Exam2 Master Study Guide

Biographical Information

Max Weber 1864-1920. German. Studied law/history/economics

Major Works (you must know OF these)

Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (book)
Economy and Society (book)
"Class, Status, and Party" (actually as section of Economy and Society)
"The Bases of Legitimate" Authority (actually as section of Economy and Society)
"Bureaucracy" (actually as section of Economy and Society)
"Politics as a Vocation" (essay/speech)
"Science as a Vocation" (essay/speech)

Major Works & Blurbs (know a little bit about these)

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
1905 book by Weber that explained correlation of religion and economic position in terms of fit between mindset that developed in Protestantism and an approach to life that fostered the development of modern western capitalism. Based on two ideal types: "the Protestant ethic" and "the spirit of capitalism."
Class, Status, and Party
Essay by Weber in which he suggests that social inequality is multidimensional. Class is economic dimension — class position = market position; social status is an independent dimension of inequality based on social honor; class and status interact; "party" is organized efforts, based on class and/or status, to influence legal rules that affect class and status.
Bases of legitimate domination
Traditional (based on "the eternal yesterday")
Legal Rational (based on respect for the rules)
Charismatic (based on "magnetic" personality)

Concepts and Terms

Seven characteristics of bureaucracy
Areas of responsibility, job descriptions, qualifications
Hierarchy of positions; one boss. People fill offices rather than "owning" the title.
Management is based on written documents and records
"Running the office" is, itself, a skill.
Worker does not own the equipment.
Work in a bureaucracy is a full time job, not a mere ceremonial post or secondary activity.
Management is by rules and procedures not whim and relationships.
Four types of social action
Goal oriented (Zweckrational)
Value oriented (Wertrational)
Three types of legitimate authority
Traditional (based on "the eternal yesterday")
Legal Rational (based on respect for the rules)
Charismatic (based on "magnetic" personality)
Class, Status, and Party
Class as economic dimension — class position = market position; social status as independent dimension of inequality based on social honor; class and status interact; party as organized efforts, based on class and/or status, to influence legal rules that affect class and status.
"Politics as a Vocation"
Speech/essay by Weber in which he contrasts the "ethic of ultimate ends" vs. ethic of responsibility
an ideal type (of social organization) characterized by: business as an ongoing concern, offices function according to rules, offices are organized hierarchically, officials do not own tools & resources, work and home are strictly separated, office is not owned by the incumbent, business based on written documents
influence, power, authority
Influence is most general — any way behavior of one has an effect on another. Power is capacity to impose your will on others despite what they may want. Authority is when the others, at some level, recognize your right (i.e., legitimacy) to have power over them.
Economy and Society
Weber's magnum opus, published posthumously, contains most of his well known writings (including "Bureaucracy," "Domination," "Class, Status, & Party")
Four types of social action
goal oriented (zweckrational)
Value oriented (wertrational)
ideal type
Heuristic device employed by Weber to allow sociologists to theorize/generalize from historically particular cases and data and to
Protestant ethic
Weber's ideal type, exemplified by, among other things, Benjamin Franklin's maxims about the right life ("Time is money," "Waste not, want not," "A penny saved is a penny earned") and deriving from the idea of "duty in one's calling" that comes from Luther and Calvin. It's a mindset oriented toward seriousness of purpose, self-improvement and anxiety about ever having done enough to fulfill one's duty.
spirit of capitalism
Weber's ideal type for the style of thinking that's emblematic of modern, Western capitalism: the need for constant expansion, systematic exploitation of every opportunity to maximize profit and measure good life in terms of earning power.
worldly asceticism
Weber's characterization of the Protestant ethic. In pre-reformation Europe the "holy man" would retreat from society, enter a monastery and practice self-denial away from the world to get closer to god. The Protestant mindset allows anyone to be a "saint" and to practice all manner of "self-purification" in one's daily life — fulfilling ones duty in a calling as a successful business person, for example.
ethic of ultimate ends
Part of the contrast Weber makes in his essays (speeches) on politics and science as a vocation. The EoUE is the motivation based on fundamental belief and conviction. A person called to "politics as a vocation" needs to be able to combine this with an ethic of responsibility. One should fight passionately for what one believes in, but, in the extreme, be fully prepared to face the firing squad if it turns out to have been a bad idea. This is connected with his distinction between science and politics — science will never answer the question of what you should believe in or be willing to fight for — that you have to CHOOSE.
ethic of responsibility
Part of the contrast Weber makes in his essays (speeches) on politics and science as a vocation. The EoR is the willingness to be fully accountable for one's actions, recognizing that you cannot perhaps be a saint and always get everything right (and we shouldn't pretend that one could). A person called to "politics as a vocation" needs to be able to combine this with an ethic of responsibility. One should fight passionately for what one believes in, but, in the extreme, be fully prepared to face the firing squad if it turns out to have been a bad idea. This is connected with his distinction between science and politics — science will never answer the question of what you should believe in or be willing to fight for — that you have to CHOOSE.
In his essay on domination, Weber introduces the idea that there is one kind of power in which the domination relationship is at least partially voluntary — that is, the dominated have some belief in the right of the dominant to dominate. This property of domination is called legitimacy.
A subcategory of power in which the subordinate grants legitimacy to the superordinate, believing, for one reason or another, in the domination.
The capacity to get someone to follow your will regardless of what their will says.
A basis for the legitimacy of domination founded in respect for rules
A basis for the legitimacy of domination founded in a belief in "the eternal yesterday," or because "it's always been done this way."
One of three bases for legitimate authority. Charisma refers to "magnetic personality"
In "Class, Status, and Party," Weber uses "class" to refer to a person's economic position in society, particular her economic life chances.
Also known as social honor or prestige.
The arena of political activity. Class and status groups can organize to become political actors. When they do, they act to change rules and laws that have an effect on the economic position and the social status of the members of the group.
social honor
Prestige and respect accorded to us by virtue of the position we occupy in society.
In "Class, Status, Party," Weber notes that one way we display status is by our consumption choices. This idea later becomes basis for a whole sociology of consumption.


