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Max Weber on Social Organization

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Chapter 6: 

Chapter 6 Max Weber on Social Organization

The Protestant Ethic and The Spirit of Capitalism: 

The Protestant Ethic and The Spirit of Capitalism Just like Marx and the rest of the early Sociologists, Weber was interested in capitalism’s development and how it was affected by and affected society Weber’s analysis of how capitalism was framed around how it was shaped by the “new” Protestant religions that emerged as a part of the 16 th century Protestant Reformation (Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, etc.)

The Protestant Ethic and The Spirit of Capitalism: 

The Protestant Ethic and The Spirit of Capitalism Weber’s thesis was initially presented in a couple of lengthy journal articles, and later published as a book entitled The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (PESC), which is undoubtedly his best remembered work.

Non-Material Theory: 

Non-Material Theory Weber defined the spirit of capitalism by a number of inter-related orientations that were widely shared At its core it consisted of a rational, systematic, highly-self controlled commitment to accumulate wealth. In PESC, Weber was primarily interested in explaining the orientations that supported capitalism rather than the actually structure of capitalism as an economic system This approach ran counter to the then prevailing intellectual current in Europe which had a strong Marxian influence

Non-Material Theory: 

Non-Material Theory Marx, 50 years earlier, had emphasized the materialistic approach which insisted that the most important qualities in defining capitalism were its distinctive patterns of ownership and class structure. Weber’s approach was a more subjective emphasis upon people’s attitudes and ideas, and was clearly non-materialistic.

Non-Material Theory: 

Non-Material Theory Weber justified his nonmaterial approach by presenting some historical evidence on how the spirit of capitalism preceded the large-scale development of capitalistic economies. Weber explained this relationship by claiming that capitalistic development required a set of beliefs that could legitimate the capitalistic spirit This is where the Protestant Ethic’s emphasis upon hard work and self-discipline entered the picture. Unless some value system – like the Protestant ethic – provided legitimation, he concluded, the capitalistic sprit was unlikely to become wide-spread in any society, and without that, a capitalistic economy could not fully develop

Non-Material Theory: 

Non-Material Theory As stated, PESC may be Weber’s best remembered contribution, but it may also be h is most misinterpreted work, because it is often examined outside of his other writings on religion. In PESC, he does try to show how a set of ideas and values, embodied in the Protestant ethic, provided a crucial legitimation for the ethos of capitalism, and thereby facilitated the development of large-scale capitalistic economies. It is also true that he viewed this thesis as contradicting a “naïve” use of Marx’s historical materialism which would contend that it is always the economic structure of a society that ordinarily determines people’s interests and outlooks.

Non-Material Theory: 

Non-Material Theory However, it is not true that he regarded the primacy of ideas and values as an absolute rule. From his other writings on religion, which involved more divers nations and longer time periods, it appears that he did not view any one type of variable as necessarily determining social and economic organization; and he explicitly said so in the conclusion to PESC.

Protestant-Catholic Differences: 

Protestant-Catholic Differences Writing at the turn of the 20 th century, Weber noted that in societies, with substantial numbers of both Protestants and Catholics, on average, the Protestants were in higher status occupations, were better educated and were more likely to own businesses and factories. In addition, within nations, he noted that regions and cities with large Protestant populations tended to be wealthier than those made up predominantly of Catholics

Protestant-Catholic Differences: 

Protestant-Catholic Differences Weber recognized that the relationship between religion and socio-economic measures, such as occupation and wealth could be very complex, and he wrestled with how best to interpret which was cause and which was effect. In many of the wealthiest cities in Europe, he discerned that here had been a rush of conversions for Catholicism to various Protestant denominations during the 16 th century. Subsequently, through inherited wealth, the Protestant offspring could afford better educations plus they had more capital, so their economic advantages persisted Their religion was not the original causal variable in this case

Protestant-Catholic Differences: 

Protestant-Catholic Differences On the other hand, differences in religion could have consequences for people’s educational and occupational aspirations, and this was his primary argument in PESC. The most common pattern, he wrote, was for people’s early exposure to different religious philosophies to have later effects on their socioeconomic status.

