DU SOL BA 3rd Year History of Social Thought Notes Chapter 8 Max Weber (1864—1920)
The concept of social action constitutes the core of Sociology, according to Max Weber. Examine this statement.
Discuss the definition of Sociology as given by Max Weber and explain his concept of social action.
Definition of Sociology. Max Weber strongly believed that Sociology is the study of social action and its relationships. Thus while defining Sociology Weber ‘was obessed with the possibility, even the necessity of analysing human action and relationships scientifically. Yet he recognised, more that many of his contemporaries, that a scientific approach to human behaviour must enter into the subject matter for an authentic analysis.’
It has been pointed out by Berger and Luckmann, “The central question for sociological theory can be put as follows : How is it possible that subjective meanings become objective facticities ?”
Weber defines sociology (in his book The Theory of Economics and Social Organisation) “as the science which attempts the interpretive understanding of social action in order to arrive at casual explanation of its course and results.” It is true that society comprises qualities of objective facticity and is beyond any doubt, constituted of activities that express ‘Objective meaning’. Max Weber has written, “Both for sociology in the present sense and for history, the object of cognition is the subjective meaning complex of action.” About this explanation, Berger and Luckmann point out that, “it is precisely the dual character of society in terms of objective facticity and subjective meaning, that makes its reality ‘sui generis’.” Thus Weber’s concept of ‘Social action’ forms the central point of the study of sociology.
Social Action. Weber further explains that, “in no case does it refer to an objectively correct meaning or one which is true in some meta-physical sense”. To repell the false allegations that the term of social action was value-laden, Weber proposed the term ‘non-meaningful behaviour’ defined as “reactive behaviour to which no subjective meaning is attached” to include all forms of human action, a term which admittedly covered a large range of social action.
According to Max Weber, “Action is social in so far as, by virtue of the subjective meaning attached to it by acting individual (individuals) it takes account of the behaviour of others and is thereby oriented in its course.”
In his attempt to identify precisely and analyse what he considered to be the matrix of meaningful action within human behaviour, Weber coined the concept “social relationship” to describe patterned human interaction which is intentional, meaningful and symbolic.
One more thing that went a long way in Weber’s concept of social action is the behavioural complex. The behavioural complex or matrix fall into one of four types in Weber’s work :
(a) Week rational action or rational action in relation to a goal. The action determines the goal and chose his means purely in terms of their efficiency to attain the goal.
(b) Wertrational action or rational action in relation to a value. Here means are chosen for their efficiency but the goals are determined by value. The action of a captain who goes down with the sinking ship or that of a gentleman who allows himself to be killed rather than field in a war are examples.
(c) Affective or emotional action. Here emotion or impulse determines the ends and means of action as in the case of a mother who slaps her child or a player who throws a punch at a partner in a game.
(d) Traditional actions. Where both ends and means are determined by custom, rituals, ceremonies and practices of tradition of all in this category.
Thus a blind imitation devoid of any understanding of the nature of act being imitated is no social action and it can be termed as social action only if there exists some understanding of what is being done, a social action is the result. Max Weber was of the opinion that a correct casual interpretation of a concrete cause of action is arrived at when the overt action and the motives have both been correctly apprehended and at the same time their relation has become meaningfully comprehensible.
Individual is the unit of study. Max Weber holds that individual is the unit of sociological study. “Interpretive sociology considers the individual and his action as the basic unit as its atom. In this approach, the individual is also the upper limit and carrier of meaningful conduct…in general, for sociology such concepts as the state, association, feudalism and the like designate certain categories of human interaction. Hence it is the task for sociology to reduce the concepts to understandable action that is without exception to the action of participating individuals (men)”.
Thus according to Max Weber the term social action implies action of individuals which are some how influenced, guided or determined by the action of other individuals.
Characteristics of social action. Max Weber attempted an indepth analysis of the concept of social action. Following characteristics can be deduced of his concept of social action :
1. It may be influenced by an action of Past, Present or Future. A social action is a result or a modification of some action of other individuals in the society. But the modifying action need not necessarily be contemporaneous with the modified action. In other words it may not be happening at the same time or just before in order to influence the action of an individual. Indeed such an action may be a past occurrence or even an expected action in the future. Thus it may be pointed out that a social action is a result or a modification of some action of some other individual; but the casual or modifying action may be an occurrence of past, present or future depending upon the circumstances and other factors.