"The fate of an epoch that has eaten of the tree of knowledge is that it must … recognize that general views of life and the universe can never be the products of increasing empirical knowledge, and that the highest ideals, which move us most forcefully, are always formed only in the struggle with other ideals which are just as sacred to others as ours are to us." — Max Weber



1858-1917; French; Studied humanistic disciplines but turned his attention to creating a "science of society." First chair of sociology in 1912.

Know OF the main works

  1. Division of Labor in Society (1893): mechanical and organic solidarity, pre-contractual nature of contract
  2. Suicide (1897): suicide as social not personal, types of suicide, anomie
  3. Rules of the Sociological Method (1895): (treat) social facts (as things), crime is normal
  4. Elementary Forms of the Religious Life (1912): ritual, society is god, sacred/profane
  5. Primitive Classification (with Mauss) (1903): collective representations

Take-away Concepts

sociological wholism (vs. methodological reductionism)
Durkheim is certainly not the first, but he stands out for us as a "founder" of contemporary sociology's approach to systematically treating "societies" as units of analysis. Wholism means you can think of the society as a "thing" subject to analysis. By comparison, a methodological individualist is a reductionist — the only thing real is individuals and their actual behavior. For them, society exists "in name only" (and we call them "nominalists").
sociological realism (vs. nominalism)
Durkheim is a sociological realist in that he held that there really is such a thing as society. It's not just a concept that exists in name only.
social fact
Durkheim’s definition: A social fact is any way of acting, whether fixed or not, capable of exerting over the individual an external constraint; OR which is general over the whole of a given society whilst having an existence of its own, independent of its individual manifestations. (The Rules of Sociological Method, p. 59)

[Social Facts] consist of manners of acting, thinking and feeling external to the individual, which are invested with a coercive power by virtue of which they exercise control over him. Consequently, since they consist of representations and actions, they cannot be confused with organic phenomena, nor with psychical phenomena, which have no existence save in and through the individual consciousness. (The Rules of Sociological Method p. 52)

"Treat social facts as things" We do not say that social facts are material things, but that they are things by the same right as material things, although they differ from them in type … A thing is any object of knowledge which is not naturally controlled by the intellect, which cannot be adequately grasped by a simple process of mental activity … To treat the facts of a certain order as things thus is not to place them in a particular category of reality, but to assume a certain mental attitude towards them; it is to approach the study of them on the principle that we are absolutely ignorant of their nature, and that their characteristic properties, like the unknown causes on which they depend, cannot be discovered by even the most careful introspection. (The Rules of Sociological Method, preface)

mechanical solidarity
social cohesiveness based on similarity (collective consciousness — we all think, act, look, etc. alike)

The word does not mean that the solidarity is produced by mechanical and artificial means. We only use this term for it by analogy with the cohesion that links together the elements of raw materials, in contrast to that which encompasses the unity of living organisms. What finally justifies the use of this term is the fact that the bond that thus unites the individual with society is completely analogous to that which links the thing to the person. The individual consciousness, considered from this viewpoint, is simply a dependency of the collective type, and follows all its motions, just as the object possessed follows those which its owner imposes upon it. In the societies where this solidarity is highly developed the individual … does not belong to himself; he is literally a thing at the disposal of society. (The Division of Labour in Society, pp. 84-5)

