Last modified on 7 April 2013, at 11:42

Sociological Theory/Max Weber

Max Weber (1864-1902) was born in Erfurt, the son of a prosperous and influential lawyer who was active in politics. Like his friend Simmel, Weber was brought up in Berlin. He studied law, history, economics, and philosophy and achieved early recognition, becoming a professor at the age of 30. Then he suffered a nervous breakdown which forced him to give up teaching. After he recovered, he spent most of his life in private study. His writings were extensive; although many volumes have been translated into English, a considerable amount remains untranslated.

The fundamentals of SociologyEdit

Weber's sociology main purpose is to understand the social action, given that it's causes must be found in the meaning attributed to it by the actor. While other authors, like Émille Durkheim, were trying to establish the existence of the social phenomena as an objective reality independent of the individuals and their consciousness, Weber stated that the causal link sociology seeks to establish between two events is the meaning attributed by the actors. Thus, society does not have its own existence, independent of the individuals. It is constituted by individuals and meanings.

The Nature of Charismatic Authority IntroductionEdit

Weber believed that the same forms of social organization develop independently in different cultures, and his enormous historical knowledge enabled him to demonstrate the one point again and again. He was discussing religious congregations and the balance between preaching and pastoral care in such congregations. "Among those religious functionaries whose pastoral care has influenced the everyday life of the laity and the behaviour of political officials in an enduring and often decisive manner have been the counselling rabbis of Judaism, the father confessors of Catholicism, the pietistic pastors of souls in Protestantism, the directors of souls in Counter Reformation Catholicism, the Brahminic purohitas at the court, the gurus and gosains in Hinduism, and the muftis and dervish sheikhs in Islam." One of Weber's lifelong concerns was to show how the major segments of a society influenced each other in their historical development. His first important work, The Protestant Ethic aud. The Spirit of Capitalism, demonstrated how the religious values held by the Puritan sects of the Reformation, especially their asceticism and their belief that God arbitrarily elects certain souls for salvation, contributed to the development of industrial capitalism in England and northern Europe by providing motives for hard work, austere living, and the accumulation of wealth. Although it was not his sole purpose, Weber refuted Marx's contention that all beliefs and values were mere superstructure, explainable by reference to the organization of production, by showing that beliefs and values could be equally well used to explain the development of a system of production. Because he provided an alternative explanation of the rise of capitalism and a different set of predictions about its future, Weber has been called "the Marx of the bourgeoisie." But his historical analyses go far beyond this one point; he was able to show the mutual dependence of economic systems, forms of government, social stratification, and religious beliefs in Greece and Rome, in the Middle Ages, in the ancient Near East, in India, China, Japan, and medieval Russia, indeed wherever civilization had left written records.

The Perception of CharismaEdit

In Weber’s word the word "charisma" is denoted to a quality of an individual personality, which makes him distinguish from other persons in a society. This quality may be a supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional power. We may say in simple that it is God gifted. These traits, as such, are not accessible to the ordinary person, but are regarded as of divine origin or as exemplary, and on the basis of them the individual concerned is treated as a leader. In primitive circumstances this peculiar kind of deference is paid to prophets, to people with a reputation for therapeutic or legal wisdom, to leaders in the hunt, and heroes in war. It is very often thought of as resting on magical powers. Max Weber treated every type of this quality in his theory for explanation whether it is unenthusiastic or Enthusiastic. He also included intellectual, and Heroes (such as Alexander the Great etc.). Charismatic authority is different from bureaucratic and traditional authority in performing the everyday routine and the profane sphere. Bureaucrat authority is specifically rational in the sense of being bound to intellectual analyzable rules, while charismatic authority is specifically irrational in this sense of being foreign to all rules. Traditional authority is bound to the precedents handed down from the past and to this extent is also oriented to rule while the charismatic authority repudiates to past and is in this sense a specifically revolutionary force. It recognizes the appropriation of positions of power by virtue of the possession of property either on the part of a chief or of socially privileged groups. The on basis of legitimacy for it is personal charisma, so long as it is proved, this, is, as long as it receives recognition and is able to satisfy the followers disciples. But this lasts only so long as the belief in its charismatic inspiration remains. The charismatic revolutionary force alters the situations of action by changing men's attitudes and intellectualizes the individual. Charisma, on the other hand, may involve a subjective or internal re orientation born out of suffering, conflicts or enthusiasm. It may then resin in a radical alteration of the central system of attitudes and directions d action, with a completely new orientation of all attitudes toward the different problems and structures of the "world."