2. It presupposes the existence of other individual’s action. According to Weber, a social action is a result of some action by some individual and this points out that there can be no social action in isolation. To say in other -words an individual living in complete wilderness removed from all inter-personal contacts cannot exert a social action and social action excludes the contemplation and medi¬tation of a recluse.
3. Subjective Meaning. In a social action it should have subjective meaning to the doer of a particular social action. Thus for instance, “If two persons collide accidentally and without any motive whatsoever the collision will not be a social action. On the other hand, if a notorious smuggler causes a collision of a truck with a police jeep resulting in injuries or death, then such a collision would be a case of social action.”
Importance of Types of Action. The classification of social action type is important because of following reasons :
(1) Weber conceives of Sociology as a comprehensive science of social action. The typology of actions is therefore the most abstract level of the conceptual system applicable to the social field. The classification of types of domination – e.g., rational domination, traditional domination, charismatic domination depends on the previous classification, on an even higher level of abstraction, of the four types of action.
(2) Sociology is also a comprehensive science of social action, with the ascent this time on the word comprehensive. Comprehension implies an understanding of the meaning man gives his conduct. Pareto judges true logic of actions in terms of the knowledge of the observer, but Weber’s aim is to understand the meaning each man gives his own conduct, so that it becomes essential to the comprehen¬sion of subjective meanings to proceed to a classification of types of conduct, as an introduction to the understanding of the intelligible structure of behaviour.
(3) The classification of types of action to a certain extent governs the Weberian interpretation of the contemporary era. For, according to Max Weber, the prime characteristic of the world we live in is rationalisation. The rationalisation characteristic of modern societies is expressed by a widening of the sphere of Zweckrational actions, actions rational in relation to goods. Economic enterprise is rational, so is the control of the state by bureaucracy. Society as a whole tends towards Zweckrational organisation and the philosophical, existential, human problem is to define that sector of society in which another type of action can and should exist.
(4) This classification of types of action’ may be correlated with what constitutes the heart of Weber’s philosophical thought; namely the relations of solidarity or independence between science and politics.
Distinguish according to Max Weber between social science and physical science.
Explain sociological methodology evolved by Weber.
Max Weber though did not recognize any fundamental difference between social and physical sciences explained in his own way the scientific nature of the sciences of culture – history i.nd society, lie tried to raise the social sciences to the level of physical, sciences in matters of rigour and precision, but a number of contemporary thinkers held views divergent.
Max Weber is of the view that there exists no fundamental difference between the physical and social sciences and each needed an independent approach and methodology. He believed that the social laws could be generalized in the same way as the physical laws, and in this direction he endeavoured to evolve scientific method for the development of sociological studies. The law of casuality applied as much to social events as to physical order of things and once we discovered the definite causes of social events, it was easy to evolve definite social laws, and this led to the creation of the concept of ideal type.
Thus the methodology adopted by Max Weber depends upon ins belief that the social scientist is capable of ‘understanding’, ‘meaningful’ ‘social relationships’. He employed the term “sympa¬thetic introspection” to designate this central point of this approach. Weber wrote, “for the verifiable accuracy of interpretation of the. meaning of a phenomena, it is a great help to be able to put one’s self imaginatively in the place of the actor and thus sympathetically to participate in his experience”.
Thus, as Weber opines, if the sociolo¬gist attempts to grasp the ‘meaning’ of human behaviour, he must put himself face to face to the casual motivation behind the action itself. According to Simpson ‘A motive’ in the Weberian setting of idea, “is a complex of subject meaning which seems to the actor himself or to the observer an adequate ground for the conduct in question”.
