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Max Weber

Weber, Max (mäks vāˈbər) [key], 1864–1920, German sociologist, economist, and political scientist. At various times he taught at Berlin, Freiburg, Munich, and Heidelberg. One of Weber's chief interests was in developing a methodology for social science, and his works had a considerable influence on 20th-century social scientists. As a technique of sociological analysis, he devised the concept of "ideal types," generalized models of historical situations that could be used as a basis for comparing societies. He opposed the orthodox Marxian view of the time that economics was the preeminent determining factor in social causation and instead stressed the plurality and interdependence of causes. Weber emphasized the role of religious values, ideologies, and charismatic leaders in shaping societies. In his Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1920, tr. 1930) he developed a thesis concerning the intimate connection between the ascetic ideal fostered by Calvinism and the rise of capitalist institutions. A keen observer of politics in his own time, he first admired, then repudiated Otto von Bismarck, and he later advocated for Germany a democratic form of government somewhat on the American model. He has also been influential in using statistical sociology in the study of economic policy. Among his other books are Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft [economy and society] (4th ed. 1956) and General Economic History (1924, tr. 1927).

See From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology (with a biography and appraisal by H. H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills, 1946); studies by J. Freund (1968), A. Mitzman (1969), W. G. Runciman (1972), D. Beetham (1974), W. J. Mommsen (1974), G. Roth (1979), and J. Alexander (1983).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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