Article

Max Weber

Alan Sica

in Sociology

ISBN: 9780199756384
Published online August 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0064
Max Weber

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A principal founder of modern sociology, Max Weber Jr. was born 21 April 1864, to a prominent Prussian lawyer/politician and a pious mother, in Erfurt, Prussia. He was the eldest of eight children (his brother, Alfred, also became a noted sociologist and cultural analyst). Max married his cousin, Marianne Schnitger, in 1893; the couple had no children. He died unexpectedly, a victim of the global influenza pandemic, on 14 June 1920, at age fifty-six. Raised in a wealthy suburb of Berlin, he suffered childhood illnesses that left him confined to bed, where he became bookish. His father’s large home saw gatherings of the local and national political and intellectual elite, and he overheard conversations that drew him into a realm of rarefied cultural awareness. Given his protean appetite for knowledge, he wrote essays on ponderous topics while still in middle school, yet he never took formal schooling very seriously, educating himself through reading and interaction with academic relatives and houseguests. Formally, he pursued law, economics, and philosophy at Heidelberg, Straßburg, Berlin, and Göttingen (1882–1886); served in the army reserve for two years during college; and then studied law at Berlin, graduating in 1889. He then precociously won academic appointments at Berlin and Freiburg, but was forced to retire from teaching after a massive nervous breakdown that immobilized him from 1897 until 1903. He recovered enough to take an extended trip to the United States in 1904. Freed from teaching duties by an inheritance, he spent the next sixteen years or so producing a body of sociocultural, economic, and sociological analysis that is second to none in the history of modern social science. Weber’s common fame rests on his Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (Weber 1930 and Weber 2002, cited under The Protestant Ethic Debate), in which he demonstrated why northern European Protestant behavior was more conducive to the formation of early capitalism than were southern European Catholic beliefs and practices, a hypothesis that has inspired thousands of commentaries and critiques. But he also contributed fundamental works to the sociology of law (which he virtually invented), the sociology of music (also a first), the sociology of the economy, the philosophy of social science method, the comparative sociology of religion (also his creation), social stratification, the sociology of bureaucracy and of power and “charisma” (his term), and so on.

Article.  26139 words. 

Subjects: Sociology ; Comparative and Historical Sociology ; Economic Sociology ; Gender and Sexuality ; Health, Illness, and Medicine ; Population and Demography ; Race and Ethnicity ; Social Movements and Social Change ; Social Stratification, Inequality, and Mobility ; Social Theory

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