In addition to ‘sympathetic introspection 0there is another – complementing analytical device called the ‘typological analysis’. It was expressed by Weber of the ideal types as a categorizing process enabling the scientist to contrast ‘actual types’ with their common ideals. According to Larson, “whereas the former types were limited to historical circumstances, the ‘ideal types’ was an attempt to deal with the problem of the historical relativity of conceptual types by means of the construction of a limited number of terms which could be used as constant generalizable abstractions”. Simpson has explained in the following English words, the nature and purpose of ideal types as a methological instrument :
“As far as individual social action is concerned the sociologist seeks to arrive at an understanding of individual motives, in groups he seeks to arrive at motives which are typical of the group. In both cases, the sociologists seeks to arrive at ideal types which establish what the action of individuals or groups would be if it were strictly rational, unaffected by errors or emotional factors, and if, further¬more, it were completely and unequivocally directed to a single end. Actual behaviour of individuals and groups is then studied as a devia¬tion from such ideal-typical behaviour.”
What is science, according to Weber? Max Weber, in his attempt to explain the social phenomena, had from the outset, ‘hoped to demonstrate the scientific capabilities of sociology by adhering to the multi verification axions of physical sciences. Thus he attempted in countless ways and on many occasions to demonstrate that ‘history can be written as a rational science based on repetitive verification and confirmation.’ He argued that historical and sociological statements can accurately describe facts which reflect definite reality i.e., human behaviour, in terms of meaning assigned to it by the actors themselves. As Raymond Aron puts it, ‘Weber’s ambition was to understand how individuals have lived in different societies as a result of different beliefs’.
Weber argued to the end that ‘social facts are in the last resort intelligible facts. To quote Weber, “today one usually speaks of science as ‘free from pre-suppositions’. Is there such a thing ? It de¬pends upon what one understands thereby. All scientific work presupposes that the rules of logic and method are valid, these are the general foundations of our orientation in the world, and, at least for our special question, these presuppositions are the least problematic aspect of science.
Science further presupposes that what is yielded by scientific work is important in the sense that it is worth being known. In this, obviously, are contained all our problems. For only that presupposition cannot be proved by scientific meaqs. It can be interpreted with reference to its ultimate meaning, which we must reject or accept according to our ultimate position towards life”,
Weber, then comes to his own idea of about science and writes, “Science, ‘free from presuppositions’ in the sense of a rejection of religious bonds, does not know of a ‘miracle’ and the ‘revelation’. If it did, science would be unfaithful to its own ‘presuppositions’. The believer knows both, miracle, and revelation. And science, ‘free from presuppositions’ expects from him no less – and no more – than acknowledgment that if the process can be explained without those supernatural interventions, which an empirical explanation has to eliminate as causal factors, the process has to be explained the way science attempts to do. And the believer can do this without being disloyal to his faith”.
Explain the concept of ideal types. How are they useful in Sociological research ?
The concept of ideal types is considered as the most distinguished contribution of Weber, to the Sociological theory. The development of this methodological device acquires so effective a place in Weberian analysis that ‘he has himself taken the time to re¬cord in detail his initial and formative thinking on its emergence’. The following words written by Weber vindicate the value of this device “We have in abstract economic theory an illustration of those synthetic constructs which have been deorginated as ‘ideas’ of historical phenomena. It offers us an ideal picture of events cn the commodity market under conditions of a society organised on the principles of an exchange.economy, free competition and rigourosly rational conduct.
This conceptual pattern brings together certain relationships and events of historical life into a complex, which is conceived as an internally consistent system. Substantively, this construct in itself is like a utopia which has been arrived at by the analytical accentuation of certain elements of reality. Its relationship .to the empirical data consists solely in the fact that where market-conditioned relationships of the type referred to by the abstract construct are discovered or suspected to exist in reality to some extent, we can make the characteristic features of this relationship pragmatically clear and understandable by reference to an ideal type”.
Lewis Coser defines an ideal type as “an analytical construct that serves the investigator as a measuring rod to ascertain similarities as well as deviations in concrete cases”.
It has been assumed by Martindale that a scientific theory is a logically inter-related body of empirical laws. It is said that the ideal type bears the character of a theoretical mode. According to Martin- dale’s requisites for a theory, is not present here and hence the ideal types are not theories because they are not logically interrelated bodies of empirical laws. Whereas Mckinney, Watkins, and Parsons accept ideal types as theories. But Martindale agrees with Weber, Maclver and Merton in holding that ideal types are not theories but mental constructs.
