Max Weber's observations and conclusions regarding modernity and its causes have named him one of the most influential sociologists of our era. Weber believed that in the West rationality had come to become the predominant impetus for action. Weber said that Rationality was one of four motivations towards actions--the remaining three, Traditional, Affective, and Value-Oriented, had been based on more humanistic qualities and had all faded into almost insignificance in the modern age. He thought that this change in stimulus had led to men becoming dehumanised, trapped in the 'iron cage' of production and bureaucracy. Weber's writings sought to understand why Capitalism had come to predominate in the West, rather than other parts of the world, and to examine the different aspects of such a society. Weber argued that sociology was inevitably a subjective science that was dominated by the importance of the individual; this belief led him to employ very unique methods of analysis.
In order to fully understand some of Weber's key ideas, it is necessary to quickly look at his very unique methodology. Notably, Weber's basic view of Sociology was quite different to his contemporaries, most distinctly to Emil Durkheim, as he didn't believe that it was an objective, scientific field. He argued that the natural sciences entailed people observing processes, such as cell formation, and devising laws and rules based on what they had seen. Conversely, social science entailed the observation of people, all of who were guided by subjectivity and motivated by emotions. Weber was inspired by Kant's belief that it was impossible to have knowledge free of interpretation; our cultural values would lead us to lay emphasis on certain aspects of a given topic and to focus on particular concepts. These differences had to be taken into careful consideration when making conclusions, as well as noting the further subjectivity of the sociologist himself. Weber also believed that in sociology one had to focus on the individual rather than the collective, he called his analysis of the individual Understanding, or Verstehen; observations of what people do and what motivates them. Although he believed that a combination of more scientific methods, such as statistics, was also important, he gave priority to the empathetic observance of individuals. In making his analysis, Weber organised articles into 'ideal types', which he claimed referred to the 'logically consistent' features of an issue. This method was supposed to be used as a form of comparison, a measurement: not as concrete reality, as Weber didn't believe that such a thing existed. In his own words, "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 analytical construct. . . . In its conceptual purity, this mental construct . . . cannot be found empirically anywhere in reality
Weber believed that the spread of Protestantism in the West had inspired the growth of rationality and consequently the development of Capitalism. In his research, Weber looked at the histories of various cultures, comparing each to one another. By looking at their similarities and differences he discovered what he claimed had made some countries become distinctly modern and others to remain basically traditional. Ultimately, he came to the conclusion that the one main difference was religion: he believed that Protestantism formed a frame of mind which was highly rational, as opposed to the magical elements of traditional beliefs. Weber described this thesis in his most well known book, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Weber's actualargument in this book has caused some confusion and controversy, as he seems to have oscillated between a 'strong' and...
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