Max Weber

Biography of Max Weber


Max Weber was born in Germany and lived between the years, 1864-1920. Weber was a lawyer, politician economist and a sociologist, who overwhelmingly determined the social theory and the sphere of activity of sociology itself. According to (Kronman, 1983), one of Weber's long-lasting legacies to sociology was the difference he made between the ancient, legal democratic leadership and organisation. He was the first to formulate the features of bureaucracy and his theories form the basis of sociology. Weber is considered the “father” of social science and the most classical thinker.

According to (Zohn & Marrianne, 1988), Weber had a desire for work and fear of rational and spiritual risks of self-indulgence in his university life and he used his brilliance to study the Western and Eastern cultures focussing on capitalism and reasons why it had not taken root in Asia. Weber attained his doctorate and qualified as a political economy professor at Freiburg University, where he developed strong interest in economy of Germany and he became active with open-minded, socialist Protestant Social Union. In his inaugural speech in 1895 at Freigburg he show aggression towards the Junkers, who were powerful, conservative aristocracy who were governing Germany and Prussia. Ringer, 2004, argue that he held them responsible for problems that were being witnessed in eastern Germany farmlands and he strongly advocated the concept of liberal imperialism to be the way for political maturity for Germany.

Biography of Max Weber

Max Weber was born in 1864 in Erfurt, Germany and was the eldest son of Max Weber Senior. His father was a rich and renowned politician in the National Liberal Party in Germany and also a civil servant and his mother was a Protestant and a Calvinist with well-built moral ideas. Ringer (2004) writes that Weber was influenced by his mother's concepts and approach to life although he did not claim to associate with religion.

Weber had an ambition for studying advanced social sciences, since at the age of thirteen years he presented two historical essays as Christmas presents to his parents. Weber studied law at Heidelberg University and along his course work he attended lectures in economics and studied theory and medieval history. During this time Weber was also serving in the army part time. Weber late joined University of Berlin in 1886, and he attained his doctorate in 1889 when he wrote a dissertation on “The History of Medieval Business …” It was wrote “The Roman Agrarian History and its.....Law,” that he became a qualified as a German professor.

After completing his dissertation, Weber was involved in social policy and in 1888 he joined the professional association of German economists that has steered statistical studies of problems of economy. During this time Weber involved himself in politics by joining the Evangelical Social Congress. In 1890 Weber was given assigned to investigate the reason for the influx of foreign farm workers into eastern Germany whereas the local labourers were moving to highly industrialising cities of Germany. According to (Kronman, 1983), Weber gave an excellent empirical research report, which founded Weber's status as an agrarian economics expert.

Weber got married to Marianne Schnitger, who was a feminist and an author and she recollected and published Weber's Journal Articles as books after his death. The couple then moved to Freiburg, where Weber was chosen economics professor at Freiburg University in 1894 and in 1896 he was appointed a professor in the University of Heidelberg. Weber left for Italy in 1900 after developing insomnia and nervousness and later returned to Heidelberg in 1902.

Weber resigned his professorship in 1903 after which he joined the Archives for Social Science and Welfare, as associate editor. According to (Zohn & Marrianne,1988), Weber embark on publishing some of his seminal papers in the Archives and Social Sciences and Welfare Journal, that included his essay on, ‘The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of ….' which became his most famous work. This essay, according to (Kronman, 1983), laid his foundation for later research on the impact on religions and cultures on development of economic systems.

According to (Zohn & Marrianne, 1988) Weber's book, “The Protestant Ethics and Spirit of .....” was a controversial book that is attested to be an absolute theory of capitalism and has been overwhelmingly been discredited. The book offers scholarly discussion and specific importance was his demonstration how religion and value influence social-economic changes in the Western world. Among his most outstanding works related to political and economic sociology and sociology of region. Weber described the attraction between Protestantism and capitalism as main forces in religion and politics which contributed to rise and legalization of violent leadership, and the politicians were constantly fighting religion due to its undue influence on politics.

In his last years of his profession, Weber began to criticize socialism both in Bolshevik and European variants. According to, (Kronman, 1983), Weber viewed Lenin's model of applying hierarchical mode of management industries and to the society as large as an effort to universalize serfdom. Weber considered that labourers in a socialist society were to work in a hierarchy but that time it was a much worse form compounded with government power. According to (Kronman, 1983), Weber criticized socialism and did not see it as a viable economic system. Weber stated socialism would put an end to private property ownership as a mean of production and in similar ways it would eliminate market prices and monetary computation of cost and profit thus affect the rational of a planned economy. The reason, Weber saw for failure of a socialist economy was the problem of imputation where it was unable to establish the comparative price of capital goods.