Scientific method comprises the systematic processes that institute an empirical proof. According to Weber, the scientists goal is to arrive at proposition of fact or at relations of casuality or at comprehensive interpretation that are universally valid. There are three general kinds of systematic procedures for instituting a proof. The oldest procedure of science is comparison. Comparison is an act intended to establish an item of empirical knowledge about which one is uncertain. Some ideas guide the comparisons, and there is some idea, however, crude in the background. Thus scientific behaviour is, a combination of rational action in relation to a goal and rational action in relation to a value. The value is truth, the rationality is that of the rates of logic and research, a respect for which is indispensability to the variety of the results obtained.
In Max Weber’s eyes, with Raymond Aron, incompleteness is a fundamental characteristic of modern science. Never would he have envisioned, as Durkheim liked to do, a time when sociology would be fixed and a system of social laws would exist. Nothing is more alien to Weber’s way of thinking than the image so deal to Auguste Comte of a science which possesses the essential and had set up a closed and definitive system of fundamental laws.
Martindale’s fundamental position taken in his essay is that ideal types are ‘neither experimental mathematical models, nor theories, but devices intended to institute comparison as precise as the stage of one’s theory of precision of his instruments will allow. Comparative procedure occurs most frequently in new sciences. The evolution of the ideal type in sociology was determinded by the attempts to transform comparative method into a more precise procedure.
There are thinkers who have made basic use of the concept of “social action” for the analysis of social life, and have been most sympathetic to the use of ideal types have consciously attempted to improve them. Ideal types are not abstract concepts. To quote Martindale, “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 diffused, discrete individual phenomena which are arranged according to these one sidedly emphasised view points into a unified analytical construct. In its conceptual purity, this mental construct cannot be found anywhere in reality”.
Max Weber pointed out that the basic purpose of the ideal type is “to analyse historically unique configurations or the individual components in terms of genetic concepts”. He explained that science has universal truth for its objective, but historical or sociological science begins with a procedure. They are used as conception instru-ments for comparison with and the measurement of (factual position) reality.
Weber’s ideal types were procedures by which historical material, were made useful for the general purposes of science applied to historical materials. Weber characterised ideal types as devices for descriptions, as implements for comparison and measurement and under special circumstances, as procedures for instituting and testing hypothesis. In case when applied to historical material, he explained that, if the objective of universal truth is to be attained, therefore, the subjectivity conditioned prove of reference must be followed by procedures of universal validity.
For, Weber, has also argued that the ideal type is not a description, not a general concept, not a law, not a rural or ethical judgment but are procedures that depend upon the personality situation of the observer, his mode of reference, the way he organises the material as the result of values previously established or discovered in the material itself.
In this way, the ideal type contains both conceptual and observational materials, which are not put together arbitrarily. The ideal type being conceptual tool is items and relations actually found in historical and social life supply the materials.
When Weber’s classified action, he held the ideal type as purely rational action and contended that it was because of the influence of irrational factors that deviations from the ideal type were seen. The ideal type is related to the motion of comprehension in that every ideal type is an organisation of intelligible relations within historic entity or sequence of events. This facilitates the comparison of complex and seemingly unrelated phenomena and helps to make comparisons between two points in time. Inferences could be made by the relative approximation of the phenomenon, past and present ideal type.
It was never claimed by Max Weber that his ideal type would completely exhaust every conceivable empirical structure. Weber write about the content of the ideal type, what the content of the ideal type, be it an ethical, a legal, an aesthetic or a religious norm, or a technical, an economic or a culture maxim or any other type of valuation in the most rational form possible, it has only one function in an empirical investigation. Its function is the comparison with empirical reality in order to establish its divergences or similarities, to describe them with the most unambiguously intelligible concepts, and to understand and explain them casually.
