting but grew to appreciate men of sober scholarship, like his thesis advisor Jakob Goldschmidt and the historian Mommsen, with whom he studied Roman law. Weber had so close a relation with this teacher that at the defense of his Ph.D. thesis on the History of Commercial Societies in the Middle Ages, in 1889, Mommsen said to him: "When I come to die, there is no one better to whom I should like to say this: Son, the spear is too heavy for my hand, carry it on."
In the Berlin years Weber was enormously productive. His frantic work pace was perhaps a means for diverting his increasingly antagonistic feelings toward a father on whom he was still wholly dependent. His Ph.D. thesis, rated summa cum laude, was followed in 1891 by an important work on Roman Agrarian History, which served as his Habilitationsschrift, a post-doctoral thesis necessary for a university teaching position. There followed several studies on the condition of East-Elbian agricultural workers for the Verein fuer Sozialpolitik and for the Evangelisch-sozial Verein. The major one of these East-Elbian studies ran to almost nine hundred pages and was written in about a year, during which time Weber was replacing his former teacher Goldschmidt as a lecturer at the University of Berlin and also holding a full-time job at the bar. In these years Weber submitted himself to a rigid and ascetic discipline, regulating his life by the clock and dividing his daily routine into component parts with monkish rigidity.
Release from this psychic ordeal finally seemed to come in 1893, when he married Marianne Schnitger, the twenty-two-year-old daughter of a physician (a cousin on his father's side), and was appointed to a chair in economics at the University of Freiburg. From then on, Marianne and Max Weber enjoyed a very intense intellectual and moral companionship--theirs was, as the Germans say, a Musterehe--yet, it appears that the marriage was never consummated. Sexual fulfillment came to Weber only in his late forties, shortly before World War I, in an extramarital affair.
Weber's inaugural address of 1895 on The National State and Economic Policy, which combined intense nationalism and superb scholarship, brought him to the attention of a wider scholarly and political world than he had been able to reach with his previous specialized studies. His new renown led to his being called to Heidelberg in 1896 to succeed his former teacher Knies as professor of economics. In Heidelberg, Weber not only reestablished contacts with his other former teachers, Bekker, Erdmannsdoerffer and Kuno Fischer, but found new friends and colleagues, such as the legal scholar Georg Jellinek and the theologian Ernst Troeltsch. The Weber home soon became a gathering ground for the flower of Heidelberg's academic intellectuals, and Weber, though still quite young, came to be seen as the central figure in an extended network of colleagues and like-minded scholars.
In addition to his scholarly concerns, Weber also pursued his political interests, playing an increasing role in Christian-Social political circles and publishing a variety of papers and memoranda on issues of the day. He was settling down to an active and creative participation in the worlds of both scholarship and politics, and he seemed destined to become a major figure in German intellectual life.
All at once, this promising career seemed to come to an end. In July 1897, his parents visited Heidelberg. His father had insisted upon accompanying his wife, who would have preferred to spend a few weeks with her children without him. On that occasion, father and son clashed violently: the son accused his father of treating his mother tyrannically and brutally, and ended by telling the old man to leave his house. The father died only about a month later. Shortly thereafter Max Weber suffered a complete breakdown and did not recover for more than five years.
Weber's unresolved difficulties of identification, his inner conflicts regarding the values of father and mother, aunt and uncle, may partly account for the breakdown. Additional sources of tension and guilt may have arisen from his broken engagement with a mentally burdened cousin and his marriage to yet another cousin, who had previously been courted by a close friend of Weber's from whom he had snatched her away. Chronic overwork, in itself probably a means of escaping inner tensions, may have played its part, as may his impotence with his new wife (which in turn may have been related to his other conflicts). A detailed self- analysis, which Weber prepared for an attending physician, has been lost, so it is unlikely that the concrete causes for Weber's breakdown will ever be fully clarified.
During the next few years, Weber found himself unable to work. Often he could not even concentrate long enough to read. He traveled a great deal, especially to Switzerland and Italy. At times he seemed to be recovering, but another relapse would soon follow. When it seemed unlikely that he would ever again be able to lecture to students, he resigned from his chair at Heidelberg. He spent some time in a sanitarium and was treated by a number of specialists, but all seemed to no avail. Then almost unexpectedly, in 1903, his intellectual forces were gradually restored. He managed in that year to join with Werner Sombart and Edgar Jaffe in the editorship of the Archiv fuer Socialwissenschaft, which became the leading German social science journal; his editorial duties allowed him to reestablish the contacts with friends and academic colleagues he had lost during the years of his illness.
In 1904, his former colleague from Goettingen, Hugo Muensterberg, now at Harvard, invited him to read a paper before a Congress of Arts and Sciences in St. Louis. The lecture he delivered there, on the social structure of Germany, was the first he had given in six and a half years. Weber subsequently traveled through America for over three months and was deeply impressed with the characteristics of American civilization. The roots of many later conceptions on the part played by the Protestant sects in the emergence of capitalism, on the organization of political machines, on bureaucracy, and even on the role of the Presidency in the American political structure can be traced to his stay in America.
From Coser, 1977:237-239.
Upon his return to Heidelberg, Weber resumed a full writing career, but he returned to teaching only in the last few years of his life. His intellectual output was now again astonishing. His methodological writings, the most important of which are translated in Max Weber on the Methodology of the Social Sciences, date from these years. The Protestant Ethic was published in 1905. There followed in 1906 several important studies on the political developments in Russia after the revolution of 1905. In 1908 and 1909 he did a major empirical study in the social psychology of industrial work and of factory workers. In these years he also participated actively in academic conventions and spoke at political meetings. In 1910 he became the co-founder, with Toennies and Simmel, of the German Sociological Society. He remained its secretary for several years and decisively influenced its initial program of study.
Before World War I, Weber's home in Heidelberg became the center for richly stimulating and varied intellectual gatherings. The Webers for a time shared their home with Ernst Troeltsch. Sociologists Simmel, Michels, and Sombart, and among the younger generation, Paul Honigsheim and Kurt Loewenstein, were frequent visitors, as were the philosophers Emil Lask, Wilhelm Windelband, and Heinrich Rickert, the literary critic and historian Friedrich Gundolf, and the psychiatrist-philosopher Karl Jaspers. Young radical philosophers like Ernst Bloch and Georg Lukacs were to join the circle shortly before the war.
When the World War broke out, Weber, in accord with his nationalist convictions, volunteered for service. As a reserve officer, he was commissioned to establish and run nine military hospitals in the Heidelberg area. He retired from this position in the fall of 1915.
After having said initially that, "In spite of all, this is a great and wonderful war," Weber lost his illusions. He now devoted much of his time to writing memoranda and to seeking to influence government officials, as a kind of self-appointed prophet of doom. He attacked the conduct of the war and the ineptitudes of Germany's leadership. He was particularly enraged by the increasing reliance on submarine warfare, which, he prophesied, would bring America into the war and lead to eventual defeat. He was not a principled enemy of the war, yet he urged limited war aims and restraints on the industrialists and the Junker forces of the Right, whose imperialist ambitions were wide ranging. He advocated the extension of peace feelers, especially in the direction of the English.
The established powers never availed themselves of Weber's advice and he was driven to a paroxysm of loathing and despair about the current German leadership. Articles urging a change in the whole political structure of Germany, the development of responsible parliamentary government, restrictions on the powers of the Kaiser and the Chancellor led the government to consider prosecuting him for the crime of lese majeste. The reliable nationalist of yesterday seemed to come perilously close to the Vaterlandslosen Gesellen, the enemies of the fatherland, on the pacifist and "defeatist" Left.
When the sailors mutinied at Kiel on November 3, 1918, and gave the signal for the German revolution, Weber's first reaction was negative. He called the revolution a bloody carnival. But he soon rallied to it and attempted to develop the basis for a liberal German polity.
Earlier in 1918 Weber had for the first time in many years lectured for a full semester at the University of Vienna; a year later he accepted a call to the University of Munich where he began to lecture in the middle of the year. His well-known lectures, Science as a Vocation and Politics as a Vocation, were first delivered to an audience of students at Munich in 1919, and bear all the marks of his attempt to define his major political and intellectual orientation in a time of revolutionary upheaval.
In the last three years of his life, 1918-20, Weber developed an astounding political activity. He wrote a number of major newspaper articles, memoranda, and papers on the politics of the hour. He was a founding member of and active campaigner for the newly organized Deutsche Demokratische Partei; he served as an adviser to the German delegation to the Versailles peace conference; he had an active hand in the preliminary work of writing a new German constitution; he addressed student assemblies and academic groups alike and endeavored, in the revolutionary turmoil of these days, to define a rational-democratic orientation, opposed alike to the right-wing excesses of the enemies of the Republic and the revolutionary chiliasm of some of his young friends of the Left. He attempted to establish close contacts with the Social Democratic movement, but the man who had committed the sacrilege of calling the revolution a bloody carnival never managed to overcome the opposition of most left-wing politicians. As a result, proposals to have him join the government or to make him a candidate for the Presidency of the Republic came to naught. Party bureaucrats could only be suspicious of a man who, though he had shifted from monarchist to republican loyalties, continued to be highly critical of party machines and openly hankered for some decisive charismatic breakthrough that would put an end to the reign of mediocrities.
During the war years, Weber put the finishing touches to his work on the sociology of religion. The Religion of China and The Religion of India were published in 1916, and Ancient Judaism appeared a year later. During this period, and in the immediate postwar years, Weber also worked on his magnum opus, Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft (Economy and Society). Although he was not able to complete this work, what he finished was published posthumously, as were his last series of lectures at Munich, entitled General Economic History.
From Coser, 1977:240-242.
Early in June 1920, Weber developed a high fever, and at first it was thought that he suffered from the flu. The illness was later diagnosed as pneumonia, but it was too late. He died on June 14th.
The last fevered words of the man whose physical appearance was once compared by a contemporary to that of Albrecht Durer's gaunt knights, were: "The Truth is the Truth." Weber indeed had much in common with those Germanic cultural heroes who battled for what they considered justice and truth, unconcerned with what lesser souls might consider the demands of expediency. He was a man in the tradition of Luther's "Here I stand, I can do no other," even though at times it would almost appear to his contemporaries that he had more in common with Don Quixote.
In all circumstances Weber remained fiercely independent in his political stand, refusing to bend to any ideological line. He was the man who advocated after the lost war that the first Polish official to set foot in the city of Danzig should be shot, thus appearing to support the politics of the right; he was also the man who pressed for the execution of the right-wing assassin of Kurt Eisner, the socialist leader of Bavaria's revolutionary government. He was the man who hated Ludendorff, the detested head of the general staff, yet toyed with the idea of defending him after the war against what he considered unjust accusations and even attempted to convert him to his version of plebiscitarian democracy.
