Max Weber biography, books and theory

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Max Weber (1864 – 1920) was a German sociologist, philosopher and scientific management theorist. Next to his great work on modern sociology, Max Weber also became famous with his scientific management approach on Bureaucracy and his Bureaucratic Theory and the Social Action Theory. The Bureaucratic Theory is arguably his most famous work.

Weber argued that capitalism was only 1 factor in the development and shaping of modern societies and the modern world. He also presented the concept of the iron cage in sociology. This article covers his biography, quotes and publications.

Max Weber biography

Max Weber was born in Erfurt, Germany, on April 21 1864. In 1882 Max Weber enrolled in the Heidelberg University. Next to being a junior lawyer, he passed in 1886 the examination for Referendar (final legal exam). In 1889 he earned his law doctorate by writing a dissertation on legal history.

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After his Law studies at the University of Heidelberg in 1896, Max Weber joined the University of Berlin’s faculty to lecture and consult the government. Next to that he had a particular interest contemporary social policy.

Between 1888 and 1890, Max Weber joined Verein für Socialpolitik, to fulfil a role of economics research (statistical studies), primarily as finding solutions to the social problems of the age.

In 1890 Weber was in charge of a large Polish influx and migration study. The end results of this study generated great attention and created a starting point for his career as a renown social scientist. In 1893 he became a member of the Alldeutscher Verband (Pan-German League) and gave provocative lectures in which he criticized the immigration of Polish people.

In 1894 Weber moved to Freiburg and became professor of economics at the University of Freiburg. His research in that period was still focused on economics and legal history.

In 1899 he had to stop his work as a professor and retire form courses because he suffered of depressions and insomnia. This to a work pause and Italy travel which lasted until 1902. He tried teaching again but needed to withdraw in 1903 and not return to it till 1919 (mental illness).

Weber started teaching again at the University of Munich. In this period he created major works like General Economic History, Science as a Vocation and Politics as a Vocation. This created a lot of turbulence because many colleagues and students disagreed on his opinions and statements about the German Revolution.

Max Weber died in 1920 during the effects of pneumonia. He is considered to be the father of modern sociology, along with Karl Marx and Emile Durkheim, and is known for his Bureaucratic Theory and Social Action Theory.

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Famous quotes

  1. “A science which attempts the interpretive understanding of social action in order thereby to arrive at a causal explanation of its course and effects.”
  2. “Power is the chance to impose your will within a social context, even when opposed and regardless of the integrity of that chance.”
  3. “Culture is a finite segment of the meaningless infinity of the world process, a segment on which human beings confer meaning and significance.”
  4. “The ethic of conviction and the ethic of responsibility are not opposites. They are complementary to one another.”
  5. “It is not true that good can only follow from good and evil only from evil, but that often the opposite is true.”
  6. “Laws are important and valuable in the exact natural sciences, in the measure that those sciences are universally valid.”
  7. “Every type of purely direct concrete description bears the mark of artistic portrayal.”
  8. “The fully developed bureaucratic apparatus compares with other organisations exactly as does the machine with the non-mechanical modes of production.”
  9. “All the analysis of infinite reality which the finite human mind can conduct rests on the tacit assumption that only a finite portion of this reality constitutes the object of scientific investigation, and that only it is important in the sense of being worthy of being known.”
  10. “Politics means striving to share power or striving to influence the distribution of power, either among states or among groups within a state.”
  11. “The primary task of a useful teacher is to teach his students to recognize ‘inconvenient’ facts – I mean facts that are inconvenient for their party opinions.”
  12. “No sociologist should think himself too good, even in his old age, to make tens of thousands of quite trivial computations in his head and perhaps for months at a time.”
  13. “Causal analysis provides absolutely no value judgment, and a value judgment is absolutely not a causal explanation.”

Books and Publications by Max Weber

  • 2015, 1919. Politics as a Vocation.
  • 2009. From Max Weber: essays in sociology. Routledge.
  • 2009. The theory of social and economic organization. Simon and Schuster.
  • 2002. The Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism and other writings. Penguin.
  • 1994. Weber: political writings. Cambridge University Press.
  • 1981. General economic history. Transaction publishers.
  • 1978. Economy and society: An outline of interpretive sociology. Univ of California Press.
  • 1968. On charisma and institution building. University of Chicago Press.
  • 1968, 1953. The Religion of China, Confucianism and Taoism.
  • 1958. Science as a Vocation. Daedalus, 87(1), 111-134.
  • 1958. The Three Types of Legitimate Rule. Essay
  • 1946. Science as a Vocation. In Science and the Quest for Reality (pp. 382-394). Palgrave Macmillan UK.
  • 1946. Class, status, party (pp. 180-95). na.
  • 1930, 1905. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Translated by Talcott Parsons… with a Foreword by RT Tawney.
  • 1924. Gesammelte aufsätze zur soziologie und sozialpolitik.

How to cite this article:
van Vliet, V. (2017). Max Weber. Retrieved [insert date] from Toolshero:

Published on: 04/27/2017 | Last update: 03/19/2024

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Vincent van Vliet
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Vincent van Vliet

Vincent van Vliet is co-founder and responsible for the content and release management. Together with the team Vincent sets the strategy and manages the content planning, go-to-market, customer experience and corporate development aspects of the company.


2 responses to “Max Weber biography, books and theory”

  1. Akash Gogoi says:

    Very nice article sir and thank you for this beautiful information.

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