While emphasizing that the ideal types were only a metrological device and continued against this tendency to consider the ideal typology as a carte blanche solution to each and every social analysis. He explained it as a strictly ‘methodological device’. He opined that ‘since the fundamental task of the social sciences is understanding, first at the level of ‘observational understanding’ and then at ‘deeper level of explanatory understanding’
Max Weber explained the practical application of the ideal types in the following words :
“The ideal type is an attempt to analyse historically unique configurations or their individual components by means of genetic concepts. Let us take, for instance, the concepts ‘Church’ and ‘sect.’ They may be broken down purely classificatorily in complexes of characteristics, whereby not only the distinction between them but also the content of the concept must constantly remain fluid. If however I wish to formulate the concept of ‘sect’ genetically, e.g., with reference to certain important cultural significances which the sectarian spirit has had for modern culture, certain characteristics of both become essential because they stand in an adequate causal relationships to those influences. However, the concepts thereupon become ideal-typical in the sense that they appear in full conceptual integrity either not at all or only in individual instances. Here as elsewhere every concept which is not purely classificatory diverges from reality.”
Raymond Aron, points out that Weber uses ideal types to desig¬ned three kinds of concepts :
1. First, ideal types of historical particulars, such as capitation or the (European) city. These two examples represent a species of ideal type, namely the intelligible reconstruction of a global and particular historical reality global since the term capitalism designates a whole economic regime particular since according to Weber capitalism as he defines it has been fully realised only in modern western societies.
2. A second species is that of ideal types which deorigioate abstract elements of the historical reality elements which are found in a large number of cases. In combination, these concepts enable us to characterise and understand actual historical wholes.
3. The third species of ideal types include those that constitute rationalising reconstructions of a particular kind of behaviour. For example, according to Weber, all propositions in economic theory are merely ideal-typical reconstruction of the ways men would behave if they were pure economic subjects. F.conomic theory vigorously conceives economic behaviour as consistent with its essence, this essence being defined in a precise manner.
This aspect of ideal types leads Lewis Coser to say that “an ideal type is an analytical construct that serves the investigator as.a meaning rod to ascertain similarities as well as deviations in concrete cases”.
Thus an ideal type is not a statical average and it is certainly not a hypothesis. In fact, it is mental construct.
What are the factors and forces according to Max Weber that give rise to capitalism ?
“Sociologists consider that Max Weber became a sociologist in a long and intense debate with the ghost of Marx”. Explain the statement illustrating from the writings of Max Weber.
Write Weber’s idea about sociology of religion.
Max Weber was of the opinion that existed, a paradoxi¬cally positive relationship between ascetic religious belief and econo¬mic enterprise. In his Protestant Ethic and Spirit of Capitalism, Weber sought to demonstrate that economic factors do not represent a constant and independent variable to which all others stand independence. The concept of social organization was treated along with the concept of social class. He regards economic factor important in social organization but considers other social factors -as also
What is Social Organisation ? In his concept of social organization, Weber makes clear the concept of ‘power’. ‘The power’, he says, ‘is that situation of an individual or individuals in which they can experience and apprehend their goals and easily achieve them.’ In other words, power is the capacity to achieve one’s objective with care.
Social stratification, according to Weber, says Collins and Makowsky, is essentially “a theory of group formation, a set of hypothesis about the conditions that bring men together into soli¬darity groups. These conditions are found in the way men relate to the institutional orders that link groups together into a society”. Weber discussed following ‘three orders’ within society :
- Social, and
He mentioned three dimensions, as class, status and power corresponding to these three orders. According to Weber, the vital characteristics of a class are :
- 1. individuals share a particular casual facet of their lives
- these facets are represented exclusively by economic drive in the possession of goods and opportunities for properly accrual; and
- class situation is essentially a market situation. Classes merely represent probable grounds for communal action and these are not communities.
Status situation is not necessarily attached with class situation but are determined by a specific, positive or negative, social assess¬ment of honour. Thus ‘the highest prestige in a particular social group does not always belong to the richest’. Status groups in their powers, are distinguished by status symbols, special attire, exclusive clubs and distinct life styles. Weber believed that a striking quality of modern society was its channeling of legitimate authority through the bureaucratic coordination of activities for bureaucracies and intentionally, organised upon rational principles’. Weber pointed out three types of legitimate authority (as expressed by him in Conventional Social Action).
- Rational Legitimacy, resting on a belief in the ‘legality’ of patterns of normative rules and the right of those elevated to autho¬rity under such rules to issue commands (legal authority).