Wherever he perceived an injustice, Weber entered the arena like a wrathful prophet castigating his fellows for their moral sloth, their lack of conviction, their sluggish sense of justice. When the academic powers refused to recognize the merit of a Sombart or a Simmel or a Michels, Weber rose passionately to their defense, even risking old friendships, when he felt that certain of his colleagues were moved by expediency in refusing professorships to Jews or political radicals. When Russians, Poles, and Eastern Jewish students were shunned by respectable German professors, Weber gathered them around himself and invited them to him home. When, during the war, pacifists and political radicals like the poet Ernst Toller were being persecuted, he asked them to his famous Sunday open house. Later, when Toller was arrested, Weber testified for him in a military court and succeeded in having him releases. When anti-Semitic, right-wing students in Munich insulted a Jewish student, Weber got hold of their leader and insisted that he apologize immediately. When a friend of his, Frieda Gross, had a love affair with a Swiss anarchist and was threatened with losing the custody of her children, Weber fought in the courts for over a year to defend her maternal rights. When Ernst Troeltsch refused during the war, in his capacity as administrator of a military hospital, to permit French prisoners to be visited by Germans, Weber denounced this as a "wretched case of chauvinism" and broke off relations with his old friend.
Always and everywhere, Weber followed only the call of his own demon, refusing to be bridled by political expediency. He was first and foremost his own man. Although he repeatedly entered the political arena, he was not truly a political man--if we define such a man (as Weber himself did) as one who is able to make compromises in the pursuit of his aims. Weber has written that the true politician feels "passionate devotion to a 'cause,' to the god or demon who is overlord." This passion he possessed in full measure; but the concomitant sense of "distant to things and men" did not characterize his political actions, although it is very much in evidence in his scholarly work. As a result, Weber found himself isolated in his political activities. He never qualified as "a good party man." His open nationalism of the Freiburg days antagonized his old-fashioned liberal friends, while his attacks on the Prussian Junkers made him the bete noire of the conservatives. His dire prophecy that socialism would hasten the trend toward bureaucratization, rather than bring the promised freedom from necessity, alienated him from the Social Democrats despite his sympathy for the labor unions and his admiration for the sober virtues of skilled German workmen. His passionate attacks against Kaiser Wilhelm and his entourage, his violent outbursts against the leadership in the war effort, endeared him to the pacifist and radical left, whose trust he yet failed to gain after he characterized the revolution as a bloody carnival.
How could Weber, the exponent of "disenchantment" and "the ethic of responsibility," the German patriot and life-long admirer of the innerworldly asceticism of the Protestant Ethic feel himself drawn to rebels and outcasts? Why could the dispassionate and disciplined author of Science as a Vocation not hide his sympathies for passionate bohemians or Tolsotyan mystics? These questions become clearer after examining the context of his Germany and considering more fully his involvement in its politics.
From Coser, 1977:242-243.
Max Weber conceived of sociology as a comprehensive science of social action. In his analytical focus on individual human actors he differed from many of his predecessors whose sociology was conceived in social-structural terms. Spencer concentrated on the evolution of the body social as analogous to an organism. Durkheim's central concern was with institutional arrangements that maintain the cohesion of social structures. Marx's vision of society was informed by his preoccupation with the conflicts between social classes within changing social structures and productive relations. In contrast, Weber's primary focus was on the subjective meanings that human actors attach to their actions in their mutual orientations within specific social-historical contexts. Behavior devoid of such meaning, Weber argued, falls outside the purview of sociology.
Four major types of social action are distinguished in Weber's sociology. Men may engage in purposeful or goal-oriented rational action (zweckrational); their rational action may be value-oriented (wertrational); they may acto from emotional or affective motivations; or, finally, they may engage in traditional action. Purposeful rationality, in which both goal and means are rationally chosen, is exemplified by the engineer who builds a bridge by the most efficient technique of relating means to ends. Value-oriented rationality is characterized by striving for a substantive goal, which in itself may not be ration--say, the attainment of salvation--but which is nonetheless pursued with rational means--for example, ascetic self-denial in the pursuit of holiness. Affective action is anchored in the emotional state of the actor rather than in the rational weighing of means and ends, as in the case of participants in the religious services of a fundamentalist sect. Finally, traditional action is guided by customary habits of thought, by reliance on "the eternal yesterday;" the behavior of members of an Orthodox Jewish congregation might serve as an example of such action.
This classification of types of action serves Weber in two ways. It permits him to make systematic typological distinctions, as for example between types of authority, and also provides a basis for his investigation of the course of Western historical development. Raymond Aron rightly sees Weber's work as "The paradigm of a sociology which is both historical and systematic."
Weber was primarily concerned with modern Western society, in which, as he saw it, behavior had come to be dominated increasingly by goal-oriented rationality, whereas in earlier periods it tended to be motivated by tradition, affect, or value-oriented rationality. His studies of non-Western societies were primarily designed to highlight this distinctive Western development. Karl Mannheim puts the matter well when he writes, "Max Weber's whole work is in the last analysis directed toward the question 'Which social factors have brought about the rationalization of Western civilization?' " In modern society, Weber argued, whether in the sphere of politics or economics, in the realm of the law and even in interpersonal relationships, the efficient application of means to ends has become predominant and has replaced other springs of social action.
Earlier theorists had attempted to conceive of major historical or evolutionary tendencies of Western society in structural terms: for example, Toennies' conception involved a drift from Gemeinschaft (community) to Gesellschaft (purposive association); Maine's, a shift from status to contract; and Durkheim's, a move from mechanical to organic solidarity. Weber responded to similar concerns by proposing that the basic distinguishing marks of modern Western man were best viewed in terms of characteristic shifts in human action that are associated with characteristic shifts in the social and historical situation. Unwilling to commit himself either to a "materialistic" or an "idealistic" interpretation of history, Weber's ultimate unit of analysis remained the concrete acting person.
Interpretative sociology considers the individual and his action as the basic unit, as its "atom." . . . The individual is . . . the upper limit and the sole carrier of meaningful conduct. . . . Such concepts as "state," "association," "feudalism," and the like, designate certain categories of human interaction. Hence it is the task of sociology to reduce these concepts to "understandable" action, that is without exception, to the actions of participating individual men.
Weber's focus on the mutual orientation of social actors and on the "understandable" motives of their actions was anchored in methodological considerations, which account for much of the distinctiveness of his approach.
From Coser, 1977:217-219.
Weber rejected both the positivist contention that the cognitive aims of the natural and the social sciences were basically the same and the opposing German historicist doctrine that in the realm of Kultur and Geist (that is, in the domain of history) it is impossible to make legitimate generalizations because human actions are not subject to the regularities that govern the world of nature. Against the historicists Weber argued that the method of science, whether its subject matter be things or men, always proceeds by abstraction and generalization. Against the positivists, he took the stand that man, in contrast to things, could be understood not only in external manifestations, that is, in behavior, but also in the underlying motivations. And against both these approaches Weber emphasized the value-bound problem choices of the investigator and the value-neutral methods of social research.
According to Weber, differences between the natural sciences and the social sciences arise from differences in the cognitive intentions of the investigator, not from the alleged inapplicability of scientific and generalizing methods to the subject matter of human action. What distinguishes the natural and social sciences is not an inherent difference in methods of investigation, but rather the differing interests and aims of the scientist. Both types of science involve abstraction. The richness of the world of facts, both in nature and in history, is such that a total explanation in either realm is doomed to fail. Even in physics it is impossible to predict future events in all their concrete detail. No one, for example, can calculate in advance the dispersion of the fragments of an exploding shell. Prediction becomes possible only within a system of conceptualizations that excludes concern for those concrete facts not caught in the net of abstractions. Both the natural and the social sciences must abstract from the manifold aspects of reality; they always involve selection.
The natural scientist is primarily interested in those aspects of natural events that can be formulated in terms of abstract laws. While the social scientist may wish to search for such lawful abstract generalizations in human behavior, he is also interested in particular qualities of human actors and in the meaning they ascribe to their actions. Any scientific method must make a selection from the infinite variety of empirical reality. When the social scientist adopts a generalizing method, he abstracts from random unique aspects of the reality he considers; concrete individual actions are conceived as "cases" or "instances," which are subsumed under theoretical generalizations. The individualizing approach, in contrast, neglects generic elements and concentrates attention on particular features of phenomena or concrete historical actors. Both methods are defensible, provided neither is alleged to encompass phenomena in their totality. Neither method is privileged or inherently superior to the other.
What particular problem attracts a scholar, and what level of explanation is sought, depends, Weber argues, on the values and interests of the investigator. The choice of problems is always "value relevant." "There is no absolutely 'objective' scientific analysis of culture or . . . of 'social phenomena' independent of special and 'one-sided' viewpoints according to which-- expressly or tacitly, consciously or unconsciously--they are selected, analyzed and organized for expository purposes." What is considered "worthy to be known" depends upon the perspective of the inquiring scholar. Hence there is no insurmountable chasm between the procedures of the natural and the social scientist, but they differ in their cognitive intentions and explanatory projects.
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."
The notion of interpretative understanding did not originate with Weber. It was first advanced by the historian Droysen and was used extensively by such scholars as Dilthey. But for them the method was meant to extol intuition over rational-causal explanation. Weber, in contrast, saw in it only a preliminary step in the establishment of causal relationships. The grasping of subjective meaning of an activity, Weber argued, is facilitated through empathy (Einfuehlung) and a reliving (Nacherbleben) of the experience to be analyzed. But any interpretative explanation (verstehende Erklaerung) must become a causal explanation if it is to reach the dignity of a scientific proposition. Verstehen and causal explanation are correlative rather than opposed principles of method in the social sciences. Immediate intuitions of meaning can be transformed into valid knowledge only if they can be incorporated into theoretical structures that aim at causal explanation.
Against the objection that this manner of interpretation is subject to the danger of contamination from the values held by the scientific investigator, Weber countered that interpretations can be submitted to the test of evidence. This, he argued, is to be distinguished from the fact that the choice of subject matter--as distinct from the choice of interpretation--stems from the investigator's value orientation, which may be the case with the natural scientist as well.
Weber insisted that a value element inevitable entered into the selection of the problem an investigator chooses to attack. There are no intrinsically scientific criteria for the selection of topics; here every man must follow his own demon, his own moral stance, but this in no way invalidates the objectivity of the social sciences. The question of whether a statement is true of false is logically distinct from that of its relevance to values. Wertbeziehung (value relevance) touches upon the selection of the problem, not upon the interpretation of phenomena. As Parsons put it, "Once a phenomenon is descriptively given, the establishment of causal relations between it and either its antecedents or its consequences is possible only through the application, explicitly or implicitly, of a formal schema of proof that is independent of any value system, except the value of scientific proof." Hence, the relativity of value orientations leading to different cognitive choices has nothing to do with questions of scientific validity. What are relativized in this view are not the findings but the problems.
Value relevance must be distinguished from value-neutrality, since they refer to two different orders of ideas. In the first place, ethical neutrality implies that once the social scientist had chosen his problem in terms of its relevance to his values, he must hold values--his own or those of others--in abeyance while he follows the guidelines his data reveal. He cannot impose his values on the data and he is compelled to pursue his line of inquiry whether or not the results turn out to be inimical to what he holds dear. A geneticist of liberal persuasion, for example, should not abandon his line of inquiry if his findings suggest that differences in intelligence are associated with biological traits. Value neutrality, in this first meaning of the term, refers to the normative injunction that men of science should be governed by the ethos of science in their role as scientists, but emphatically not in their role as citizens.
In addition, value neutrality refers no less importantly to another order of considerations; the disjunction between the world of facts and the world of values, the impossibility of deriving "ought statements" from "is statements." An empirical science, Weber contended, can never advise anyone what he should do, though it may help him to clarify for himself what he can or wants to do.