According to (Ringer, 2004), Weber work on sociology of region with the essay on ‘The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit…..' which he developed after his outside works with Protestants sects in USA and in China. In his study of sociology of religion, Weber three main themes revolved about the influence of religious ideas on economic activities, the interaction between social divisions and religious concepts and the discernible features of Western civilization. Weber aimed to establish the different growth paths for of the Occident and Orient cultures without judging them, he mainly wanted to elucidate the outstanding elements of Western Civilization. (Kronman, 1983), suggest that Weber observed that some doctrines of Christianity sought to defeat and change the world instead of withdrawing from it faults. Weber described the features of Christianity to stem form the ancient Jewish prophecy.

According to (Ringer, 2004), Weber recognized that even at his times, religion influences was on the wane in both the Catholics and Protestants. In his years, Weber foresaw a fierce attack on the Protestants, by intellectual political movements and thinkers like Friedrich Nietzshche. This resulted to the idea of vocation which changed the religious responsibility to professional duty and people would work well above the gains needed for normal livelihood.

On political sociology, Weber contribution is his Politics as a … essay. Weber described politics to be an activity in which the country might involve itself in order to influence the relative allocation of force. Thus politics was described as drawn from power. According to (Kronman, 1983), Weber described a politician to get hitched the ethic of eventual ends and ethic of responsibility, and to possess both an obsession for his occupation and the ability to distance himself from the governed. Weber distinguished three types of leadership that include; charismatic, traditional (patriarchs, feudalism) and bureaucracy.

In his contribution Weber, suggested that charismatic leadership cannot stand for a long time and that authority has to vary until a more structured form of authority is established. Weber also describes that a pure traditional leadership will suffer resistance to the master and will eventually lead to a revolution. Weber advocated for rational-legal structure of leadership i.e. the bureaucratic structure.

Weber is renowned for his critical study of the bureaucratisation of society and the logical ways in which the official social organisations put in use the perfect features of bureaucracy. According to (Berghahn & Lassig, 2008), it was Weber, who started bureaucratic studies and his works led to the popularization of the term. Many aspects of Public administration trace back to him in his classical description of hierarchically structured civil service. Weber's description was an ideal kind of Public Administration and rule in his description of “magnum opus economy and ….” Although he did not like it, it seemed well-organized and successful. In the above work, Weber described the validation of bureaucracy, and a shift from a value -oriented organisation and action to a goal-oriented organisation and action. According to Weber, the movement towards rationalization would result to which would trap individuals to iron age of command based rational control. Kronman, (1983), argue that, Weber's study on bureaucracy enabled him to get his analysis correct which turned to be true after government take over by Stalin where the Russian Socialism took the lead to over-bureaucratization instead of turning the leadership of the nation down.

Weber's contribution to the economics is seen in his famous work, ‘The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of …” which described the differences between religions and the comparable wealth of their followers. According to (Zohn & Marianne, 1988), Sombart placed the rise of capitalism productively in the enlightenment principle of reason and rule of nature, urbanization and Judaism. Among other Weber's contribution to economics as well as social sciences include; his works on methodology, interpretive sociology and anti positivism.

According to (Zohn & Marianne, 1988), in his doctrine of interpretive sociology, Weber, there is a social paradigm which has many supporters and critics. Weber described that the social, economic and historic research could not be fully inductive and anyone should always approach it with theoretical view. This Ideal Type of doctrine became one of the most valued theories in social sciences and came later was used in development of Normal type by Ferdinand Tonnies.

According to (Zohn & Marianne, 1988), Weber described the three component stratification theory in what was known as three class system. In his argument Weber denoted a multidimensional view to social division that reflected the relationship between riches, prestige and power. According to Weber, a person's power could be shown in the social ladder through their prominence and in economic order by their class and in their political order by their party.

According to (Kronman, 1983), Weber provided the voice of reason during and after the 1st World War, and he questioned against Germany's war ambition of territorial annexation. Weber encouraged calm business to continue in politics and education after his country was defeated. Weber, died in 1920 and before his death he aided is writing a new constitution and the formation of German Democratic Party. According to (Berghahn, & Lassig, 2008), these latter achievements had more enduring influence than all his earlier work.


Berghahn, R.V. & Lassig, S. (2008). Biography between Structure and Agency: Central European Lives in International Historiography. Germany: Berghahn Books.

Kronman, T. A. (1983). Max Weber. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.

Ringer, K. F. (2004). Max Weber: An Intellectual Biography. Chicago, USA: The University of Chicago Press.

Zohn, H. & Marianne, W. (1988). Max Weber: A Biography. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers.

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