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Social Action Theory: Weber

Introducing chapter 6 of Trevor Noble's book "Social Theory and Social Change", which is about Max Weber and the Social Action Theory

Anette Hansen

on 2 April 2013

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Transcript of Social Action Theory: Weber

Prof. K. J. Hong
Presenter: Anette Hansen Social Action Theory:
Weber Power and Authority Summary Social Science Ideas and Social Change Preußen (Prussia/Germany) controlled by the court and the Junker aristocracy
Feudal in origin, militaristic in inclination 1. Change: An endogenous process, the rationalization of society
2. History is open-ended, moving towards antecedent rationality
3. Large-scale historical processes seen through social action
4. The role of ideas: Complementary to the casual influence of material factors. Values and believes have their own influence.
5. Methodology: Scientific approach within a rationalist perspective. Thanks for your attention! Max Weber (1846-1920) Introduction of Scholar
Weber's Perspective on Social Science
Ideas and Social Change
Power and Authority
Rationalization and the Modern World
Summary Founder of sociology along with Émile Durkenheim and Karl Marx
Main intellectual concern: Rationalism, secularization and disenchantment
Combined economic sociology and the sociology of religion The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism Methodological Individualism
Difference from natural science: About people
Not only cause and effect, but also reason for behavior. The Science of Social Action ...We can strive for some detachment
about the assumptions and values
in our society Science are value-relevant
...But they should also be value-free Thus: Sociology is science to the extent that sociologists are committed to objectivity Sociology: The Science of Social Action Focus:
Purposive action
How people act socially
in relation to each other action
social Types of action Sociology: The Science of Social Action Focus:
Social Action -
Actions of individuals
Purposive action is
meaningful to the individual Rational
Non-rational (a) Traditional
(b) Emotionally driven ....mere behavior? (a) Instrumentally Rational Action (Zweckrational)

(b) Value Rational Action To attain specific objective The right thing to do = Social Action? Social Action -> Behavior towards a Goal
Guided by the Actions of other People ...is meaningful, and can be understood & explained Subject & Method
are different from other sciences ..but OBJECTIVITY is the same "... They all begin as hypotheses, flashes of imaginative 'institution', and are then 'verified' against the fact - that is, their 'validity' is tested by means of the empirical knowledge which has already been acquired and they are 'formulated' in a logically correct form." p. 121 Methodological Perspective: "The theoretical concepts of sociology are ideal types not only from the objective point of view, but also in their application to subjective processes" ..Human beings are often driven by impulse and habit p. 121 The ideal-typical understanding of the ideal-typical individual in a given situation RATIONAL action Weber's interest: Rationalization and the
Modern World The Enlightenment Principles:
Reason and freedom are much the same.
Late 19th Century: Rapid social change
Weber's commitment: the 'civilized values' of Germany Capitalism Financial Adventure Mercantilist Industrial Ethic:
The justification of the pursuit of profit "In the last resort, the factor which produced capitalism is the _________ permanent enterprise, __________ accounting, __________ technology and
law, but, again, not these alone. Necessary complementary factors were the __________
spirit, the __________ization of the conduct of life in general and a __________ist economic ethic." rational

rational Weber, 1920. (p. 124) Weber's Key Concept Thrift Investment Profitability Confucianism

Hinduism & Buddhism

Catholicism Religious Worldviews Deeply traditionalist rather than innovative Emphasize withdrawal from the practical matters of everyday life The forgiving of sin through
penance "Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:24 John Calvin (1509-1564) Predestination
The duty to glorify God
A 'Calling' (Beruf) Historical events: The result of rational progress Religious Beliefs: 3 Perspectives Marx & Engels Durkheim Weber Expression of
material interest

'The opiate of the
masses' Expression and
projection of collective
Not simply of economic
collectivity Religious ideas with a degree of autonomy
Not mere reflections of material or ideal interest
But: Ideas can guide action However, Weber's thesis turned out to be wrong in almost every aspect. Weber's family background: Political Liberalism Political Alienation of the Working Class & Exclusion of the Business Class from Real Influence Unchecked Militarism and Economic Incompetence by the Ruling Class Undermining the Nation's Integrity,
Generating Needless Hostilities and Antagonisms Pattern of Domination in Society The social resources upon which
domination is founded The practice of domination understood as a process of meaningful social action Political rule cannot be reduced to economic power in every case ...Every possibility within a social relationship of imposing one's own will, even against opposition, without regard to the basis for this possibility. Power p. 132 The relational or active aspect of social inequality.
Translated into action, inequality becomes the distribution of power.
Different individuals/groups are powerful to different degrees, and in different ways Power 3 Basic Types of Inequality Classes Status Groups Parties The distribution of economic power in the market Cultural Property
A matter of social respect
and difference
The relative prestige
accorded to the way of
life of some groups ..similar to Marx Same economy, different social group

Similar status, different market situations Status Groups Old wealth and Nouveau Riches Principle: 'Our sort of people' Brahmin: civil service mandarin or poor teacher More widespread than political parties
Members are divided into parties through their interest in an outcome Slow social change: The social status associated with different ways of life (Social Groups)

Rapid change (technological innovation etc): Social assumptions are more likely to be challenged, thus greater prominence (economical class positions) Classes or Social Groups: Which is more influential?

Economic The Gained Respect The ability to carry
Resources and deference out their policies The pattern of power is the structure within which domination occurs

The other side of domination is justification in the eyes of both the powerful and the dominated Two Sides to Domination Weber’s 3 Types of Authority: 1) Traditional Authority
It is how it always has been.
Non-rational in Weber’s classification of action (not goal-directed nor the expression of value) 2) Charismatic Authority
The appearance of a magical aura
When he says 'follow me' it feels right to follow.
In contrast to the existing order, to challenge and overthrow 3) Rational-Legal Authority
The political
institutionalization of
instrumentally rational
We obey not an individual,
but a rule.
Administration through the
systematic application of
rules Bureaucracy: The Embodiment of Rational
Administration Weber's Ideal-Typical Bureaucracy 1. Hierarchy:
- Officials with defined competence
- A hierarchical division of labor
- Responsibility for performance to a superior 2. Continuity:
- A full-time salaried occupation
- A career structure offering advancement 3. Impersonality
- Work according to prescribed rules
- Without arbitrariness or favoritism
- Written records of transactions 4. Expertise
- Officials selected according to merit
- Trained for their function and controlled access to knowledge Fixed set of rules: Rational, Reliable and Predictable Bureaucracy is technologically superior, inevitable and irresistible
Once it has been established it is impossible with further structural changes. "The fully developed bureaucratic mechanism compares with other organizations exactly as does the machine with the non-mechanical modes of production." p. 139 ...However: Too much rational thought would reduce individuals to cogs in the bureaucratic machine Rational thought and following action requires freedom from coercion;
Freedom indicates the ability to follow one’s own reason. Reason Freedom "The Puritan wanted to work in a calling, we are forced to do so" The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
1958, p. 181 '..Individual reason is displayed by the impersonal functional rationality of the bureaucratic organization.' Society: A lifetime in exchange for meaningless effort Weber’s hope:
A charismatic leadership
that could reinvest
soulless machines with
human values. (a) Bureaucracies are not like Weber’s ideal pattern
(b) Bureaucracies are not the only type of rational organization
(c) Bureaucracies do also have a plurality of goals
(d) Thus, the rationalization process has a lot more personal
diversity than Weber believes. In Modern Industrial Societies
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