- Traditional Legitimacy ‘resting on an established belief in the sanctity of immemorial traditions and the legitimacy of the status of those exercising authority under them (traditional authority)’, and
- Charismatic Legitimacy, ‘resting on devotion to the specific and exceptional sanctity, heroism or exemplary character of an individual person, and of the normative patterns or order revealed or ordained by him (Charismatic authority)”.
Sociology of Religion. Max Weber believed that there existed a strong correlation between religion and economics. Economic factors, according to Weber, are “one variable, a very important one, in close relationship with others affected by them as in fact it in turn can affect them”.
It was conceived by Weber that the Protestant ethic was a sub-species of social phenomena within the category ‘religion’ which was distinct from magic, as the religion was rational whereas magic lacked this characteristic. As Rossides puts it, “for Weber religion was not rational in the sense of being true or scientifically valid, but rational to this degree that it departed from magic”.
Max Weber used the concept of ideal type to overcome the methodological problem of defining capitalism and Protestant Ethic. Weber conceived capitalism, in its ideal type to be that complex activity designed specifically to maximise profit through the careful and intentional exercise of rational organisation and management of production. Weber thought that there existed complex and multi-dimensional relationship bet¬ween religion and economics. In his Protestant Ethic and Spirit of Capitalism (1904-1905) he centred his discussion of this correlation between religion and economics around two general observations. These were :
- in countless places in the world great material achievements had resulted from the work of monastic orders dedicated to the life of a spirit and
- specifically ascetic Protestant sects were noted for their economic success.
Factors, present in Protestantism, in harmony with the spirit of Capitalism. Max Weber identified a number of values which were inherent in Protestantism and are in harmony with the spirit of capitalism. These values are :
- The shift from ritualistic and other-worldly orientation to down-to-earth pragmatism.
- Changed Attitude Toward Work. It was proclaimed by Protestant Ethic that ‘virtue’ is not only a good quality but it rather contributes to the glory of God as well.
- The Concept of Calling. The new (Protestant) doctrine exhorts individual (men) to strive ahead, seek profitable and useful enterprises, accumulate wealth and march ahead towards their destiny.
- The new attitude toward the collection of interest on loans.
This idea has given spurt to economic activity, new investments and has given rise to new floating capital as well as emergence of lending houses.
- Views against Alcoholism. The consumption of alcoholic beverages is prohibited by the Protestant ethic, which has always spearheaded any movement of prohibition in the Western societies.
- Promotion of Literacy and Learning.
- Discouraging Holidays. In Protestant ethics, since work adds to the glory of God, there is no place for holidays and ‘celebrations’.
- ‘Protestant Asceticism’. Protestant ethic exhorts men to accumulate wealth but prohibits; its use merely for the sake of enjoyment. This has led to the rapid development of capitalism.
Examine Max Weber’s ideas about Bureaucracy.
How did bureaucracy developed according to Max Weber ?
What were its causes and consequences ?
Max Weber led the whole array of social thinkers in giving elaborate accounting of the development, causes and conse¬quences of bureaucracy. Weber formulated following characteristics of bureaucracy :
1. Fixed Jurisdiction and rules. Bureaucracy observes the principle of fixed and official jurisdictional areas prescribed by rules and regulations. This involves distribution of regular activities linked with each status in a fixed way. The ‘structure of authority’ is strictly laid down by the rules.
2. The Principle of Hierarchy. There exists a well ordered system of office hierarchy as well as levels of graded authority wherein exists well graded super-ordination and sub-ordination and also the supervision of lower officials by those up in the hierarchy.
3. Division of Labour. The division of labour is‘ based on specialisation and fixed responsibilities linked with every post.
4. Written Documents. According to Weber oral discharge of duties or issue of* oral orders should be given no place. There exists a system of files which define the rights and* duties attached to every post in the organisation.
5. Training. Weber favours efficient office management based on thorough and expert training.
6. Selection and promotion. Selection of personnel and their promotion is based on their competence in the technical field, specialised knowledge (or skill). Thus selection and promotion is based strictly on merit of an individual.