The scientific treatment of value judgments may not only understand and empatically analyze the desired ends and the ideals which underline them; it can also "judge" them critically. This criticism can. . . be no more than a formal logical judgment of historically given value judgments and ideas, a testing of the ideals according to the postulate of the internal consistency of the desired end. . . . It can assist [the acting person] in becoming aware of the ultimate standards of value which he does not make explicit to himself, or which he must presuppose in order to be logical. . . . As to whether the person expressing these value judgments should adhere to these ultimate standards is his personal affair; it involves will and conscience, not empirical knowledge.
Weber was fundamentally at odds with those who argued for a morality based on science. In this respect he was as opposed to Durkheim as he would be to those psychoanalysts today who claim they have a scientific warranty to counsel "adjustment" or "self-actualization," as the case may be, to their patients.
The scientist qua scientist can evaluate the probable consequences of courses of action, Weber believed, but he cannot make value judgments. Weber had an austere view of science. "Science today," he wrote, "is a 'vocation' organized in special disciplines in the service of self-clarification and knowledge of interrelated facts. It is not the gift of grace of seers and prophets dispensing sacred values and revelations, nor does it partake of the contemplation of sages and philosophers about the meaning of the universe." The realm of moral values, Weber believed, was a realm of warring gods demanding allegiance to contradictory ethical notions. The scientist qua scientist, therefore, could have no answer to the Tolstoian question, "What shall we do?" "Academic prophecy . . . will create only fanatical sects," Weber believed, "but never a genuine community." The scientist should not hanker after leadership over men; he finds dignity and fulfillment in the quest for truth. When Weber was once asked why he undertook his wide-ranging studies, he replied: "I wish to know how much I can take."
From Coser, 1977:219-222.
In his effort to escape from the individualizing and particularizing approach of German Geisteswissenschaft and historicism, Weber developed a key conceptual tool, the notion of the ideal type. It will be recalled that Weber argued that no scientific system is ever capable of reproducing all concrete reality, nor can any conceptual apparatus ever do full justice to the infinite diversity of particular phenomena. All science involves selection as well as abstraction. Yet the social scientist can easily be caught in a dilemma when he chooses his conceptual apparatus. When his concepts are very general--as when he attempts to explain capitalism or Protestantism by subsuming them under the general concepts of economics or religion--he is likely to leave out what is most distinctive to them. When, on the other hand, he uses the traditional conceptualizations of the historian and particularizes the phenomenon under discussion, he allows no room for comparison with related phenomena. The notion of the ideal type was meant to provide escape from this dilemma.
An ideal type is an analytical construct that serves the investigator as a measuring rod to ascertain similarities as well as deviations in concrete cases. It provides the basic method for comparative study. "An ideal type is formed by the one-sided accentuation of one or more points of view and by the synthesis of a great many diffuse, discrete, more or less present and occasionally absent concrete individual phenomena, which are arranged according to those one-sidedly emphasized viewpoints into a unified anlaytical construct." An ideal type is not meant to refer to moral ideals. There can be an ideal type of a brothel or of a chapel. Nor did Weber mean to refer to statistical averages. Average Protestants in a given region or at a give time may be quite different from ideal typical Protestants. The ideal type involves an accentuation of typical courses of conduct. Many of Weber's ideal types refer to collectivities rather than to the social actions of individuals, but social relationships within collectivities are always built upon the probability that component actors will engage in expected social actions. An ideal type never corresponds to concrete reality but always moves at least one step away from it. It is constructed out of certain elements of reality and forms a logically precise and coherent whole, which can never be found as such in that reality. There has never been a full empirical embodiment of the Protestant Ethic, of the "charismatic leader," or of the "exemplary prophet."
Ideal types enable one to construct hypotheses linking them with the conditions that brought the phenomenon or event into prominence, or with consequences that follow from its emergence. If we wish to study the religious roots of modern capitalism, it may be advisable to construct an ideal type of Protestant, based on the distinct features of sectarians as these emerged during the Reformation. We shall then be in a position to determine empirically whether the concrete conduct of Protestants in, say, seventeenth-century England did in fact approximate the type and in what specific aspects it failed to do so. This type will further allow us to distinguish between the conduct of men who adhered to Catholic or Protestant religious bodies. We can then proceed to correlations and causal imputations as to the connections between the emergence of Protestantism and that of modern capitalism--both being conceived in ideal typical terms. As Julien Freund puts it, "Being unreal, the ideal type has the merit of offering us a conceptual device with which we can measure real development and clarify the most important elements of empirical reality."
Weber's three kinds of ideal types are distinguished by their levels of abstraction. First are the ideal types rooted in historical particularities, such as the "western city," "the Protestant Ethic," or "modern capitalism," which refer to phenomena that appear only in specific historical periods and in particular cultural areas. A second kind involves abstract elements of social reality--such concepts as "bureaucracy" or "feudalism"--that may be found in a variety of historical and cultural contexts. Finally, there is a third kind of ideal type, which Raymond Aron calls "rationalizing reconstructions of a particular kind of behavior." According to Weber, all propositions in economic theory, for example, fall into this category. They all refer to the ways in which men would behave were they actuated by purely economic motives, were they purely economic men.
From Coser, 1977:223-224.
It is sometimes argued that, in tune with the German idealistic tradition, Weber rejected the notion of causality in human affairs. This is emphatically not the case. Weber firmly believed in both historical and sociological causality, but--and this may have given rise to misunderstandings--he expressed causality in terms of probability. Such stress on chance or probability, however, has nothing to do with an insistence on free will or the unpredictability of human behavior. Weber argued, for example, that human action was truly unpredictable only in the case of the insane, and that "we associate the highest measure of an empirical 'feeling of freedom' with those actions which we are conscious of performing rationally." This sense of subjective freedom, far from being rooted in unpredictability and irrationality, arises precisely in those situations that can be rationally predicted and mastered. Hence, Weber's notion of probability or chance is not based in some kind of metaphysics of free will but derives from his recognition of the extreme difficulties in making entirely exhaustive causal imputations. Objective empirical certainty in social research seemed to him hardly ever attainable. The best one can do, he concluded, is to follow a variety of causal chains that have helped determine the object under study.
When Weber uses the notion of probability in his definitional statements--for example, in defining a relationship as existing "in so far as there is a probability that" a certain norm of behavior will be adhered to--he responds to similar considerations. Probability is here taken to mean that in all likelihood men involved in a certain context will orient their behavior in terms of normative expectations. But this is always probable and never certain because it can also be assumed that for some actors the chains of causality peculiar to their unique social relationships will lead to departure from the expected probability.
It is convenient to distinguish two directions in Weber's view of causality--historical and sociological. "Historical causality determines the unique circumstances that have given rise to an event. Sociological causality assumes the establishment of a regular relationship between two phenomena, which need not take the form 'A makes B inevitable,' but may take the form 'A is more or less favorable to B.' " The quest for historical causality asks the question: What are the causes of the Bolshevik revolution? The search for sociological causality involves questioning the economic, the demographic, or the specifically social causes of all revolutions or of particular ideal types of revolutions.
The quest for historical causes, Weber pointed out, was facilitated by what has been called mental experiments. When we learn that two shots fired in Berlin in 1848 started the revolution of 1848, we must ask whether the revolution would have taken place had these shots not been fired. If we conclude that it would have started in any case, we can rule out these shots as causes of the subsequent revolutionary development. When we ask whether the Battle of Marathon was a major causal event for the subsequent history of Hellenic civilization, we must perform the mental experiment of envisaging Greece dominated by the Persians. Such an experiment will convince us that had the Athenians lost the battle, a Persian Greece would have been a basically different society. We can then conclude as to the probability that the outcome of the Battle of Marathon, by guaranteeing the independence of the city-states, was indeed a major causal factor in the subsequent development of Greek civilization.
The assessment of the historical significance of an historical fact will begin with the posing of the following question: In the event of the exclusion of that fact from the complex of the factors which are taken into account as co-determinants, or in the event of its modification in a certain direction, could the course of events, in accordance with general empirical rules, have taken a direction in any way different in any features which would be decisive for our interest?
To determine sociological causality, Weber argues, also requires operating within a probabilistic framework. This type of generalization attempts to establish, for example, that the emergence of capitalism required a certain type of personality largely shaped by the preachments of Calvinist divines. The proof of the proposition comes when, either through mental experiment or through comparative study in other cultures, it is established that modern capitalism could probably not develop without such personalities; therefore, Calvinism must be considered a cause, though emphatically not the cause, of the rise of capitalism.
This example calls attention to the fact that Weber's methodological reflections served as a tool in his substantive investigations. Yet he was not concerned with methodology for its own sake and, like many another scientist, he did not always follow his own methodological guidelines. Contrary to his nominalistic stress on the acting person as the unit of analysis, he advanced a theory of stratification based largely on structural explanations rather than on a subjective theory of class distinctions.
When explaining the decline of the Roman Empire, he focused on structural changes in Roman agriculture. More importantly still, Weber's life-long preoccupation with the increase of rationality in the modern world was to a considerable extent based on structural considerations, as witness his stress on the separation of the household from the business enterprise as a harbinger of economic rationalization. In all these instances, Weber also provides illustrations pointing to changing motivations of historical actors, yet on balance, structure seems more important than motivation.
Though a number of other examples could be cited where Weber did not apply his methodological injunctions, many more instances in his work reveal that he put his methods to brilliant use in his substantive analysis.
From Coser, 1977:224-226.
Weber's discussion of authority relations--why men claim authority, and feel they have a legitimate right to expect willing obedience to their command--illustrates his use of the ideal type as an analytical tool and his classification of types of social action.
Weber distinguished three main modes of claiming legitimacy. Authority may be based on rational grounds and anchored in impersonal rules that have been legally enacted or contractually established. This type is rational-legal authority, which has increasingly come to characterize hierarchical relations in modern society. Traditional authority, on the other hand, which predominates in pre-modern societies, is based on belief in the sanctity of tradition, of "the eternal yesterday." It is not codified in impersonal rules but inheres in particular persons who may either inherit it or be invested with it by a higher authority. Charismatic authority, finally, rests on the appeal of leaders who claim allegiance because of their extraordinary virtuosity, whether ethical, heroic, or religious.
It should be kept in mind that here, as elsewhere in his work, Weber was describing pure types; he was aware that in empirical reality mixtures will be found in the legitimation of authority. Although Hitler's domination was based to a considerable extent on his charisma, elements of rational-legal authority remained in the structure of German law, and references to Germanic Volk tradition formed a major element in the appeals of National Socialism.
This typology of various forms of authority relations is important on several counts. Its sociological contribution rests more especially on the fact that Weber, in contrast to many political theorists, conceives of authority in all its manifestations as characteristic of the relation between leaders and followers, rather than as an attribute of the leader alone. Although his notion of charisma may lack rigorous definition, its importance lies in Weber's development of the idea that the leader derives his role from the belief his followers have about his mission.
From Coser, 1977:226-227.
Weber's concern with the meaning actors impute to relationships did not limit him to the study of types of social action. Rather, he used the typology of forms of social action to understand the drift of historical change. It will be remembered that the problems posed by modern civilization were foremost in his mind, and in this connections he conceived the shift from traditional to rational action as crucial. He showed that rational action within a system of rational-legal authority is at the heart of the modern rationalized economy, that is, of the capitalist system. Only within the framework of a rationalized economy can active individuals weigh utility and costs in a rational manner. Weber maintained that the rationalization of economic action can only be realized when traditional notions about just prices or just wages are discarded and a positive ethical sanction is provided for acquisitive activities aimed at maximizing the self-interests of the actor. Such ethical sanction, Weber argued, was provided by the Protestant Ethic, which broke the hold of traditionalism in the realm of economic behavior even while it fostered a spirit of rigorous self-discipline, encouraging men to apply themselves rationally and methodically to the specific tasks they were "called" to perform within the occupational world.
