Max Weber's Economy and Society is the greatest sociological treatise written in this century. Published posthumously in Germany in the early 1920's, it has become a constitutive part of the modern sociological imagination. Economy and Society was the first strictly empirical comparison of social structures and normative orders in world-historical depth, containing the famous chapters on social action, religion, law, bureaucracy, charisma, the city, and the political community with its dimensions of class, status and power.
It is not difficult to argue that Max Weber has outlived all his competitors in the classical tradition. His ideas have inspired scores of sociologists in a host of areas for more than sixty years. The contemporary vitality of these ideas is in no small measure due to the fact that he is the most salient advocate of modernism and that he has both resisted and vindicated some of postmodernism's most cogent criticisms of modern social science and society.
Max Weber is one of the world’s most important social scientists, and one of the most notoriously difficult to understand.
The social role of intellectuals was a pervasive motif in Weber's thought, particularly in his works on religion and politics.
Weber did not consider the aim of sociology to be that of constructing a system of 'general laws'; rather, he considered the sociocultural sciences to be concerned with the attribution of concrete historical causality. While there is some (not unusual) ambiguity in Weber's discussion of the distinctions between 'sociology' and 'history', it is clear that Weber intended sociological analysis as an indispensable adjunct to, if not integral part of, the development of historical explanation; an aid to the delineation and unravelling of particular causal chains in history.
Another important distinction introduced by Weber is the one between classes and status groups. Classes are determined by conditions of existence and concomitant opportunities. Status is commonly based on "style of life" and "formal education," and status groups form around these distinctions, often attempting to monopolize the sources of their status. Weber insists that while status may be based on class, or vice versa, one is not the function of the other.
Weber's main academic appointments were, however, all in economics; most of the teaching he did, was in economics; and throughout his life he presented himself profesionally as an economist.
It is a curious fact that, while Weber's ideas have made their impact on almost every social science, and many branches of historical study have been influenced by him, the one discipline he was mainly concerned with when, in the early years of this century, he began to take an interest in questionsof methodology, viz. the science of economics, today bears almost no trace of his influence. Weber espoused the method of interpretation (Verstehen) for the social sciences. In economics today theprevailing styleof thought is a neoclassical formalism which is quite untouched by Weber's methodology and inclined to take it for granted that the methods of the natural sciences are the only scientific methods known to man.
Maximilian Carl Emil Weber (21 April 1864 - 14 June 1920) was a German political economist and sociologist who was considered one of the founders of the modern study of sociology and public administration. [...] He was influential in contemporary German politics, being an advisor to Germany's negotiators at the Treaty of Versailles and to the commission charged with drafting the Weimar Constitution. Weber's major works deal with rationalization in sociology of religion and government. His most famous work is his essay The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, which began his work in the sociology of religion.
Weber defined the core components of modernization in terms of a growing rationalization of the various spheres of society, an increasing secularization which brought about the disenchantment of reality, an irreversible development of bureaucratization, and a growing pluralization of values and beliefs. To understand modernity is to understand Weber.
In his intellectual concern with the problem of power, Weber was detached and profoundly unconventional, yet he adhered throughout his life to many of the conventional beliefs of his class in imperial Germany. And his preoccupation with the struggle for power among nations went hand in hand with a rigorously puritanical ethic in his own personal affairs. Many of these contradictions were reflected in Weber's style of writing.
…the yen to derive Bildung and a "worldview" from learning or science was almost universal at German universities during Weber's time. Weber himself, however, stood against this pervasive assumption. He challenged the belief that the German universities could offer their students anything more than specialized training, and he insisted upon a rigorous separation of learning from value judgement.
For Weber, recognition of the inadequacy of nomological approaches to explaining social action does not herald the end of social science, but its beginning. In his view, the very uniqueness and self-articulation of each of our social existences permits a sort of explanation which is impossible in, for example, the physical sciences.