Protestant-Catholic Differences: 

Protestant-Catholic Differences The primary difference “inner qualities,” to Weber was that Protestants were more inclined toward economic rationalism, which led them to be more fully engaged in commerce and industry, and to place more emphasis upon obtaining an education that would be appropriate to business careers. Catholics, on the other hand, he saw as more estranged form the secular world and therefore less concerned with trying to be successful in terms of conventional socio-economic accomplishments

Protestant-Catholic Differences: 

Protestant-Catholic Differences Weber was not looking at Protestant and Catholic orientations as literally inscribed in religious liturgy or as preached from pulpits. One could not understand the impact of the new Protestants, according to Weber, from an objective analysis of their scripture. Rather it required an analysis of the everyday meanings that the faithful derived form the sacred scripts, and life.

Protestant-Catholic Differences: 

Protestant-Catholic Differences Here Weber is continuing to stress the importance of subjective interpretations =- how people view their own and other’s behavior – to justify it and imbue it with meaning He explicitly denied that the major Protestant reformers (Calvin, Luther and others) had any economic intent. Their goal was the “salvation of the soul – and that alone, “ that their writings and teachings ultimately had a profound effect upon economic developments was unforeseen and even unwanted.

The Spirit of Capitalism: 

The Spirit of Capitalism To lay out the core of the spirit of capitalism, Weber presented some lengthy excerpts fro the writings of Benjamin Franklin, a man he considered to be an exemplar of the spirit Franklin’s writings were intended to be more than an economic primer; they were meant as a blueprint for how people should organize their lives. Constantly searching for opportunities to earn and save money at every opportunity was also more than desirable, it was one’s moral duty, the mark of a person's virtue Thus, acquiring and retaining wealth was the goal: and it was to be sought in a systematic and calculating manner.

The Spirit of Capitalism: 

The Spirit of Capitalism Strict conformity with the spirit of capitalism also made the accumulation of wealth an end in itself, rather than a means to something else. There was an ascetic dimension to the spirit of capitalism: an emphasis upon self-denial or a distrust of the spontaneous enjoyment of money because any hint of hedonism was to be avoided. To the subjective orientation of the capitalist, a systematic pursuit of wealth seemed rational However, from the standpoint of personal happiness, Weber wryly observed, this way of organizing people’s lives may be irrational because they “live for their businesses rather than the reverse.”

The Protestant Ethic: 

The Protestant Ethic The key feature of the Protestant Ethic is developed through the writings of Luther, Calvin and other religious leaders of the Reformation Leading to Weber’s ideal type Protestant Ethic Its key features are embodied in the idea of the “the calling.” According to Weber, this encapsulated the single most widely shared and centrally important belief among all Protestant groupings

The Calling: 

The Calling When the term “the calling” is used today, it is probably most often in relation to someone entering the clergy or for those who decided very early in life that they are committed to becoming something With the emergency of the Protestant sects during the Reformation, the idea of a calling was attached to whatever work a person did; a much more general view than that taken today.

The Calling: 

The Calling Because of this interpretation of the Bible indicated that their work was God’s will – that they had been called to it – they had to take their work seriously’; treat their job, whatever it was, with a dedication and reverence In traditional Catholicism, Weber pointed out, the more an individual adhered to religious commitments, the more the person was driven out of conventional society. Catholicism held a monastic ideal that glorified the monks’ withdrawal from society to live I cloi9stered monasteries Among the Protestants, however, religious devotion was translated into the pursuit of vocational callings; performing God’s work in this world

Predestination Anxieties: 

Predestination Anxieties A key element in the cultural conflicts of the 16 th century involved the marked difference between the Protestant doctrine of predestination and the Catechism of the Catholic church which contended that heave was a reward for a lifetime of good deeds. People could presumably tally their good and bad deeds and use the net result to reckon their grace according to the Protestant sects; the are not longer able to prepare themselves for salvation Some people are predestined for eternal life, others for everlasting death God alone decrees, and how He decides is essentially a mystery, impossible for people to fathom Therefore, commitment to one’s calling, even though it was God’s work on earth, could not literally be used to “purchase” salvation

Predestination Anxieties: 