Weber's emphasis on the influence of religious ideas in the emergence of modern capitalism forced him into a running dialogue with the ghost of Karl Marx. He was most respectful of Marx's contributions, yet believed, in tune with his own methodology, that Marx had unduly emphasized one particular causal chain, the one leading from the economic infrastructure to the cultural superstructure. Weber argued that Marx had presented an overly simplified scheme that could not adequately take into account the tangled web of causative influences linking the economy and the social structure to cultural products and human action. Weber refused to see in ideas simple reflections of material interests. He contended instead that developments in the intellectual, psychic, scientific, political, and religious spheres have relative autonomy even though they all mutually influence one another. There is no preestablished harmony between the content of an idea and the material interests of those who become its champion, but an "elective affinity" may arise between the two. Weber's examples are many. In the seventeenth century, such an elective affinity developed between the ideas of the Calvinist divines and the concerns of certain bourgeois or petty-bourgeois strata, whether in England, Scotland or the Lowlands. Confucian ethics did not "express the needs" of the Chinese literati, but these men became the main carriers of Confucian ideas in so far as these were congenial to their life-styles. Or again: landowning warrior classes have an aversion to any form of emotional religiosity and to religions preaching salvation; instead, they are drawn to religious systems in which the gods are conceived as powerful, passionate beings who clash among themselves and are subject to cajolery through sacrifice or to coercion through magical manipulation. Peasants are attracted to nature worship while urban bourgeois strata incline toward Christian piety.
Fascinated as he was by the dynamics of social change, Weber endeavored to create a more flexible interpretative system than Marx had provided. He attempted to show that the relations between systems of ideas and social structures were multiform and varied and that causal connections went in both directions, rather than from infrastructure to superstructure alone. Weber's modification and refinement of the Marxian scheme is likewise evident in his theory of stratification.
From Coser, 1977:227-228.
Weber differed only marginally from Marx when he defined as a class a category of men who (1) "have in common a specific causal component of their life chances in so far as (2) this component is represented exclusively by economic interests in the possession of goods and opportunities for income, and (3) it is represented under the conditions of the commodity or labor market." He was even fairly close to Marx's view, though not necessarily to those of latter-day Marxists, when he stated that class position does not necessarily lead to class-determined economic or political action. He argued that communal class action will emerge only if and when the "connections between the causes and the consequences of the 'class situation' " become transparent; Marx would have said when a class becomes conscious of its interests, that is, of its relation, as a class, to other classes. Yet Weber's theory of stratification differs from that of Marx in that he introduced an additional structural category, that of "status group."
Classification of men into such groups is based on their consumption patterns rather than on their place in the market or in the process of production. Weber thought Marx had overlooked the relevance of such categorization because of his exclusive attention to the productive sphere. In contrast to classes, which may or may not be communal groupings, status groups are normally communities, which are held together by notions of proper life-styles and by the social esteem and honor accorded to them by others. Linked with this are expectations of restrictions on social intercourse with those not belonging to the circle and assumed social distance toward inferiors. In this typology we again find Weber's sociological notion of a social category as dependent on the definition that others give to social relationships. A status group can exist only to the extent that others accord its members prestige or degrading, which removes them from the rest of social actors and establishes the necessary social distance between "them" and "us."
Empirically there are fairly high correlations between standing in the class and in the status order. Especially i capitalist society, the economically ascendant class will, in the course of time, also acquire high status; yet in principle, propertied and propertyless people may belong to the same status group. At certain times, an economically weak element, such as the East Elbian Junkers, may exercise considerable influence and power because of its preeminent status. Generally, as much pos-Weberian analysis of American politics has shown, political behavior may at times be influenced by men who are fearful of losing their status or who bridle at not having been accorded a status they think is their due; such influence may be as powerful as class-determined modes of political behavior.
In Weber's view every society is divided into groupings and strata with distinctive life-styles and views of the world, just as it is divided into distinctive classes. While at times status as well as class groupings may conflict, at others their members may accept fairly stable patterns of subordination and superordination.
With this twofold classification of social stratification, Weber lays the groundwork for an understanding of pluralistic forms of social conflict in modern society and helps to explain why only in rare cases are such societies polarized into the opposing camps of the "haves" and the "have-nots." He has done much to explain why Marx's exclusively class-centered scheme failed to predict correctly the shape of things to come in modern pluralistic societies.
In regard to the analysis of power in society, Weber again introduces a pluralistic notion. Although he agrees with Marx in crucial respects, he refines and extends Marx's analytical scheme. For Marx, power is always rooted, even in only in the "last analysis," in economic relations. Those who own the means of production exercise political power either directly or indirectly. Weber agreed that quite often, especially in the modern capitalist world, economic power is the predominant form. But he objects that "the emergence of economic power may be the consequence of power existing on other grounds." For example, men who are able to command large-scale bureaucratic organizations may wield a great deal of economic power even though they are only salaried employees.
Weber understands by power: the chance of a man, or a number of men "to realize their own will in communal action, even against the resistance of others." He shows that the basis from which such power can be exercised may vary considerably according to the social context, that is, historical and structural circumstance. Hence, where the source of power is located becomes for Weber an empirical question, one that cannot be answered by what he considers Marx's dogmatic emphasis on one specific source. Moreover, Weber argues, men do not only strive for power to enrich themselves. "Power, including economic power, may be valued 'for its own sake.' Very frequently the striving for power is also conditioned by the social 'honor' it entails."
From Coser, 1977:228-230.
Weber's interest in the nature of power and authority, as well as his pervasive preoccupation with modern trends of rationalization, led him to concern himself with the operation of modern large-scale enterprises in the political, administrative, and economic realm. Bureaucratic coordination of activities, he argued, is the distinctive mark of the modern era. Bureaucracies are organized according to rational principles. Offices are ranked in a hierarchical order and their operations are characterized by impersonal rules. Incumbents are governed by methodical allocation of areas of jurisdiction and delimited spheres of duty. Appointments are made according to specialized qualifications rather than ascriptive criteria. This bureaucratic coordination of the actions of large numbers of people has become the dominant structural feature of modern forms of organization. Only through this organizational device has large- scale planning, both for the modern state and the modern economy, become possible. Only through it could heads of state mobilize and centralize resources of political power, which in feudal times, for example, had been dispersed in a variety of centers. Only with its aid could economic resources be mobilized, which lay fallow in pre-modern times. Bureaucratic organization is to Weber the privileged instrumentality that has shaped the modern polity, the modern economy, the modern technology. Bureaucratic types of organization are technically superior to all other forms of administration, much as machine production is superior to handicraft methods.
Yet Weber also noted the dysfunctions of bureaucracy. Its major advantage, the calculability of results, also makes it unwieldy and even stultifying in dealing with individual cases. Thus modern rationalized and bureaucratized systems of law have become incapable of dealing with individual particularities, to which earlier types of justice were well suited. The "modern judge," Weber stated in writing on the legal system of Continental Europe, " is a vending machine into which the pleadings are inserted together with the fee and which then disgorges the judgment together with the reasons mechanically derived from the Code."
Weber argued that the bureaucratization of the modern world has led to its depersonalization.
[The calculability of decision-making] and with it its appropriateness for capitalism . . [is] the more fully realized the more bureaucracy "depersonalizes" itself, i.e., the more completely it succeeds in achieving the exclusion of love, hatred, and every purely personal, especially irrational and incalculable, feeling from the execution of official tasks. In the place of the old-type ruler who is moved by sympathy, favor, grace, and gratitude, modern culture requires for its sustaining external apparatus the emotionally detached, and hence rigorously "professional" expert.
Further bureaucratization and rationalization seemed to Weber an almost inescapable fate.
Imagine the consequences of that comprehensive bureaucratization and rationalization which already today we see approaching. Already now . . . in all economic enterprises run on modern lines, rational calculation is manifest at every stage. By it, the performance of each individual worker is mathematically measured, each man becomes a little cog in the machine and, aware of this, his one preoccupation is whether he can become a bigger cog. . . . It is apparent today we are proceeding towards an evolution which resembles [the ancient kingdom of Egypt] in every detail, except that it is built on other foundations, on technically more perfect, more rationalized, and therefore much more mechanized foundations. The problem which besets us now in not: how can this evolution be changed?--for that is impossible, but: what will come of it?
Weber's views about the inescapable rationalization and bureaucratization of the world have obvious similarities to Marx's notion of alienation. Both men agree that modern methods of organization have tremendously increased the effectiveness and efficiency of production and organization and have allowed an unprecedented domination of man over the world of nature. They also agree that the new world of rationalized efficiency has turned into a monster that threatens to dehumanize its creators. But Weber disagrees with Marx when the latter sees alienation as only a transitional stage on the road to man's true emancipation. Weber does not believe in the future leap from the realm of necessity into the world of freedom. Even though he would permit himself upon occasion the hope that some charismatic leader might arise to deliver mankind from the curse of its own creation, he thought it more probable that the future would be an "iron cage" rather than a Garden of Eden.
There is yet another respect in which Weber differed from, or rather enlarged upon, Marx. In accord with his focus on the sphere of economic production, Marx had documented in great detail how the capitalist industrial organization led tot eh expropriation of the worker form the means of production; how the modern industrial worker, in contrast to the artisan of the handicraft era, did not own his own tools and was hence forced to sell his labor to those who controlled him. Agreeing with most of this analysis, Weber countered with the observation that such expropriation from the means of work was an inescapable result of any system of rationalized and centrally coordinated production, rather than being a consequence of capitalism as such. Such expropriation would characterize a socialist system of production just as much as it would the capitalist form. Moreover, Weber argued, Marx's nearly exclusive concern with the productive sphere led him to overlook the possibility that the expropriation of the workers from the means of production was only a special case of a more general phenomenon in modern society where scientists are expropriated from the means of research, administrators from the means of administration, and warriors from the means of violence. He further contended that in all relevant spheres of modern society men could no longer engage in socially significant action unless they joined a large-scale organization in which they were allocated specific tasks and to which they were admitted only upon condition they they sacrificed their personal desires and predilections to the impersonal goals and procedures that governed the whole.
From Coser, 1977:230-233.
The world of modernity, Weber stressed over and over again, has been deserted by the gods. Man has chased them away and has rationalized and made calculable and predictable what in an earlier age had seemed governed by chance, but also by feeling, passion, and commitment, by personal appeal and personal fealty, by grace and by the ethics of charismatic heroes.
Weber attempted to document this development in a variety of institutional areas. His studies in the sociology of religion were meant to trace the complicated and tortuous ways in which the gradual "rationalization of religious life" had led to the displacement of magical procedure by wertrational systematizations of man's relation to the divine. He attempted to show how prophets with their charismatic appeals had undermined priestly powers based on tradition; how with the emergence of "book religion" the final systematization and rationalization of the religious sphere had set in, which found its culmination in the Protestant Ethic.