If there is one rule of conduct which is incontestable, it is that which orders us to realize in ourselves the essential traits of the collective type (DoLiS, Lemert 73.9). [In pre-industrial society] … duty is resemble everybody else, not to have anything personal about one's beliefs or actions… (73.9-74.1) …the human conscience that we must integrally realize is nothing else than the collective conscience of the group of which we are a part (74.3).

organic solidarity
social cohesiveness based on complementarity, division of labor

Whereas [mechanical] solidarity implies that individuals resemble one another, [organic solidarity] assumes that they are different from one another … Here, then, the individuality of the whole grows at the same time as that of the parts. Society becomes more effective in moving in concert, at the same time as each of its elements has more movements that are peculiarly its own. This solidarity resembles that observed in the higher animals. In fact each organ has its own special characteristics and autonomy, yet the greater unity of the organism, the more marked the individualisation of the parts. Using this analogy, we propose to call ‘organic’ the solidarity that is due to the division of labour. (The Division of Labour in Society, p 85)

Question: how come, with the rise of individualism, society does not fall apart? Put another way, what is the glue that holds society together?

We call the "togetherness" of a society "solidarity."

How does it come about that the individual, whilst becoming more autonomous, depends ever more closely upon society? How can he become at the same time more of an individual and yet more closely linked to society? For it is indisputable that these two movements, however contradictory they appear to be, are carried on in tandem. Such is the nature of the problem that we have set ourselves. (The Division of Labour in Society, p. xxx)

The division of labour consists of moral as well as economic ties – and therefore derives from society rather than being outside or opposed to society:

Work is not shared out between independent individuals who are already differentiated from one another, who meet and associate together in order to pool their different abilities. It would be a miracle if these differences, arising from chance circumstances, could be so accurately harmonised as to form a coherent whole. Far from their preceding collective life, they derive from it. They can only occur within a society, under the pressure of social sentiments and needs. This is what makes them essentially capable of being harmonised. Thus there is social life outside of any division of labour, but one that the latter assumes. (The Division of Labour in Society, pp. 218-9)

Four types of suicide
normal vs. pathological
For Durkheim this is a key distinction. He means it in the sense of what properties (what social facts, actually) you can expect to find in a "normal" society and he wants to make clear that some of these might be considered "social problems" (that is things we'd like to have less of) but that they are still properties of a normal, non-pathological society. Consider how we recognize that in a normal relationship there will be disagreements and fights — they do not necessarily signal a pathological (sick) relationship.
"crime is normal"
Famous Durkheimian adage that asserts that all societies have crime and so it is a NORMAL feature of human societies. It could be abnormal if it is too high or too low or changing too much, but the presence of crime by itself is not abnormal. The argument is basically that detecting violations of community standards is basically what communities do; in Kai Erikson's words, "communities are boundary maintaining" entities. Durkheim pointedly said that even a society of angels would have crime: just having your wings a little crooked would offend the angelic collective consciousness and thus be a crime.
Lack of social regulation; normlessness.
suicide as social
Durkheim's most famous claim. Rates vary from place to place and over time; factors that affect rates are levels of social integration and regulation
One of two core components of religion for Durkheim is beliefs (the other is ritual) and the main belief is a distinction between sacred/profane. Sacred is a category that is powerful, special, magical, meaningful. It often possess power of contact "contamination" (it can make other things sacred or it can be profaned). Profane is defined simply as "everything else" or "not sacred." Durkheim ultimately suggests that every social group has a shared sense of the sacred and that, ultimately, this is connected to its own sense of itself as a group.
Group activity that involves repetition or scripted behavior and a shared focus. For Durkheim, one of the key ingredients in religion. Collins builds on Durkheim and calls social ritual the way that humans produce the kind of trust and sense of the collective that is a required foundation for social life.
society is god
(See sacred/profane.) Durkheim's theory that religion is "real" in that it is, in the end, a group worshiping itself by recognizing the powerful social emotions it can develop when its members engage in social rituals.
collective consciousness/conscience
Durkheim's concept of "the social" — the awareness we have of the "us-ness" of "us" — that part of our sense of what the world is and