Predestination Anxieties The belief in a fixed and unknown predestination created an enormous amount of anxiety for the Protestant faithful. The advise from their religious leaders was to have faith, and assume they were among the chose. Working diligently in following one’s calling could completely absorb people, according to the early Protestant ministries and that was the only legitimate way they would be able to reduce their predestination anxieties Nevertheless, being human, they were inclined continuously to try to monitor their state of grace, looking for a “sign.” Even though it was not a logical deduction, most assumed that success in their calling could be such a sign. – the successful business people were admitted for their worldly accomplishments

Community Ties: 

Community Ties In contrasting the Protestant sects that emerged in the 16 th century with traditional Catholicism, Weber was struck by the difference in social bonds This difference was expressed in number of ways beginning with attitudes toward sinners among them Catholics had been instructed to feel compassion toward sinners Protestants, however, viewed sin as a moral failure because it indicated a lack of self control Protestants felt that one was not held accountable for one’s relations with others The Catholic insistence that everyone was their brother’s keeper was replaced by the belief that every person faced their Maker alone

Community Ties: 

Community Ties More competitiveness, in business dealings, was a consequence according to Weber. The Protestant's view did not authorize people to stab each in the back in an economic realm, but it did weaken Catholicism’s sanctions against being too competitive Social ties might have been strengthened in the Protestant community if each person's work had been viewed as enhancing everyone else’ well-being and thereby warranting appreciation However, the occupational contributions each person made of others were interpreted as indirect and impersonal

Community Ties: 

Community Ties Specifically fulfilling one’s calling, of paramount importance, was seen as promoting the social order God had in mind. If people benefited also, so much the better, the better, but that was not its primary intent. God’s plan was seen as the beneficiary and any inadvertent contribution to people was seen as an impersonal by-product that did call for feelings of attachment to the collectivity

Systematic Rationality: 

Systematic Rationality The traditional Catholic priest, Weber wrote, was a kind of “magician” who could miraculously (through mass) provide the means of repentance and bestow hope for salvation. The Protestant doctrine of predestination, by contrast, eliminated all appearance of invoking supernatural powers, regarding them as sacrilege. Thus the Protestant minister, unlike his Catholic counterpart, could not “magically” reduce the predestination tensions felt by members f the congregation. The faithful had to be self-reliant, and the Protestants viewed God as requiring methodical and systematic self-reliance

Systematic Rationality: 

Systematic Rationality Weber also described the Protestant-Catholic difference as though it entailed two separate accounting schemes Weakness (i.e. sin) could be offset by good deeds among Catholics Admirable actions were, in a sense, credited to the believers’ heavenly accountants, and could be offset their evil actions Salvation for Protestants, by contrast, required that their entire lives be subject to a continuous and rational monitoring Their eternal fate would not b based upon a net balance, but upon whether they had rationality and methodically organized their entire life to control their emotions, and there was no “magician” to intervene and no community that could help

Conclusions: 

Conclusions In sum, Weber described the spirit of capitalism as expressed in people who were shrewd, steady and calculating as they devoted themselves to acquiring and accumulating wealth. This economic ethos was encouraged by a Protestant ethic that emphasized work as God’s calling, viewed people a standing alone, and advocated a systematic and rational approach to life.

Conclusions: 

Conclusions The Protestant ethic provided a necessary legitimation for the spirit of capitalism which, in turn, enabled a capitalistic economic system to grow. However, Weber did not regard the Protestant ethic as having “caused” capitalism, in spirit or practice, in any conventional sense of the term. It would be “foolish,” he wrote, to believe that capitalist economic systems were created by the Protestant Reformation because many forms of capitalism predated the Reformation Causes must precede their presumed effects. Where the values and ideals espoused by Protestant ethic took hold, they enabled the pre-existing capitalistic economic ideas and practice to flourish, but did not cause them.

The Decline in Households: 

The Decline in Households The most basic social unit in most societies, Weber wrote, was the household As societies grew, they became associated with more specialized institutions Specifically, the household formerly offered protection for its members, but in modern societies, protection is provided by governments and militias

The Decline in Households: 

The Decline in Households Households were once organized into units of production, working together on crops or crafts Now family members work away from the home and each other Households once provided the setting in which people acquired education and cultural values, but these are now obtained externally from schools, etc.