In the sphere of law, Weber documented a similar course from a "Kadi Justiz," the personalized dispensing of justice by wise leaders or elders, to the codified, rationalized, and impersonal justice of the modern world. He traced the development of political authority from kings endowed with hereditary charisma and thaumaturgical powers, to cool heads of state, ruling within the strict limits of legal prescriptions and rationally enacted law. Even so private an area of experience as music, Weber contended, was not exempt from the rationalizing tendencies of Western society. In his writings on the sociology of music Weber contrasted the concise notations and the well-tempered scale of modern music--the rigorous standardization and coordination that governs a modern symphony orchestra--with the spontaneity and inventiveness of the musical systems of Asia or of nonliterate tribes.
In his methodological writings, as we have seen, Weber strenuously objected to any interpretation of human history that subjected such history to an ineluctable driving force. He argued that society must be considered as a delicate balance of multiple opposing forces, so that w war, a revolution, or even an heroic leader might succeed in throwing the total balance in favor of a particular outcome. This is why he almost always made his statements in probabilistic terms. Nevertheless, when it came to the trends toward rationalization and bureaucratization of modern society, Weber tended to throw much of his usual analytic caution to the winds and to assert that the chances were very great indeed that mankind would in the future be imprisoned in an iron cage of its own making. In this respect, his message is thus fundamentally at variance with that of most of his nineteenth-century forebears. He is not a prophet of glad tidings to come but a harbinger of doom and disaster.
It would be pointless to attempt to summarize a work that is as amazing in its diversity as it is overwhelming in its breadth. It suffices to state explicitly what must already be apparent: Weber's work is a crucial landmark in the history of the social sciences.
There is a pre-Weberian and a post-Weberian sociology. All contemporary or near-contemporary sociology shows the impact of his genius. Even those who cannot share his pessimistic prognosis or his somewhat romantic beliefs in the saving grace of charismatic heroes can profit from the fruits of his powerful analytical labors.
From Coser, 1977:233-234.
Max Weber, Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft, part III, chap. 6, pp. 650-78.
MODERN officialdom functions in the following specific manner:
I. There is the principle of fixed and official jurisdictional areas, which are generally ordered by rules, that is, by laws or administrative regulations.
1. The regular activities required for the purposes of the bureaucratically governed structure are distributed in a fixed way as official duties.
2. The authority to give the commands required for the discharge of these duties is distributed in a stable way and is strictly delimited by rules concerning the coercive means, physical, sacerdotal, or otherwise, which may be placed at the disposal of officials.
3. Methodical provision is made for the regular and continuous fulfilment of these duties and for the execution of the corresponding rights; only persons who have the generally regulated qualifications to serve are employed.
In public and lawful government these three elements constitute 'bureaucratic authority.' In private economic domination, they constitute bureaucratic 'management.' Bureaucracy, thus understood, is fully developed in political and ecclesiastical communities only in the modern state, and, in the private economy, only in the most advanced institutions of capitalism. Permanent and public office authority, with fixed jurisdiction, is not the historical rule but rather the exception. This is so even in large political structures such as those of the ancient Orient, the Germanic and Mongolian empires of conquest, or of many feudal structures of state. In all these cases, the ruler executes the most important measures through personal trustees, table-companions, or court-servants. Their commissions and authority are not precisely delimited and are temporarily called into being for each case.
II. The principles of office hierarchy and of levels of graded authority mean a firmly ordered system of super- and subordination in which there is a supervision of the lower offices by the higher ones. Such a system offers the governed the possibility of appealing the decision of a lower office to its higher authority, in a definitely regulated manner. With the full development of the bureaucratic type, the office hierarchy is monocratically organized. The principle of hierarchical office authority is found in all bureaucratic structures: in state and ecclesiastical structures as well as in large party organizations and private enterprises. It does not matter for the character of bureaucracy whether its authority is called 'private' or 'public.'
When the principle of jurisdictional 'competency' is fully carried through, hierarchical subordination--at least in public office--does not mean that the 'higher' authority is simply authorized to take over the business of the 'lower.' Indeed, the opposite is the rule. Once established and having fulfilled its task, an office tends to continue in existence and be held by another incumbent.
III. The management of the modern office is based upon written documents ('the files'), which are preserved in their original or draught form. There is, therefore, a staff of subaltern officials and scribes of all sorts. The body of officials actively engaged in a 'public' office, along with the respective apparatus of material implements and the files, make up a 'bureau.' In private enterprise, 'the bureau' is often called 'the office.'
In principle, the modern organization of the civil service separates the bureau from the private domicile of the official, and, in general, bureaucracy segregates official activity as something distinct from the sphere of private life. Public monies and equipment are divorced from the private property of the official. This condition is everywhere the product of a long development. Nowadays, it is found in public as well as in private enterprises; in the latter, the principle extends even to the leading entrepreneur. In principle, the executive office is separated from the household, business from private correspondence, and business assets from private fortunes. The more consistently the modern type of business management has been carried through the more are these separations the case. The beginnings of this process are to be found as early as the Middle Ages.
It is the peculiarity of the modern entrepreneur that he conducts himself as the 'first official' of his enterprise, in the very same way in which the ruler of a specifically modern bureaucratic state spoke of himself as 'the first servant' of the state. The idea that the bureau activities of the state are intrinsically different in character from the management of private economic offices is a continental European notion and, by way of contrast, is totally foreign to the American way.
IV. Office management, at least all specialized office management-- and such management is distinctly modern--usually presupposes thorough and expert training. This increasingly holds for the modern executive and employee of private enterprises, in the same manner as it holds for the state official.
V. When the office is fully developed, official activity demands the full working capacity of the official, irrespective of the fact that his obligatory time in the bureau may be firmly delimited. In the normal case, this is only the product of a long development, in the public as well as in the private office. Formerly, in all cases, the normal state of affairs was reversed: official business was discharged as a secondary activity.
VI. The management of the office follows general rules, which are more or less stable, more or less exhaustive, and which can be learned. Knowledge of these rules represents a special technical learning which the officials possess. It involves jurisprudence, or administrative or business management.
The reduction of modern office management to rules is deeply embedded in its very nature. The theory of modern public administration, for instance, assumes that the authority to order certain matters by decree--which has been legally granted to public authorities--does not entitle the bureau to regulate the matter by commands given for each case, but only to regulate the matter abstractly. This stands in extreme contrast to the regulation of all relationships through individual privileges and bestowals of favor, which is absolutely dominant in patrimonialism, at least in so far as such relationships are not fixed by sacred tradition.
IN the title of this study is used the somewhat pretentious phrase, the spirit of capitalism. What is to be understood by it? The attempt to give anything like a definition of it brings out certain difficulties which are in the very nature of this type of investigation.
If any object can be found to which this term can be applied with any understandable meaning, it can only be an historical individual, i.e. a complex of elements associated in historical reality which we unite into a conceptual whole from the standpoint of their cultural significance.
Such an historical concept, however, since it refers in its content to a phenomenon significant for its unique individuality, cannot be defined according to the formula genus proximum, differentia specifica, but it must be gradually put together out of the individual parts which are taken from historical reality to make it up. Thus the final and definitive concept cannot stand at the beginning of the investigation, but must come at the end. We must, in other words, work out in the course of the discussion, as its most important result, the best conceptual formulation of what we here understand by the spirit of capitalism, that is the best from the point of view which interests us here. This point of view (the one of which we shall speak later) is, further, by no means the only possible one from which the historical phenomena we are investigating can be analysed. Other standpoints would, for this as for every historical phenomenon, yield other characteristics as the essential ones. The result is that it is by no means necessary to understand by the spirit of capitalism only what it will come to mean to us for the purposes of our analysis. This is a necessary result of the nature of historical concepts which attempt for their methodological purposes not to grasp historical reality in abstract general formulae, but in concrete genetic sets of relations which are inevitably of a specifically unique and individual characters
Thus, if we try to determine the object, the analysis and historical explanation of which we are attempting, it cannot be in the form of a conceptual definition, but at least in the beginning only a provisional description of what is here meant by the spirit of capitalism. Such a description is, however, indispensable in order clearly to understand the object of the investigation. For this purpose we turn to a document of that spirit which contains what we are looking for in almost classical purity, and at the same time has the advantage of being free from all direct relationship to religion, being thus, for our purposes, free of preconceptions.
"Remember, that time is money. He that can earn ten shillings a day by his labour, and goes abroad, or sits idle, one half of that day, though he spends but sixpence during his diversion or idleness, ought not to reckon that the only expense; he has really spent, or rather thrown away, five shillings besides.
"Remember, that credit is money. If a man lets his money lie in my hands after it is due, he gives me the interest, or so much as I can make of it during that time. This amounts to a considerable sum where a man has good and large credit, and makes good use of it.
"Remember, that money is of the prolific, generating nature. Money can beget money, and its offspring can beget more, and so on. Five shillings turned is six, turned again it is seven and threepence, and so on, till it becomes a hundred pounds. The more there is of it, the more it produces every turning, so that the profits rise quicker and quicker. He that kills a breeding-sow, destroys all her offspring to the thousandth generation. He that murders a crown, destroys all that it might have produced, even scores of pounds."
"Remember this saying, The good paymaster is lord of another man's purse. He that is known to pay punctually and exactly to the time he promises, may at any time, and on any occasion, raise all the money his friends can spare. This is sometimes of great use. After industry and frugality, nothing contributes more to the raising of a young man in the world than punctuality and justice in all his dealings; therefore never keep borrowed money an hour beyond the time you promised, lest a disappointment shut up your friend's purse for ever.
"The most trifling actions that affect a man's credit are to be regarded. The sound of your hammer at five in the morning, or eight at night, heard by a creditor, makes him easy six months longer; but if he sees you at a billiard-table, or hears your voice at a tavern, when you should be at work, he sends for his money the next day; demands it, before he can receive it, in a lump.
"It shows, besides, that you are mindful of what you owe; it makes you appear a careful as well as an honest man, and that still increases your credit.
"Beware of thinking all your own that you possess, and of living accordingly. It is a mistake that many people who have credit fall into. To prevent this, keep an exact account for some time both of your expenses and your income. If you take the pains at first to mention particulars, it will have this good effect: you will discover how wonderfully small, trifling expenses mount up to large sums, and will discern what might have been, and may for the future be saved, without occasioning any great inconvenience."
"For six pounds a year you may have the use of one hundred pounds, provided you are a man of known prudence and honesty.
"He that spends a groat a day idly, spends idly above six pounds a year, which is the price for the use of one hundred pounds.
"He that wastes idly a groat's worth of his time per day, one day with another, wastes the privilege of using one hundred pounds each day.
"He that idly loses five shillings' worth of time, loses five shillings, and might as prudently throw five shillings into the sea.
"He that loses five shillings, not only loses that sum, but all the advantage that might be made by turning it in dealing, which by the time that a young man becomes old, will amount to a considerable sum of money." 
It is Benjamin Franklin who preaches to us in these sentences, the same which Ferdinand Kurnberger satirizes in his clever and malicious Picture of American Culture  as the supposed confession of faith of the Yankee. That it is the spirit of capitalism which here speaks in characteristic fashion, no one will doubt, however little we may wish to claim that everything which could be understood as pertaining to that spirit is contained in it. Let us pause a moment to consider this passage, the philosophy of which Kurnberger sums up in the words, "They make tallow out of cattle and money out of men". The peculiarity of this philosophy of avarice appears to be the ideal of the honest man of recognized credit, and above all the idea of a duty of the individual toward the increase of his capital, which is assumed as an end in itself. Truly what is here preached is not simply a means of making one's way in the world, but a peculiar ethic. The infraction of its rules is treated not as foolishness but as forgetfulness of duty. That is the essence of the matter. It is not mere business astuteness, that sort of thing is common enough, it is an ethos. This is the quality which interests us.
