Max Weber (1864-1920)

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Max Weber (1864-1920)
Karl Emil Maximilian Weber (Max Weber) was born in Erfurt, Germany on April 21, 1864. Max Weber was one of the greatest sociologists of the twentieth century, a founding "father" of modern sociology; he was also a historian and a philosopher (Asiado, 2008). Weber deeply influenced social theory, social research and the study of society itself. His wide ranging contributions gave incentive to the birth of new disciplines such as economic sociology and public administration as well as a significant change of direction in economics, political science, and religion. Weber’s most inspiring work was focused on the study of religion, bureaucracy, and rationalization (Asiado, 2008). He was assigned as professor of political economy at the University of Freiburg in 1894 and at Heidelberg University in 1897. He suffered from a mental breakdown in 1898 after his father died and did not continue his academic works until 1904 (Asiado, 2008). In 1907, Weber received a family inheritance which enabled him to continue his work as a private scholar. Max Weber died of pneumonia on June 14, 1920 (Smith, 2001).

Max Weber was mainly interested in the reasons behind the employees’ actions and in why people who work in an organization accept the authority of their superiors and obey the laws of the organization. Since authority and power can be used interchangeably, Weber was able to uniquely define these two terms. According to Weber, power forces individuals to comply with the rules and regulations in place and therefore power influences people to act or do something they would not have done (Cutajar, 2010). As opposed to power, Weber defined legitimate authority involved the individual’s consent that authority is practiced upon them by their superiors. According to Weber, there are three distinct types of legitimate authority. Cutajar states the first being traditional authority, this type of authority’s legitimacy arises from tradition and religious beliefs; traditional authority is found in tribes and monarchies. Cutajar also states that the second type of authority is charismatic authority, this type of authority is based on an individual’s charisma which sets individuals apart from others and individuals who have gained the respect and trust of their followers. The third type of authority is rational or legal authority, this type of authority gains its power from the system of bureaucracy and therefore the rulers and the ruled abide by these regulations (Cutajar, 2010).

Weber’s theories on the types of authority lead to the term of bureaucracy (Cutajar, 2010). Cutajar also found that the term bureaucracy, according to Weber, in terms of an organization and management, consisted of a number of related characteristics. There are several distinct characteristics of bureaucracy that when combined together in the same organization, lead to the “pure” or “ideal-type” bureaucracy. Coser (1977) states that firstly, a hierarchical structure is used to organize the organization into a hierarchy of authority where there exists only one superior at highest level of the hierarchy. A hierarchical structure also includes a unity of command, this means that there exists only one supervisor at each level in the hierarchy. Coser also states secondly, specialization of labour allowed workers to focus on very specific narrowed down tasks in order to become more efficient at the job at hand. This allowed the organization to assign responsibilities to subordinates clearly and distinctively. Thirdly, employment and promotion were based on an individual’s performance and level of competency in order to increase efficiency of operation (Coser, 1977). Therefore, work is assigned based on the experience and skill set of the individual. Another characteristic of bureaucracy is that decisions are based on impersonal rules (Coser, 1977). Coser states that a set of impersonal rules are appointed by the organization and apply equally to all...
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