Dr. Bob Gardner
April 3rd, 2012
Max Weber was born April 21 in 1864 in Erfurt, Prussia which is now Germany. Max was the eldest son of Max and Helene Weber. His father was an aspiring liberal politician who joined the “National-Liberals” and moved the family from Erfurt to Berlin, where he became a member of the Prussian House of Deputies and the Reichstag. The elder Weber established himself as a fixture of the Berlin social environment and entertained prominent politicians and scholars in the Weber household. Weber left home to enroll at the University of Heldelberg in 1882, interrupting his studies after two years to fulfill his year of military service at Strasburg. After his release from the military Max Weber was asked by his father to finish his studies at the University of Berlin so that he could live at home while pursuing scholarship in legal and Economic history. From 1884 to 1893, Weber left the family home only for one semester of study at Göttingen in 1885 and for some brief periods with his military reserve unit. The high point of his early scholarly career was his inaugural address at Freiburg in 1895. Weber’s Freiburg address advanced an ideology of “liberal imperialism,” attracting to its support important liberal publicists as Friedrich Naumann and Hans Delbrück. After his father’s death in 1897, an increasing nervousness plagued the young scholar. Weber’s return to teaching ended early in1898 with the first signs of the nervous collapse that would incapacitate him between mid-1898 and 1903. For five years he was institutionalized, suffering sudden relapses after slow recoveries. He resigned his professorship at Heidelberg at the height of his illness. In 1903 Weber was able to resume scholarly work, and an inheritance in 1907 made him financially independent. Weber’s best known and most controversial work The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, examines the relationship between Calvinist morality, compulsive labor, bureaucracy, and economic success under capitalism. Max also wrote on social phenomena such as charisma and mysticism, which he saw as contradictory to the modern world and its underlying process of rationalization. Through his insistence on the need for objectivity and his analysis of human action in terms of motivation, he profoundly influenced sociological theory. His other voluminous writings include Economy and General Economic History. After assisting in the drafting of the new constitution and in the founding of the German Democratic Party, Weber died of a lung infection on June 14th in 1920. Max Weber defines sociology as "a science concerning itself with the interpretive understanding of social action and thereby with a causal explanation of its course and consequences." Max believed that behavior becomes action when the actor attributes meaning to it, and action is social when it is oriented toward the action of others. For Weber the task of sociology, broadly speaking, is to understand social action. Max Weber’s efforts helped establish sociology as an academic discipline in Germany, and his work continues to stimulate scholarship.