When Jacob Fugger, in speaking to a business associate who had retired and who wanted to persuade him to do the same, since he had made enough money and should let others have a chance, rejected that as pusillanimity and answered that "he (Fugger) thought otherwise, he wanted to make money as long as he could",  the spirit of his statement is evidently quite different from that of Franklin. What in the former case was an expression of commercial daring and a personal inclination morally neutral,  in the latter takes on the character of an ethically coloured maxim for the conduct of life. The concept spirit of capitalism is here used in this specific sense,  it is the spirit of modern capitalism. For that we are here dealing only with Western European and American capitalism is obvious from the way in which the problem was stated. Capitalism existed in China, India, Babylon, in the classic world, and in the Middle Ages. But in all these cases, as we shall see, this particular ethos was lacking.
Now, all Franklin's moral attitudes are coloured with utilitarianism. Honesty is useful, because it assures credit; so are punctuality, industry, frugality, and that is the reason they are virtues. A logical deduction from this would be that where, for instance, the appearance of honesty serves the same purpose, that would suffice, and an unnecessary surplus of this virtue would evidently appear to Franklin's eyes as unproductive waste. And as a matter of fact, the story in his autobiography of his conversion to those virtues,  or the discussion of the value of a strict maintenance of the appearance of modesty, the assiduous belittlement of one's own deserts in order to gain general recognition later,  confirms this impression. According to Franklin, those virtues, like all others, are only in so far virtues as they are actually useful to the individual, and the surrogate of mere appearance is always sufficient when it accomplishes the end in view. It is a conclusion which is inevitable for strict utilitarianism. The impression of many Germans that the virtues professed by Americanism are pure hypocrisy seems to have been confirmed by this striking case. But in fact the matter is not by any means so simple. Benjamin Franklin's own character, as it appears in the really unusual candidness of his autobiography, belies that suspicion. The circumstance that he ascribes his recognition of the utility of virtue to a divine revelation which was intended to lead him in the path of righteousness, shows that something more than mere garnishing for purely egocentric motives is involved.
In fact, the summum bonum of this ethic, the earning of more and more money, combined with the strict avoidance of all spontaneous enjoyment of life, is above all completely devoid of any eudaemonistic, not to say hedonistic, admixture. It is thought of so purely as an end in itself, that from the point of view of the happiness of, or utility to, the single individual, it appears entirely transcendental and absolutely irrational.  Man is dominated by the making of money, by acquisition as the ultimate purpose of his life. Economic acquisition is no longer subordinated to man as the means for the satisfaction of his material needs. This reversal of what we should call the natural relationship, so irrational from a naive point of view, is evidently as definitely a leading principle of capitalism as it is foreign to all peoples not under capitalistic influence. At the same time it expresses a type of feeling which is closely connected with certain religious ideas. If we thus ask, why should "money be made out of men", Benjamin Franklin himself, although he was a colourless deist, answers in his autobiography with a quotation from the Bible, which his strict Calvinistic father drummed into him again and again in his youth: "Seest thou a man diligent in his business? He shall stand before kings" (Prov. xxii. 29). The earning of money within the modern economic order is, so long as it is done legally, the result and the expression of virtue and proficiency in a calling; and this virtue and proficiency are, as it is now not difficult to see, the real Alpha and Omega of Franklin's ethic, as expressed in the passages we have quoted, as well as in all his works without exception. 
And in truth this peculiar idea, so familiar to us to-day, but in reality so little a matter of course, of one's duty in a calling, is what is most characteristic of the social ethic of capitalistic culture, and is in a sense the fundamental basis of it. It is an obligation which the individual is supposed to feel and does feel towards the content of his professional  activity, no matter in what it consists, in particular no matter whether it appears on the surface as a utilization of his personal powers, or only of his material possessions (as capital).
Of course, this conception has not appeared only under capitalistic conditions. On the contrary, we shall later trace its origins back to a time previous to the advent of capitalism. Still less, naturally, do we maintain that a conscious acceptance of these ethical maxims on the part of the individuals, entrepreneurs or labourers, in modern capitalistic enterprises, is a condition of the further existence of present-day capitalism. The capitalistic economy of the present day is an immense cosmos into which the individual is born, and which presents itself to him, at least as an individual, as an unalterable order of things in which he must live. It forces the individual, in so far as he is involved in the system of market relationships, to conform to capitalistic rules of action. The manufacturer who in the long run acts counter to these norms, will just as inevitably be eliminated from the economic scene as the worker who cannot or will not adapt himself to them will be thrown into the streets without a job.
Thus the capitalism of to-day, which has come to dominate economic life, educates and selects the economic subjects which it needs through a process of economic survival of the fittest. But here one can easily see the limits of the concept of selection as a means of historical explanation. In order that a manner of life so well adapted to the peculiarities of capitalism could be selected at all, i.e. should come to dominate others, it had to originate somewhere, and not in isolated individuals alone, but as a way of life common to whole groups of men. This origin is what really needs explanation. Concerning the doctrine of the more naive historical materialism, that such ideas originate as a reflection or superstructure of economic situations, we shall speak more in detail below. At this point it will suffice for our purpose to call attention to the fact that without doubt, in the country of Benjamin Franklin's birth (Massachusetts), the spirit of capitalism (in the sense we have attached to it) was present before the capitalistic order. There were complaints of a peculiarly calculating sort of profit-seeking in New England, as distinguished from other parts of America, as early as 1632. It is further undoubted that capitalism remained far less developed in some of the neighbouring colonies, the later Southern States of the United States of America, in spite of the fact that these latter were founded by large capitalists for business motives, while the New England colonies were founded by preachers and seminary graduates with the help of small bourgeois, craftsmen and yoemen, for religious reasons. In this case the causal relation is certainly the reverse of that suggested by the materialistic standpoint.
But the origin and history of such ideas is much more complex than the theorists of the superstructure suppose. The spirit of capitalism, in the sense in which we are using the term, had to fight its way to supremacy against a whole world of hostile forces. A state of mind such as that expressed in the passages we have quoted from Franklin, and which called forth the applause of a whole people, would both in ancient times and in the Middle Ages  have been proscribed as the lowest sort of avarice and as an attitude entirely lacking in self-respect. It is, in fact, still regularly thus looked upon by all those social groups which are least involved in or adapted to modern capitalistic conditions. This is not wholly because the instinct of acquisition was in those times unknown or undeveloped, as has often been said. Nor because the auri sacra fames, the greed for gold, was then, or now, less powerful outside of bourgeois capitalism than within its peculiar sphere, as the illusions of modern romanticists are wont to believe. The difference between the capitalistic and precapitalistic spirits is not to be found at this point. The greed of the Chinese Mandarin, the old Roman aristocrat, or the modern peasant, can stand up to any comparison. And the auri sacra fames of a Neapolitan cab-driver or barcaiuolo, and certainly of Asiatic representatives of similar trades, as well as of the craftsmen of southern European or Asiatic countries, is, as anyone can find out for himself, very much more intense, and especially more unscrupulous than that of, say, an Englishman in similar circumstances. 
The universal reign of absolute unscrupulousness in the pursuit of selfish interests by the making of money has been a specific characteristic of precisely those countries whose bourgeois-capitalistic development, measured according to Occidental standards, has remained backward. As every employer knows, the lack of coscienziosita of the labourers  of such countries, for instance Italy as compared with Germany, has been, and to a certain extent still is, one of the principal obstacles to their capitalistic development. Capitalism cannot make use of the labour of those who practise the doctrine of undisciplined liberum arbitrium, any more than it can make use of the business man who seems absolutely unscrupulous in his dealings with others, as we can learn from Franklin. Hence the difference does not lie in the degree of development of any impulse to make money. The auri sacra fames is as old as the history of man. But we shall see that those who submitted to it without reserve as an uncontrolled impulse, such as the Dutch sea-captain who "would go through hell for gain, even though he scorched his sails", were by no means the representatives of that attitude of mind from which the specifically modern capitalistic spirit as a mass phenomenon is derived, and that is what matters. At all periods of history, wherever it was possible, there has been ruthless acquisition, bound to no ethical norms whatever. Like war and piracy, trade has often been unrestrained in its relations with foreigners and those outside the group. The double ethic has permitted here what was forbidden in dealings among brothers.
Capitalistic acquisition as an adventure has been at home in all types of economic society which have known trade with the use of money and which have offered it opportunities, through commenda, farming of taxes, State loans, financing of wars, ducal courts and officeholders. Likewise the inner attitude of the adventurer, which laughs at all ethical limitations, has been universal. Absolute and conscious ruthlessness in acquisition has often stood in the closest connection with the strictest conformity to tradition. Moreover, with the breakdown of tradition and the more or less complete extension of free economic enterprise, even to within the social group, the new thing has not generally been ethically justified and encouraged, but only tolerated as a fact. And this fact has been treated either as ethically indifferent or as reprehensible, but unfortunately unavoidable. This has not only been the normal attitude of all ethical teachings, but, what is more important, also that expressed in the practical action of the average man of pre-capitalistic times, pre-capitalistic in the sense that the rational utilization of capital in a permanent enterprise and the rational capitalistic organization of labour had not yet become dominant forces in the determination of economic activity. Now just this attitude was one of the strongest inner obstacles which the adaptation of men to the conditions of an ordered bourgeois-capitalistic economy has encountered everywhere.
The most important opponent with which the spirit of capitalism, in the sense of a definite standard of life claiming ethical sanction, has had to struggle, was that type of attitude and reaction to new situations which we may designate as traditionalism. In this case also every attempt at a final definition must be held in abeyance. On the other hand, we must try to make the provisional meaning clear by citing a few cases. We will begin from below, with the labourers.
One of the technical means which the modern employer uses in order to secure the greatest possible amount of work from his men is the device of piece-rates. In agriculture, for instance, the gathering of the harvest is a case where the greatest possible intensity of labour is called for, since, the weather being uncertain, the difference between high profit and heavy loss may depend on the speed with which the harvesting can be done. Hence a system of piece-rates is almost universal in this case. And since the interest of the employer in a speeding up of harvesting increases with the increase of the results and the intensity of the work, the attempt has again and again been made, by increasing the piece-rates of the workmen, thereby giving them an opportunity to earn what is for them a very high wage, to interest them in increasing their own efficiency. But a peculiar difficulty has been met with surprising frequency: raising the piece-rates has often had the result that not more but less has been accomplished in the same time, because the worker reacted to the increase not by increasing but by decreasing the amount of his work. A man, for instance, who at the rate of 1 mark per acre mowed 2 1/2 acres per day and earned 2 1/2 marks, when the rate was raised to 1.25 marks per acre mowed, not 3 acres, as he might easily have done, thus earning 3.75 marks, but only 2 acres, so that he could still earn the 2 1/2 marks to which he was accustomed. The opportunity of earning more was less attractive than that of working less. He did not ask: how much can I earn in a day if I do as much work as possible ? but: how much must I work in order to earn the wage, 2 1/2 marks, which I earned before and which takes care of my traditional needs? This is an example of what is here meant by traditionalism. A man does not "by nature" wish to earn more and more money, but simply to live as he is accustomed to live and to earn as much as is necessary for that purpose. Wherever modern capitalism has begun its work of increasing the productivity of human labour by increasing its intensity, it has encountered the immensely stubborn resistance of this leading trait of pre-capitalistic labour. And to-day it encounters it the more, the more backward (from a capitalistic point of view) the labouring forces are with which it has to deal.
