Max Weber

Max Weber was a German philosopher and sociologist who was born in 1864 and died in 1920. He had left-wing political views and along with Karl Marx was one of the founding fathers of sociology. He attempted to find a deeper meaning for societal behavior rather than simply relying upon surface interpretations.

He was fervently anti-state, suggesting that large Government had managed to legalize violence as a means to achieve their own aims. One of Weber’s chief hypotheses was that religion and the culture derived thereof were crucial in the development of a capitalist society. Moreover, religions are given credit by Max Weber for helping to shape our view of the world, similar to Feuerbach’s perception of faith as a comfort blanket. Weber’s other main contribution to sociology was social stratification.

What is a social stratification?

Max Weber was a German philosopher and sociologist,  who was born in 1864 and died in 1920.

Max Weber was a German philosopher and sociologist, who was born in 1864 and died in 1920.

A social stratification is a way of classing society into different sets of people who have a similar socio-econonomic standing. Karl Marx proposed sociological classes based upon the ills of the Capitalist system; this led to the development of Communism but whilst Max Weber was influenced by Marx, he disagreed. Rather than Marx’s simplistic top-bottom stratification, Weber insisted that there were many different classes. The three factors that formed Max Weber’s hierarchy were:

  • class,
  • power,
  • status.

Class was a person’s economic situation, how rich they are. Status was one’s prestige and popularity with their fellow people. This was influential in defining political power for example. Finally, power was someone’s influence, how much efficacy they had in getting their own way in spite of opposition. A bureaucrat might score lowly on the first two but wield significant power. One of Weber’s principal demonstrations to defeat Marx was of a Jewish family in Germany who would be wealthy so classed highly under Marx but were unpopular and not influential so are correctly in a lower standing thanks to Weber.

In which context was Weber’s social stratification developed?

Max Weber based many of his social studies in Germany, hence the Jewish example. His theory that stratification was based on more than just capital sprung from a diverse social structure in Germany where status can be King.

In which context did Max Weber live his life?

Max Weber spent most of his life in Germany, living through the formation of the nation by Bismarck, dictatorship and the Great War before dying whilst the Republic underwent democratization. These momentous changes in society no doubt affected his postulations hugely and the variety he could experience aids the power of his thought, enduring to the modern day.

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