Max Weber was a German sociologist
and political economist. Weber is the most influential sociological theorist in the
late 19th century whose ideas are embedded in his historical and empirical
research (Ritzer and Goodman, 2004).
He was critical of Karl Marx’s
theory, “Marxism”. Both sociologists had different approaches to inequality and
social class. Weber saw class based upon three different factors;
power, wealth and prestige. He argued that class conflict doesn’t explain all
of society’s problems and that armed conflict is not the solution. Weber also
stated that it would be better to reform society than to have an armed revolution.
The theory that will be argued in favour of Max Weber in this essay will be his
Social Action Theory. Weber had four significant characteristic ideas of Social
Action; Social action may be influenced by an action of past, present or
future, social action presupposes the existence of other individuals and some
action by him, Necessity of subjective meaning and it is oriented in its
course. Max Weber recognized that we as humans need to understand individual
meanings before we can understand how societies change.
The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism was
a book written by Weber in 1905. In the novel, Weber argues that Puritan ethics
and ideas influenced the development of capitalism. The emergence of social
change is one of the most significant social changes in human history. Weber used
the idea of the spirit of capitalism to show that religion could bring about
social change. Weber had these ideas from Christian Calvinists where people had
hard working lives and saved all their money to put into their business. When
the industrial revolution needed a large investment of capital, there was those
hard-working people and money at their disposal.
years, he always argued that property brings prestige. People tend to hold
wealthier people in high regard but prestige can also come from athleticism or
intellectual ability. Weber also believed that social class is a result of
power. The ability of an individual to get their way despite opposition. People
with more money always tend to be more powerful than poor people. This type of
power can come from an individual’s prestige. A more current example of this is
a man by the name of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Arnold gained his prestige as a
bodybuilder and as an actor but was also very wealthy. He became more powerful
when he was elected as governor of California on 2004. This falls back to the
idea of how prestige can come from a person’s athletic or intellectual ability.
Social change can be
achieved in many ways. Weber didn’t only believe that individuals shape society.
He knew that societies encourage certain types of motive for action. Weber also
knew that a sociologist’s job was to find solutions to the problems of inequality
that exists in society. He had four type of action that he believed could help.
The four actions are:
· Traditional Social Action:
actions controlled by traditions, “the way it has always been done”
· Affective Social Action:
actions determined by one’s specific affections and emotional state, you do not
think about the consequences
· Value Rational Social
Action: actions that are determined by a conscious belief in the inherent
value of a type of behavior (ex. religion)
· Instrumental-Rational Social
Action: actions that are carried out to achieve a certain goal, you do
something because it leads to a result
To conclude, this essay has
identified the ways that social change can be achieved through Max Weber’s theories.
It has illustrated the different ways Weber views things compared to Karl Marx.
Weber’s theories are based on ideal types, not the best types but types that
make the most sense. Max pays attention to small details and wants to reform
society rather than have an armed revolution.