Another obvious possibility, to return to our example, since the appeal to the acquisitive instinct through higher wage-rates failed, would have been to try the opposite policy, to force the worker by reduction of his wage-rates to work harder to earn the same amount than he did before. Low wages and high profits seem even to-day to a superficial observer to stand in correlation; everything which is paid out in wages seems to involve a corresponding reduction of profits. That road capitalism has taken again and again since its beginning. For centuries it was an article of faith, that low wages were productive, i.e. that they increased the material results of labour so that, as Pieter de la Cour, on this point, as we shall see, quite in the spirit of the old Calvinism, said long ago, the people only work because and so long as they are poor.
But the effectiveness of this apparently so efficient method has its limits.  Of course the presence of a surplus population which it can hire cheaply in the labour market is a necessity for the development of capitalism. But though too large a reserve army may in certain cases favour its quantitative expansion, it checks its qualitative development, especially the transition to types of enterprise which make more intensive use of labour. Low wages are by no means identical with cheap labour.  From a purely quantitative point of view the efficiency of labour decreases with a wage which is physiologically insufficient, which may in the long run even mean a survival of the unfit. The present-day average Silesian mows, when he exerts himself to the full, little more than two-thirds as much land as the better paid and nourished Pomeranian or Mecklenburger, and the Pole, the further East he comes from, accomplishes progressively less than the German. Low wages fail even from a purely business point of view wherever it is a question of producing goods which require any sort of skilled labour, or the use of expensive machinery which is easily damaged, or in general wherever any great amount of sharp attention or of initiative is required. Here low wages do not pay, and their effect is the opposite of what was intended. For not only is a developed sense of responsibility absolutely indispensable, but in general also an attitude which, at least during working hours, is freed from continual calculations of how the customary wage may be earned with a maximum of comfort and a minimum of exertion. Labour must, on the contrary, be performed as if it were an absolute end in itself, a calling. But such an attitude is by no means a product of nature. It cannot be evoked by low wages or high ones alone, but can only be the product of a long and arduous process of education. To-day, capitalism, once in the saddle, can recruit its labouring force in all industrial countries with comparative ease. In the past this was in every case an extremely difficult problem.  And even to-day it could probably not get along without the support of a powerful ally along the way, which, as we shall see below, was at hand at the time of its development.
What is meant can again best be explained by means of an example. The type of backward traditional form of labour is to-day very often exemplified by women workers, especially unmarried ones. An almost universal complaint of employers of girls, for instance German girls, is that they are almost entirely unable and unwilling to give up methods of work inherited or once learned in favour of more efficient ones, to adapt themselves to new methods, to learn and to concentrate their intelligence, or even to use it at all. Explanations of the possibility of making work easier, above all more profitable to themselves, generally encounter a complete lack of understanding. Increases of piece-rates are without avail against the stone wall of habit. In general it is otherwise; and that is a point of no little importance from our view-point, only with girls having a specifically religious, especially a Pietistic, background. One often hears, and statistical investigation confirms it,  that by far the best chances of economic education are found among this group. The ability of mental concentration, as well as the absolutely essential feeling of obligation to one's job, are here most often combined with a strict economy which calculates the possibility of high earnings, and a cool self-control and frugality which enormously increase performance. This provides the most favourable foundation for the conception of labour as an end in itself, as a calling which is necessary to capitalism: the chances of overcoming traditionalism are greatest on account of the religious upbringing. This observation of present-day capitalism  in itself suggests that it is worth while to ask how this connection of adaptability to capitalism with religious factors may have come about in the days of the early development of capitalism. For that they were even then present in much the same form can be inferred from numerous facts. For instance, the dislike and the persecution which Methodist workmen in the eighteenth century met at the hands of their comrades were not solely nor even principally the result of their religious eccentricities, England had seen many of those and more striking ones. It rested rather, as the destruction of their tools, repeatedly mentioned in the reports, suggests, upon their specific willingness to work as we should say to-day.
However, let us again return to the present, and this time to the entrepreneur, in order to clarify the meaning of traditionalism in his case.
Sombart, in his discussions of the genesis of capitalism,  has distinguished between the satisfaction of needs and acquisition as the two great leading principles in economic history. In the former case the attainment of the goods necessary to meet personal needs, in the latter a struggle for profit free from the limits set by needs, have been the ends controlling the form and direction of economic activity. What he calls the economy of needs seems at first glance to be identical with what is here described as economic traditionalism. That may be the case if the concept of needs is limited to traditional needs. But if that is not done, a number of economic types which must be considered capitalistic according to the definition of capital which Sombart gives in another part of his work,  would be excluded from the category of acquisitive economy and put into that of needs economy. Enterprises, namely, which are carried on by private entrepreneurs by utilizing capital (money or goods with a money value) to make a profit, purchasing the means of production and selling the product, i.e. undoubted capitalistic enterprises, may at the same time have a traditionalistic character. This has, in the course even of modern economic history, not been merely an occasional case, but rather the rule, with continual interruptions from repeated and increasingly powerful conquests of the capitalistic spirit. To be sure the capitalistic form of an enterprise and the spirit in which it is run generally stand in some sort of adequate relationship to each other, but not in one of necessary interdependence. Nevertheless, we provisionally use the expression spirit of (modern) capitalism  to describe that attitude which seeks profit rationally and systematically in the manner which we have illustrated by the example of Benjamin Franklin. This, however, is justified by the historical fact that that attitude of mind has on the one hand found its most suitable expression in capitalistic enterprise, while on the other the enterprise has derived its most suitable motive force from the spirit of capitalism.
But the two may very well occur separately. Benjamin Franklin was filled with the spirit of capitalism at a time when his printing business did not differ in form from any handicraft enterprise. And we shall see that at the beginning of modern times it was by no means the capitalistic entrepreneurs of the commercial aristocracy, who were either the sole or the predominant bearers of the attitude we have here called the spirit of capitalism.  It was much more the rising strata of the lower industrial middle classes. Even in the nineteenth century its classical representatives were not the elegant gentlemen of Liverpool and Hamburg, with their commercial fortunes handed down for generations, but the self-made parvenus of Manchester and Westphalia, who often rose from very modest circumstances. As early as the sixteenth century the situation was similar; the industries which arose at that time were mostly created by parvenus. 
The management, for instance, of a bank, a wholesale export business, a large retail establishment, or of a large putting-out enterprise dealing with goods produced in homes, is certainly only possible in the form of a capitalistic enterprise. Nevertheless, they may all be carried on in a traditionalistic spirit. In fact, the business of a large bank of issue cannot be carried on in any other way. The foreign trade of whole epochs has rested on the basis of monopolies and legal privileges of strictly traditional character. In retail trade--and we are not here talking of the small men without capital who are continually crying out for Government aid -- the revolution which is making an end of the old traditionalism is still in full swing. lt is the same development which broke up the old putting-out system, to which modem domestic labour is related only in form. How this revolution takes place and what is its significance may, in spite of the fact these things are so familiar, be again brought out by a concrete example.
Until about the middle of the past century the life of a putter-out was, at least in many of the branches of the Continental textile industry,  what we should to-day consider very comfortable. We may imagine its routine somewhat as follows: The peasants came with their cloth, often (in the case of linen) principally or entirely made from raw material which the peasant himself had produced, to the town in which the putter-out lived, and after a careful, often official, appraisal of the quality, received the customary price for it. The putter-out's customers, for markets any appreciable distance away, were middlemen, who also came to him, generally not yet following samples, but seeking traditional qualities, and bought from his warehouse, or, long before delivery, placed orders which were probably in turn passed on to the peasants. Personal canvassing of customers took place, if at all, only at long intervals. Otherwise correspondence sufficed, though the sending of samples slowly gained ground. The number of business hours was very moderate, perhaps five to six a day, sometimes considerably less; in the rush season, where there was one, more. Earnings were moderate; enough to lead a respectable life and in good times to put away a little. On the whole, relations among competitors were relatively good, with a large degree of agreement on the fundamentals of business. A long daily visit to the tavern, with often plenty to drink, and a congenial circle of friends, made life comfortable and leisurely.
The form of organization was in every respect capitalistic; the entrepreneur's activity was of a purely business character; the use of capital, turned over in the business, was indispensable; and finally, the objective aspect of the economic process, the book-keeping, was rational. But it was traditionalistic business, if one considers the spirit which animated the entrepreneur: the traditional manner of life, the traditional rate of profit, the traditional amount of work, the traditional manner of regulating the relationships with labour, and the essentially traditional circle of customers and the manner of attracting new ones. All these dominated the conduct of the business, were at the basis, one may say, of the ethos of this group of business men.
Now at some time this leisureliness was suddenly destroyed, and often entirely without any essential change in the form of organization, such as the transition to a unified factory, to mechanical weaving, etc. What happened was, on the contrary, often no more than this: some young man from one of the putting-out families went out into the country, carefully chose weavers for his employ, greatly increased the rigour of his supervision of their work, and thus turned them from peasants into labourers. On the other hand, he would begin to change his marketing methods by so far as possible going directly to the final consumer, would take the details into his own hands, would personally solicit customers, visiting them every year, and above all would adapt the quality of the product directly to their needs and wishes. At the same time he began to introduce the principle of low prices and large turnover. There was repeated what everywhere and always is the result of such a process of rationalization: those who would not follow suit had to go out of business. The idyllic state collapsed under the pressure of a bitter competitive struggle, respectable fortunes were made, and not lent out at interest, but always reinvested in the business. The old leisurely and comfortable attitude toward life gave way to a hard frugality in which some participated and came to the top, because they did not wish to consume but to earn, while others who wished to keep on with the old ways were forced to curtail their consumption. 
And, what is most important in this connection, it was not generally in such cases a stream of new money invested in the industry which brought about this revolution--in several cases known to me the whole revolutionary process was set in motion with a few thousands of capital borrowed from relations--but the new spirit, the spirit of modern capitalism, had set to work. The question of the motive forces in the expansion of modern capitalism is not in the first instance a question of the origin of the capital sums which were available for capitalistic uses, but, above all, of the development of the spirit of capitalism. Where it appears and is able to work itself out, it produces its own capital and monetary supplies as the means to its ends, but the reverse is not true.  Its entry on the scene was not generally peaceful. A flood of mistrust, sometimes of hatred, above all of moral indignation, regularly opposed itself to the first innovator. Often--I know of several cases of the sort--regular legends of mysterious shady spots in his previous life have been produced. It is very easy not to recognize that only an unusually strong character could save an entrepreneur of this new type from the loss of his temperate self-control and from both moral and economic shipwreck. Furthermore, along with clarity of vision and ability to act, it is only by virtue of very definite and highly developed ethical qualities that it has been possible for him to command the absolutely indispensable confidence of his customers and workmen. Nothing else could have given him the strength to overcome the innumerable obstacles, above all the infinitely more intensive work which is demanded of the modern entrepreneur. But these are ethical qualities of quite a different sort from those adapted to the traditionalism of the past.
