Max Weber

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Maximilian Carl Emil Weber (German pronunciation: [ˈmaks ˈveːbɐ]; 21 April 1864 – 14 June 1920) was a German sociologist and political economist, who profoundly influenced social theory, social research, and the discipline of sociology itself.[1] Weber's major works dealt with the rationalization and "disenchantment" he associated with the rise of capitalism and modernity.[2] Weber was, along with his associate Georg Simmel, a central figure in the establishment of methodological antipositivism, which presents sociology as a non-empiricist field which must study social action through interpretive means based on understanding the meaning and purpose that individuals attach to their actions.[3] He is typically cited, with Émile Durkheim and Karl Marx, as one of the three principal architects of modern social science,[4] and has been described as the most important classic thinker in the social sciences.[5][6]

Weber is most famous for the thesis in economic sociology which he elaborated in his book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. In this text, Weber argued that ascetic Protestantism particular to the Occident was one of the major "elective affinities" associated with the rise of capitalism, bureaucracy and the rational-legal nation-state. Arguing against what he felt was Marx's overly-materialistic interpretation of the development of capitalism, he instead emphasized the cultural influences embedded in religion.[7] The Protestant Ethic formed the earliest work in Weber's broader project in the sociology of religion: he would go on to examine the religions of China, the religions of India, and ancient Judaism, with particular regard to the apparent non-development of capitalism in the corresponding societies, and to differing forms of social stratification.

In another major work, Politics as a Vocation, Weber defined the state as an entity which claims a "monopoly on the legitimate use of violence", a definition that became pivotal to the study of modern Western political science. His analysis of bureaucracy in his Economy and Society is still central to the modern study of organizations. Weber was the first to recognize several diverse aspects of social authority, which he respectively categorized according to their charismatic, traditional, and legal forms. His analysis of bureaucracy emphasized that modern state institutions are based on a form of rational-legal authority. Weber's thought regarding the rationalizing and secularizing tendencies of modern Western society (sometimes described as the "Weber Thesis") led to the development critical theory, particularly in the work of later thinkers such as Jürgen Habermas.

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