7. Office holdings is a Vocation. Max Weber conceived that holding a post does not remain merely a secondary activity. It requires application of full working efficiency of each and every official.
8. Fixed Salary. The reward for dedicated work in the form of pecuniary compensation is pre-determined and fixed salary which is paid periodically. ,
9. Appointment and not Election. Max Weber preferred appointment of personnels by higher officials instead of by election.
10. Tenure. In order to provide sense of job security, Weber favoured a system of tenure for life. Normally the position of the bureaucrat is held for life as specified by conti act.
11. Official position dislinked from private position. Max Weber clearly laid down that ‘there exists a clear distinction between the sphere of office and that of the private affairs of the individual. The bureaucratic official is not an owner of the enterprise and therefore not entitled to the use of official facilities for personal needs except as defined by strict rules.’
12. Impartial discharge of official functions. The performance
of duty according to objectives, according to rules without any regard to petsons. It has no place for favours.
Factors contributing to the Development of Bureaucracy. Max Weber believed in the superiority of an efficient buieaucr&cy over all other forms. He writes, “Precision, speed, unambiguity, knowledge of the files, continuity, discretion, unity, strict subordination, reduction of friction and of material and personal costs – these are raised to optimum point in the strictly bureaucratic administration, and especially in its monocratic form. As compared with all collegiate honorific and avocational forms of administration trained bureaucracy is superior on all these points. And as far as complicated tasks are concerned, paid bureaucratic work is not only more precise but in the last analysis, it is often cheaper than even formally honorific service.”
Weber suggests the following as the most important factors leading to the development of bureaucracy :
1. Development of money economy. Weber was of the view that development of money economy enabled the payment of constant income needed to maintain bureaucracy through a stable system of taxation it also encouraged a pecuniary compensation for the officials and a purely economic conception of the office as a source of the officials private income.
2. Extension of Administrative tasks. Another factor contributing to the development of bureaucracy is the quantitative increase in administrative tasks, particularly in the sphere of politics, where “the great state, and mass party are the classic soil for bureau cratisation.”
3. Qualitative changes in the Administrative work field. There has been qualitative extension by the administrative tasks, such as the demand for order and protection (police) and for the so called Welfare State the development of modern means of communication, particularly the rail, road, mass media, all these have led to bureaucratisation
4. Technical Superiority. Bureaucracy is technically superior to any other form of organisation, and hence, it has developed quickly.
5. Modern Culture. Max Weber terms modern culture as ‘complicated and of specialised nature’ requiring ‘personally detached and strictly objective’ expert, in lieu of the master of older social structures, who was moved by personal sympathy and favour by grace and gratitude. ”
6. Rational Interpretation of law and adjudication. The urgent need to act and adjudicate against arbitrariness has led to well organised buieaucracy in the modern age. ‘This is in contrast to old form of adjudication that was bound to sacred traditions and characterised by traditionalism, arbitrariness and the personally free discretion flowing from the ‘grace’ of the old patrimonial do¬mination.
7. Rise of big enterprises. Another factor contributing to the development of bureaucracy is the concentration of the material means of management in the hands of the master as exemplified in the development of big capitalist enterprises and the giant public organisations as the modern state or army. These organisations require bureaucratic setup for apt handling of their affairs at all levels of the organisational set up.
8. Social and Economic Equality. In the modern societies the concept of ‘welfare state’ necessitates the restoration of social and economic equality. Weber asserts that the modem state – its industry, economics, standard of living—is only possible with the emergence of a rational organisation on a large scale. Weber writes, “once it is fully established buieaucracy is among those social structures which are the hardest to destroy. Bureaucracy is the means of carrying ‘com¬munity action’ over into rationally ordered ‘social action’.
Therefore, as an instrument for societalizing relations of power, bureau¬cracy has been and is a power instrument of the first order – for the one who controls the bureaucratic apparatus. Under otherwise equal conditions, a ‘societal action’, which is methodically ordered and led, is superior to every resistance of ‘mass’ or even of ‘communal action’. And where the bureaucratization of administration has been completely carried through, a form of power relation is established that is practically unshatterable.”