In a small society, since everybody is roughly placed in the same conditions of existence, the collective environment is essentially concrete … The states of consciousness that represent it are therefore of the same character … Consequently the common consciousness has a definite character. But this consciousness alters in nature as societies grow more immense, Because they are spread over a much vaster area, the common consciousness is itself forced to rise above all local diversities, to dominate more the space available, and consequently to become more abstract. For few save general things can be common to all these various environments. There is no longer a question of such and such an animal, but of such and such a species; not this spring, but these springs; not this forest, but forest in abstracto. (The Division of Labour in Society, pp 229-30)

If there is one rule of conduct whose moral character is undisputed, it is that which decrees that we should realise in ourselves the essential features of the collective type. It is among the lower peoples that it attains the greatest inflexibility. There the first duty is to resemble everyone else. In the more advanced societies, the similarities that are required are fewer in number … [I]n reality the human consciousness that we must realise within ourselves in its entirety is nothing other than the collective consciousness of the group of which we form part. For of what can it be made up, if not of the ideas and sentiments to which we are most attached? Where should we turn to look for the characteristics of our model if not within ourselves and around us? If we believe that this collective ideal is that of the whole of humanity, it is because it has become sufficiently abstract and general to appear to suit all men without distinction … Now the opposite rule, which decrees that we should specialise, has exactly the same function. It is also necessary for the cohesion of societies, at least from a certain time onwards in their evolution. Doubtless, the solidarity that it ensures is different from the former one. But if it is different, it is no less indispensable. Higher societies cannot maintain their equilibrium unless work is divided up. The attraction of like for like suffices less and less to produce this effect. If therefore the moral character of the first of these rules is necessary for it to be able to perform its role, this necessity is no less for the second rule. They both correspond to the same social need and satisfy it only in different ways because the conditions of existence within societies themselves differ. (The Division of Labour in Society, pp. 329-30)

regulation and integration
Two "social facts" Durkheim uses to create a typology of suicide. Each of four types of suicide is described in terms of excess or deficit of either integration or regulation
"Society" is a sui generis reality
that which is outside us that is inside us…. Sui generis means "in a class by itself." For Durkheim, this is a way of saying that "society" (as manifested in collective conscience) is not "in nature" and it is not reducible to the aggregate of human individuals. It exists at its own level — it is real by virtue of the fact that it is in us all AND its reality exists only insofar as we all ENACT it. It thus has a different "reality status" than either the objective natural world or the inner world of individuals. In modern terms we might say it is "emergent" in the same way that we think of "mind" as something that is emergent with respect to brain.
social realism (vs. nominalism)
Durkheim is a "realist" rather than a "nominalist." Society actually exists. But it is not a mere aggregation. It is "more than the sum of its parts":

Society is not the mere sum of individuals, but the system formed by their association represents a specific reality which has its own characteristics. Undoubtedly no collective entity can be produced if there are no individual consciousnesses: this is a necessary but not sufficient condition. In addition, these consciousnesses must be associated and combined in a certain way. It is from this combination that the social arises and consequently it is this combination that explains it’ (The Rules of Sociological Method, p. 129)

society as moral force
important for Durkheim that humans in groups give rise to a real force that has the character of being "moral" — by this he seems to mean that it exerts a force on us via our thinking about what is right and proper for one who is in our group. That resistance we feel when we do something our group would not approve of is evidence of this.

[Society] is not a mere juxtaposition of individuals who, upon entering into it, bring with them an intrinsic morality. Man is only a moral being because he lives in society, since morality consists in solidarity with the group, and varies according to that solidarity. Cause all social life to vanish, and moral life would vanish at the same time. (The Division of Labour in Society, p. 331)

Society for Durkheim is almost the source of normativity ("ought-ness") in human life. It "resides," if you will in the collective consciousness. In Rules Durkheim makes his famous claim that "crime is normal" — that is, you cannot have a society without it — and then he goes on to explain that the reason for this is that it is a category that describes how certain actions are evaluated by the collective consciousness:

Punishment "constitutes essentially a reaction of passionate feeling, graduated in intensity, which society exerts through the mediation of an organised body over those of its members who have violated certain rules of conduct."(22) The same passion is the source of both the rules of conduct and the reaction to their breach: "In other words, we should not say that an act offends the common consciousness because it is criminal, but that it is criminal because it offends that consciousness. We do not condemn it because it is a crime, but it is a crime because we condemn it."(23)

Religion as Real
Durkheim poses a fundamental question - why does religion persist in an age of science? Is it "error" on the part of an irrational majority? He suggests the best scientific approach to understanding religion would be to take it as a real human experience, a social fact, and try to analyze it into its most elementary parts.


"Treat social facts as things." (Rules of the Sociological Method)
"It does not offend the collective consciousness because it is a crime, it is a crime because it offends the collective consciousness. (Rules of the Sociological Method)

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License