Motives for Transformation of Charismatic AuthorityEdit

Under charismatic realm the social relationships directly involved are strictly personal, based on the validity and practice of charismatic personal qualities. If this is not to remain a purely transitory phenomenon, but to take on the character of a permanent relationship forming a stable community of disciples, or a band of followers, or a party organization, or any sort of political or hierocratic organization, it is necessary for the character of charismatic authority to become radically changed. Charismatic authority exists only in the process of originating. It cannot remain stable, but becomes either traditionalized or rationalized, or a combination of both. What are the motives necessary for this transformation? (1) The material interests of the followers in the continuation and the continual reactivation of the community or in simple words we can say the economic and social life is necessary for follower and they can not remain uncommitted from their social life. (2) Both traditional and administrative authority have an interest in continuing it in such a way that both from an ideal and a material point of view, their own status is put on a stable everyday basis. This means, above all, making it possible to participate in normal family relationships and at least to enjoy a secure social position, in place of the kind of discipleship which is cut off from ordinary worldly connections, notably in the family and in economic relationships.

Solution for the Problem of SuccessionEdit

These interests generally become conspicuously evident with the disappearance of the personal charismatic leader, and with the problem of succession which inevitably arises. The way in which this problem is met if it is met at all and the charismatic group continues to exist is of crucial importance for the character of the subsequent social relationships. The principal possible types of solution to problem appeared during the process of succession:

Selection of New Charismatic LeaderEdit

The search for a new charismatic leader on the basis of criteria of the qualities which will fit him for the position of authority. A example of this is the choice of new Dalai Lama or new Bull of Apis.

Revelation ProcessEdit

By revelation manifested in oracles, lots, divine judgments, or other techniques of selection. In this case, the legitimacy of the new leader is dependent on the legitimacy of the technique of his selection. This involves a form of legalization. It is said that at times the Schofetim of Israel had this character. Saul is said to have been chosen by the old war oracle.

Designation by Charismatic LeaderEdit

By the designation on the part of the original charismatic leader of his own successor and his recognition on the part of the followers. This is' a very common form. Originally, the Roman magistracies were filled entirely in this way. The system survived most clearly into later times in the appointment of "dictators" and in the institution of the "interrex." In this case, legitimacy is acquired through the act of designation.

Pre-Designation of Successor By SelectionEdit

Designation of a successor by the charismatically qualified administrative staff and his recognition by the community. In its typical form, this process should quite definitely not be interpreted as "election," or "nomina¬tion," or anything of the sort. It is not a matter of free selection, but of one which is strictly bound to objective duty. It is not to be determined merely by majority vote, but is a question of arriving at the correct designation, the designation of the right person who is truly endowed with charisma. It is quite possible that the minority and not the majority should be right in such a case. It is obligatory to acknowledge a mistake, and persistence in error is a serious offense. Making a wrong choice is a genuine wrong requiring expiation. Originally it was a magical offense. Nevertheless, in such a case it is easy for legitimacy to take on the character of an acquired right which is justified by standards of the cor¬rectness of the process by which the position was acquired, for the most part, by its having been acquired in accordance with certain formalities, such as coronation. This was the original meaning of the coronation of bish¬ops and kings in the Western world by the clergy or the nobility with the "consent" of the community. There are numerous analogous phenomena all over the world. The fact that this is the origin of the modem conception of "election" raises problems which will have to be gone into later.

Inherit Quality or KinshipEdit

By the conception that charisma is a quality transmitted by heredity; thus that it is participated in by the kinsmen of its bearer, particularly by his closest relatives. This is the case of hereditary charisma. The order of hereditary succession in such a case need not be the same as that which is in force for appropriated rights, but may differ from it. It is also sometimes necessary to select the proper heir within the kinship group by some of the methods just spoken of; thus in certain Negro states brothers have had to fight for the succession. In China, succession bad to take place in such a way that the relation of the living group to the ances spirits was not disturbed. The rule either of seniority or of designation by the follower has been very common in the Orient. Hence, in the house of Osman, it has been obligatory to eliminate all other possible candidates. Only in medieval Europe and in Japan universally, elsewhere only spo¬radically, has the principle of primogeniture, as governing the inheritance of authority, become clearly established. This has greatly facilitated the consolidation of political groups in that it has eliminated struggle between a plurality of candidates from the same charismatic family. In Asia there have been very numerous heredi¬tary priesthoods; also, frequently, the hereditary charisma of kinship groups has been treated as a criterion of social rank and of eligibility for fiefs and benefices.

Transmitted DogmaEdit

The concept that charisma may be transmitted by formal procedure means from one bearer to another or may be created in a new person. The concept was originally supernatural. It involves a dissociation of charisma from a particular character, making it an objective, transferable entity. In particular, it may become the charisma of office. In this case the belief in legitimacy is no longer directed to the individual, but to the acquired qualities and to the effectiveness of the ritual acts. The most important example is the trans¬mission of priestly charisma by anointing, consecration, or the laying on of hands and of royal authority, by anointing and by coronation. The caratter indelibly thus acquired means that the charismatic qualities and powers of the office are emancipated from the personal qualities of the priest.