The Decline in Households: 

The Decline in Households The institutional developments described earlier ultimately deprived households and families of most of their social vitality, according to Weber As their former functions were moved to other institutions. Households faded fro prominence in the larger social organizations In addition, he argued, the rational orientations that were slowly becoming pervasive were further eating away at family units from within

The Decline in Households: 

The Decline in Households This was, of course, one of Weber’s most persistent themes: The increase in rational calculations and its penetration into every realm of human action. Moving back a step he (again) identified a money economy as a major source of rationality. When people worked as part of a household in a pre-money, economy, the family grouping seemed “natural” to them.

The Decline in Households: 

The Decline in Households Money changes everything, Weber wrote, by making it possible for people to assess the precise value of their productive contributions to the household When they can assess it, they do In addition, goods and services can be freely purchased in most sectors of a money economy so that money provides the medium by which production can be exchanged for consumption that exposes both production and consumption to people’s rational calculation

The Decline in Households: 

The Decline in Households The epitome of rational social action, Weber wrote, occurs in the market, where people are free to shop and bargain, and buying and selling commodities is the only motivation that brings them together All kinds of distinctions among people break down because it is expected that he seller's price will not vary in relation to any of the personal characteristics (such as race or gender) of the buyer.

City Life: 

City Life In Weber’s hierarchy of social organization, neighborhoods followed households, but he considered them of limited sociological importance Their boundaries were generally too open, and participation in them was typically too infrequent for them to be significant Neighborhoods are relegated to a secondary status, especially in a modern urban context because they do not ordinarily serve economic or political functions

City Life: 

City Life While people’s close relationships to their neighbors are frequently espoused as an ideal, Weber believed it was uncommon in fact. Particularly if the neighborhood is a part of a large city, indifference toward other people in the community tends to dominate

City Life: 

City Life Turning next to cities, Weber analyzed many types of cities in different historical periods, then tried to describe them as ideal types He found the task difficult, but concluded that the key defining features were large population size and homes built closely to each other in a settlement so extensive that inhabitants could not know much about each other as distinct individuals

City Life: 

City Life Where modern cities were concerned, he added the presence of a fixed marketplace a part of the definition and regarded impersonal orientations as so strongly associated with marketplaces that such orientations also became a feature of ideal type cities

City Life: 

City Life He regarded population size as a very important attribute, but he was reluctant to rely solely upon size in defining cites because his historical research had disclosed communities in which people’s orientations seemed inconsistent with the size of their community

City Life: 

City Life Given his hesitancy to define cities exclusively according to size, Weber proceeded to add economic characteristics to definition of cities. Superficially, he wrote that cities were dominated by trade and commerce, rather than agriculture, and correspondingly contained fairly extensive range of occupations and trades, especially when compared to agricultural communities. The precondition of these economic characteristics is presence of a relatively fixed market , involving regular rather than occasional exchanges of goods and services. Thus, Weber claimed, “the city is a market settlement.”

City Life: 

City Life The impersonality of city dwellers, then, has been examined by numerous studies of helping behavior The assumption behind most of the research is that if people are detached from each other in large, dense cities, then they will be less likely to help each other, even it helping does not require that they really

Stratification: 

Stratification Weber viewed stratification as entailing – Class, status and Party/Power. Class: By class , Weber meant a category o f people who more-or-less shared the same life chances in so far as those life chances were determined by their market situation Life chances refer to the likelihood a person in any class category will typically be able to acquire particular commodities and/or to afford certain services or experiences However, at least a portion of each of these variables is tied to a person’s economic situation.

Stratification: 

Stratification In defining class by shared life changes, Weber included only part of life chances that was determined by people’s economic situation To explain how segments of the population came to share the same life chances, Weber claimed that people could typically be placed into either of two basic categories: those who owned property and were therefore in an advantaged position and those who “have nothing to offer by their services.” Property and lack of property are, therefore, the basic categories to all class situations

Stratification: 

Stratification Weber’s two class categories are essentially the same as Marx’s bourgeoisie and proletariats Weber, like Marx, was looking at capitalist economies as holdings belonging to the few barons and most of the people who worked as laborers in factories, shipyards, etc.