Criticism of Weber’s Theory. Weber’s theory of bureaucracy has been criticised by many thinkers. It is said that it is not feasible to divide bureaucracy into three points as contemplated by Weber. The three forms of authority are always found in mixed forms and no form of authority is purely either traditional or rational or charis¬matic, rather tend to overlap or found present together in each and every instance of authority. –
It is doubted that continuity of authority shall be maintained, as continuity of authority can be interrupted from time to time. In Military organization normally all orders are in the written form, but in times of war these orders are oral, thus to conceive everything in writing in all circumstances is not possible. It has also been criticised that the persons holding highest office do have charismatic authority. Weber himself had accepted the vices of bureaucracy viz. the inevitable de-personalisation of human relationships in government and industry. He refers to the formation and the rule bound and cool matter of factness of bureaucratic organisation a crypto- plutocrate distribution of power and increasingly concentration of the materials of management. Despite all these shortfalls, the bureaucracy is inevitable, irrepressible and inescapable according to Max Weber.
Write a note on the contribution to sociological thought by Wax Weber.
Max Weber’s Contribution. Max Weber has been held as the sociologist of highest order and a man of a eellence. In the opinion of Raymond Aron, “Max Weber is the grea of sociologist. I would even say that he is the sociologist. I shall not attempt to argue the truth of this opinion, which is affirmed to jay by the – majority of sociologists the world over.”
On the other hand, there are thinkers like Bendix, who call Weber’s sociological ideas as premature. To quote Bendix, “A final assessment of Weber’s importance is premature. Comparison of Weber’s work with that of Marx and Freud shows that his work lacks the central idea or theorem that could have served as the nucleus for the development of a school, nor does it have the same direct intellec¬tual impact on the modern weltanschaung that theirs does. Yet in the •development of the social sciences, Weber’s influence may in the end surpass that of Marx or Freud He developed a remarkably probing and sympathetic understanding of alike world views, while affirming the cultural significance of his own civilization. Such work may well become increasingly relevant to the generation now growing to matu¬rity, as it must come to terms with a world in which the values of western civilization are challenged.”
Max Weber in his writings dealt with historical factors in such a way that it came to profoundly well on that score. His manner of dealing with historical aspects in such a “conceptual precision which is unsurpassed by any historian or sociologist so far.”
The wealth of material contained in his writings the painstaking study of concrete situations and historical processes, his analysis of the structure of social action, typology of behaviour, comparative study of religious as well as economic, political and social systems and his insights into the contemporary processes of rationalisation and bureaucratization could well be used by generations of sociologists to come. None can deny the originality of ideas of Weber. A prolific writer, using extensively his preception of history, philoso¬phical tradition, religious systems and social structure, in producing a refined version of ideas relating to social phenomena.
Danniel Rossides, has given an excellent assessment of Max Weber’s ideas. To quote Max Weber, “While repudiating the Anglo-French-American tradition of monistic naturalistic positivism, Weber also repudiated the German tradition that sought knowledge about; human existence in metaphysical analysis. The unique amalgam he created out of these rival traditions may be called historical positivism. His contribution to sociological theory may be put into broader perspective by saying that he combined the instrumental concept of the human mind that emerged from the Enlightenment with Vico’s maxim that humanity can know the truth about itself because human behaviour is a human creation and therefore amenable to human understanding. Basically, Weber’s position was that science cannot lead to unified or metaphysical or suhstantialist knowledge, and that It cannot validate any system of values. His position made him unique and separated him from the essentially metaphysical tradition of modern social science, liberal and Marxian, as well as from all forms of religious and philosophical opposition to science and modernity in general.”
Unlike the conceptual reification of Karl Marx and Emile Durkheim, Mai Weber declined to conceptualise the whole social reality because it has varying complex and comprises manifold ramifications. It has attempt to give a picture of the whole social set up, Weber analysed studied structures, processes and their inter-relationships, but while doing so he retained the functional independence of elements. ‘Weber was a men of values but not a man of faith ; while he passionately uphold certain values, he insis¬ted on objectivity in scientific enterprises.’
Though Weber did not created any ‘school’ yet, his writings containing his erudite ideas has influenced every school and branch of sociology.