And, as a rule, it has been neither dare-devil and unscrupulous speculators, economic adventurers such as we meet at all periods of economic history, nor simply great financiers who have carried through this change, outwardly so inconspicuous, but nevertheless so decisive for the penetration of economic life with the new spirit. On the contrary, they were men who had grown up in the hard school of life, calculating and daring at the same time, above all temperate and reliable, shrewd and completely devoted to their business, with strictly bourgeois opinions and principles.
One is tempted to think that these personal moral qualities have not the slightest relation to any ethical maxims, to say nothing of religious ideas, but that the essential relation between them is negative. The ability to free oneself from the common tradition, a sort of liberal enlightenment, seems likely to be the most suitable basis for such a business man's success. And to-day that is generally precisely the case. Any relationship between religious beliefs and conduct is generally absent, and where any exists, at least in Germany, it tends to be of the negative sort. The people filled with the spirit of capitalism to-day tend to be indifferent, if not hostile, to the Church. The thought of the pious boredom of paradise has little attraction for their active natures; religion appears to them as a means of drawing people away from labour in this world. If you ask them what is the meaning of their restless activity, why they are never satisfied with what they have, thus appearing so senseless to any purely worldly view of life, they would perhaps give the answer, if they know any at all: "to provide for my children and grandchildren". But more often and, since that motive is not peculiar to them, but was just as effective for the traditionalist, more correctly, simply: that business with its continuous work has become a necessary part of their lives. That is in fact the only possible motivation, but it at the same time expresses what is, seen from the view-point of personal happiness, so irrational about this sort of life, where a man exists for the sake of his business, instead of the reverse.
Of course, the desire for the power and recognition which the mere fact of wealth brings plays its part. When the imagination of a whole people has once been turned toward purely quantitative bigness, as in the United States, this romanticism of numbers exercises an irresistible appeal to the poets among business men. Otherwise it is in general not the real leaders, and especially not the permanently successful entrepreneurs, who are taken in by it. In particular, the resort to entailed estates and the nobility, with sons whose conduct at the university and in the officers' corps tries to cover up their social origin, as has been the typical history of German capitalistic parvenu families, is a product of later decadence. The ideal type  of the capitalistic entrepreneur, as it has been represented even in Germany by occasional outstanding examples, has no relation to such more or less refined climbers. He avoids ostentation and unnecessary expenditure, as well as conscious enjoyment of his power, and is embarrassed by the outward signs of the social recognition which he receives. His manner of life is, in other words, often, and we shall have to investigate the historical significance of just this important fact, distinguished by a certain ascetic tendency, as appears clearly enough in the sermon of Franklin which we have quoted. It is, namely, by no means exceptional, but rather the rule, for him to have a sort of modesty which is essentially more honest than the reserve which Franklin so shrewdly recommends. He gets nothing out of his wealth for himself, except the irrational sense of having done his job well.
But it is just that which seems to the pre-capitalistic man so incomprehensible and mysterious, so unworthy and contemptible. That anyone should be able to make it the sole purpose of his life-work, to sink into the grave weighed down with a great material load of money and goods, seems to him explicable only as the product of a perverse instinct, the auri sacra fames.
At present under our individualistic political, legal, and economic institutions, with the forms of organization and general structure which are peculiar to our economic order, this spirit of capitalism might be understandable, as has been said, purely as a result of adaptation. The capitalistic system so needs this devotion to the calling of making money, it is an attitude toward material goods which is so well suited to that system, so intimately bound up with the conditions of survival in the economic struggle for existence, that there can to-day no longer be any question of a necessary connection of that acquisitive manner of life with any single Weltanschauung. In fact, it no longer needs the support of any religious forces, and feels the attempts of religion to influence economic life, in so far as they can still be felt at all, to be as much an unjustified interference as its regulation by the State. In such circumstances men's commercial and social interests do tend to determine their opinions and attitudes. Whoever does not adapt his manner of life to the conditions of capitalistic success must go under, or at least cannot rise. But these are phenomena of a time in which modern capitalism has become dominant and has become emancipated from its old supports. But as it could at one time destroy the old forms of medieval regulation of economic life only in alliance with the growing power of the modern State, the same, we may say provisionally, may have been the case in its relations with religious forces. Whether and in what sense that was the case, it is our task to investigate. For that the conception of money-making as an end in itself to which people were bound, as a calling, was contrary to the ethical feelings of whole epochs, it is hardly necessary to prove. The dogma Deo placere vix potest which was incorporated into the canon law and applied to the activities of the merchant, and which at that time (like the passage in the gospel about interest)  was considered genuine, as well as St. Thomas's characterization of the desire for gain as turpitudo (which term even included unavoidable and hence ethically justified profit-making), already contained a high degree of concession on the part of the Catholic doctrine to the financial powers with which the Church had such intimate political relations in the Italian cities,  as compared with the much more radically anti-chrematistic views of comparatively wide circles. But even where the doctrine was still better accommodated to the facts, as for instance with Anthony of Florence, the feeling was never quite overcome, that activity directed to acquisition for its own sake was at bottom a pudendum which was to be tolerated only because of the unalterable necessities of life in this world.
Some moralists of that time, especially of the nominalistic school, accepted developed capitalistic business forms as inevitable, and attempted to justify them, especially commerce, as necessary. The industria developed in it they were able to regard, though not without contradictions, as a legitimate source of profit, and hence ethically unobjectionable. But the dominant doctrine rejected the spirit of capitalistic acquisition as turpitudo, or at least could not give it a positive ethical sanction. An ethical attitude like that of Benjamin Franklin would have been simply unthinkable. This was, above all, the attitude of capitalistic circles themselves. Their life-work was, so long as they clung to the tradition of the Church, at best something morally indifferent. It was tolerated, but was still, even if only on account of the continual danger of collision with the Church's doctrine on usury, somewhat dangerous to salvation. Quite considerable sums, as the sources show, went at the death of rich people to religious institutions as conscience money, at times even back to former debtors as usura which had been unjustly taken from them. It was otherwise, along with heretical and other tendencies looked upon with disapproval, only in those parts of the commercial aristocracy which were already emancipated from the tradition. But even sceptics and people indifferent to the Church often reconciled themselves with it by gifts, because it was a sort of insurance against the uncertainties of what might come after death, or because (at least according to the very widely held latter view) an external obedience to the commands of the Church was sufficient to insure salvation.  Here the either non-moral or immoral character of their action in the opinion of the participants themselves comes clearly to light.
Now, how could activity, which was at best ethically tolerated, turn into a calling in the sense of Benjamin Franklin? The fact to be explained historically is that in the most highly capitalistic centre of that time, in Florence of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the money and capital market of all the great political Powers, this attitude was considered ethically unjustifiable, or at best to be tolerated. But in the backwoods small bourgeois circumstances of Pennsylvania in the eighteenth century, where business threatened for simple lack of money to fall back into barter, where there was hardly a sign of large enterprise, where only the earliest beginnings of banking were to be found, the same thing was considered the essence of moral conduct, even commanded in the name of duty. To speak here of a reflection of material conditions in the ideal superstructure would be patent nonsense. What was the background of ideas which could account for the sort of activity apparently directed toward profit alone as a calling toward which the individual feels himself to have an ethical obligation? For it was this idea which gave the way of life of the new entrepreneur its ethical foundation and justification.
The attempt has been made, particularly by Sombart, in what are often judicious and effective observations, to depict economic rationalism as the salient feature of modern economic life as a whole. Undoubtedly with justification, if by that is meant the extension of the productivity of labour which has, through the subordination of the process of production to scientific points of view, relieved it from its dependence upon the natural organic limitations of the human individual. Now this process of rationalization in the field of technique and economic organization undoubtedly determines an important part of the ideals of life of modern bourgeois society. Labour in the service of a rational organization for the provision of humanity with material goods has without doubt always appeared to representatives of the capitalistic spirit as one of the most important purposes of their life-work. It is only necessary, for instance, to read Franklin's account of his efforts in the service of civic improvements in Philadelphia clearly to apprehend this obvious truth. And the joy and pride of having given employment to numerous people, of having had a part in the economic progress of his home town in the sense referring to figures of population and volume of trade which capitalism associated with the word, all these things obviously are part of the specific and undoubtedly idealistic satisfactions in life to modern men of business. Similarly it is one of the fundamental characteristics of an individualistic capitalistic economy that it is rationalized on the basis of rigorous calculation, directed with foresight and caution toward the economic success which is sought in sharp contrast to the hand- to-mouth existence of the peasant, and to the privileged traditionalism of the guild craftsman and of the adventurers' capitalism, oriented to the exploitation of political opportunities and irrational speculation.
It might thus seem that the development of the spirit of capitalism is best understood as part of the development of rationalism as a whole, and could be deduced from the fundamental position of rationalism on the basic problems of life. In the process Protestantism would only have to be considered in so far as it had formed a stage prior to the development of a purely rationalistic philosophy. But any serious attempt to carry this thesis through makes it evident that such a simple way of putting the question will not work, simply because of the fact that the history of rationalism shows a development which by no means follows parallel lines in the various departments of life. The rationalization of private law, for instance, if it is thought of as a logical simplification and rearrangement of the content of the law, was achieved in the highest hitherto known degree in the Roman law of late antiquity. But it remained most backward in some of the countries with the highest degree of economic rationalization, notably in England, where the Renaissance of Roman Law was overcome by the power of the great legal corporations, while it has always retained its supremacy in the Catholic countries of Southern Europe. The worldly rational philosophy of the eighteenth century did not find favour alone or even principally in the countries of highest capitalistic development. The doctrines of Voltaire are even to-day the common property of broad upper, and what is practically more important, middle-class groups in the Romance Catholic countries. Finally, if under practical rationalism is understood the type of attitude which sees and judges the world consciously in terms of the worldly interests of the individual ego, then this view of life was and is the special peculiarity of the peoples of the liberum arbitrium, such as the Italians and the French are in very flesh and blood. But we have already convinced ourselves that this is by no means the soil in which that relationship of a man to his calling as a task, which is necessary to capitalism, has pre-eminently grown. In fact, one may--this simple proposition, which is often forgotten, should be placed at the beginning of every study which essays to deal with rationalism--rationalize life from fundamentally different basic points of view and in very different directions. Rationalism is an historical concept which covers a whole world of different things. It will be our task to find out whose intellectual child the particular concrete form of rational thought was, from which the idea of a calling and the devotion to labour in the calling has grown, which is, as we have seen, so irrational from the standpoint of purely eudaemonistic self-interest, but which has been and still is one of the most characteristic elements of our capitalistic culture. We are here particularly interested in the origin of precisely the irrational element which lies in this, as in every conception of a calling.
Printable Handout Related to Slide Presentation of Max Weber: Weber's Model of Social System, Weber's Causal Argument for the Emergence of Capitalism, and Weber's Quasi-Experimental Design in the Study of Religion------Print and review this handout prior to reviewing the Slide Presentation of Max Weber--(Note: This file may require a Microsoft Word program in order to print this handout.)
Slide Presentation of Max Weber (PowerPoint format)
www.bolender.com Sociological Theorists Page Dr. Ron's Home Page
This page has been visited times since July 26, 2004.
This page was last edited on Thursday October 16, 2008.