Stratification: 

Stratification With changes in technology and the labor force that have occurred since the theorisits died, their two-class distinction based upon ownership is no longer adequate as summarizing class variations (class stratification is more complex); however, stratification based upon class – meaning life chances due to market situations – remains very significant

Weber’s Criticism of Marx: 

Weber’s Criticism of Marx Despite the agreement between Weber and Marxian some aspects of their conceptions of class, Weber went out of his way to express disagreement with Marx’s analysis of class interest and class conflict. One of Marx’s mistakes, according to Weber, was assuming that everyone who owned property was alike, and that everyone who did not was alike Within the two broad categories, people’s perceived class situations are differentiated, according to Weber, by economic sectors Because workers see themselves as various occupations – not as proletariat – they will not form solidarity groups

Weber’s Criticism of Marx: 

Weber’s Criticism of Marx To act in concert, people must feel that they belong together and people who have been placed in classes by sociologists do not typically share this feeling In other words, abstract class categories do not correspond with people’s actual self-conceptions, or the way they see their self-interest Thus Marx’s most fundamental mistake, according to Weber was in assuming that a class either was or would become a community; or to be specific, that the proletariat would act on their economic self-interest

Status: 

Status Weber defined status , his second dimension of stratification, as style of life associated with a distinct social circle. Within a society, he assumed that different styles would be subject to positive or negative rankings with respect to prestige or honor Almost anything could be ranked, but some common examples could include; the way people dress, etc.

Status: 

Status Weber assumed a lifestyle would be associated with a social circle that might actually be a community in which people interacted with each other There would be little direct interaction among all the people who were in the status group, but the possibility of it would remain, and member would share a sense of belonging or of sharing something significant

Status: 

Status Weber devoted a good deal of attention to the degree to which status was derived directly fro class. He insisted that class rankings did not always perfectly translate into status groupings, though in the long run, he believed the two would usually be highly inter-related

Status: 

Status Status groups and especially high status groups, typically restrict access to their social circle. They control the boundaries of their social circle against “incursion” by people they consider outsiders. The means by which status groups regulate access are varied, but typically include endogamous marriages.

Status: 

Status In many instances it can appear that the effects of class and status, of life chances and life choices, combine in a way that makes it difficult to state where one begins and the other ends

Party/Power: 

Party/Power Parties, the third leg of Weber’s stratification system, consists of people who, in the face of opposition, collectively seek to attain power. So intimate is the connection between parties and power-seeking that the third dimension of Weber’s model is sometimes considered power rather than parties

Party/Power: 

Party/Power The key feature which makes an organized group a party is that its actions are always directed toward a goal which is striven for in planned manner A party need not be formally recognized as such, as long as its actions meet the criterion

Party/Power: 

Party/Power Parties can form on the basis of class interests Conceptually, separating parties and classes was important to Weber for two reasons First, he wanted to support his argument that class not be equated with class action; an additional process was necessary to link them, and that was where parties could fit in Second, he contended that parties could also be based upon status In this case, it would be life-style issues

Conclusion: 

Conclusion It was important to Weber to expand Marx’s conception of stratification with its strong emphasis upon material economic relations and interests, and that is why he stressed the potential “autonomy” of status dimension, despite reorganizing that is typically did depend upon class. Linking parties both to class and status, separately or together provided him with another way in which to argue that status could not be totally reduced to class

Conclusion: 

Conclusion In sum, Weber viewed the three primary dimensions of stratification – class, status and power – as interdependent and separate from each other, to varying degree

PowerPoint Presentation: 

As I indicated there will be two quizzes and Discussion board - would like to see both Discussion Boards having initial answers to them by Thursday March 1, and responses by Friday March 2 (of course earlier is better if you can manage it!), because you will be taking a test covering Weber by March 14th. Remember that Spring Break is between May 4 through 11. I am not going anywhere, and I will be available online throughout that week. You obviously are not required to be online during Spring Break, but you are certainly welcomed to if you so choose. I will have the study guide for the test covering Weber to you March 1.