The Sociology of Max Weber

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Max Weber was one of the most influential figures in sociological research and helped found sociology as a science. Being raised in a family of scholars and politicians gave Weber the leverage to succeed. At first, Weber studied law and economics, but he later switched his focus onto, or rather intertwined it with, society. According to Stephen Kalberg, Weber was the one founder of sociology that went beyond the standards of his peers; his most famous achievements include his study of religion: from Christianity in America to Buddhism in China, as well as government (8). Eventually, Weber took on the interactionist perspective and developed four main points on social action (Knox 11, Elwell). The Life of Max Weber

Maximilian Carl Emil Weber was born in Erfurt, Thuringia, Prussia (modern day Germany) in 1864. His mother, Helene Fallenstein, came from a wealthy Huguenot family and valued her religion. Max Weber Senior, however, was an active and domineering politician (Poggi 1). Weber gained an early perspective on politics and government from his father and his father’s associates. His mother’s Huguenot dynasty reached far beyond Germany, feeding his interest in economics. During Weber’s childhood, Germany had taken on the appearance of an authoritarian society (Poggi 2). In 1869, Max Weber Senior took his family and moved to Berlin for a political faction where Weber got his educational start. While at school in Berlin, Weber often sent home letters with references to Homer, Virgil, and Cicero, clearly showing an interest in the social sciences (Bendix 1).

In 1882, Weber enrolled at the University of Heidelberg where he studied law (Poggi 4). He spent the next few years doing military service, something he was quite proud of. In 1884, he went from the University of Berlin to the University of Göttingen. In order to receive his doctorate in law, Weber wrote The History of Commercial Partnerships in the Middle Ages in 1889. Two years later, Weber earned the title “Privatdozent,” which allowed him to become a professor (Poggi 5).

Weber became increasingly interested in social politics and joined the “Verein für Socialpolitik,” a group of professionals that saw the economy as something that could solve the problems of society (Poggi 7). In 1893, Weber married his distant cousin, Marianne Schnitger, who claimed most of the responsibility for publishing his works after his death. The next year, they moved together to Freiburg, where Weber was appointed professor of economics at Freiburg University. He later took the same position at the University of Heidelberg (Poggi 8). In 1897, Weber went to a sanatorium after his father’s death. This forced him to quit his job, and, ultimately, retire from being a professor in 1903.

In 1904, Weber published his most famous work, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (Poggi 8). During World War I, he became the director of hospitals in Heidelberg as well as a teacher at the University of Munich (Poggi 12). It was at Munich that he created the first German university solely dedicated to sociology. Because Weber took a very left-wing, liberal view during the German Revolution, many of his colleagues and students argued against him and even took up pickets outside of his home (Mommsen 227). Max Weber passed away on March 14, 1920, in Munich, after catching pneumonia.

Achievements
Weber had many achievements, including his contribution to the interactionist perspective (also known as symbolic interactionism) of sociology (Knox 11). The interactionists “[generalize] about everyday forms of social interaction in order to explain society as a whole” (Schaeffer 16). Interactionists pay special attention to symbols used in everyday language on a micro level, such as tattoos, dress codes, and posture (Schaeffer 16-17). Max Weber argued that in order to understand social behavior, sociologists have to see the world from the eyes of that society (Knox 12). This approach was called...
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