German social scientist and political economist who became a founding father of modern sociology.
Weber studied legal and economic history at several German universities. After a brief period as a legal assistant and on completion of his doctoral dissertation, he was appointed professor first (1894) at the University of Freiburg and then (1897) at Heidelberg. Despite a severe nervous breakdown several years later, Weber produced a body of work that established him as the foremost figure in social thought of the twentieth century.
Weber's study was in three main areas. His study of the sociology of religion led to his celebrated book, Die protestantische Ethik und der Geist des Kapitalismus (1904; translated as The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, 1930), in which he linked the psychological effects of Calvinism and Lutheranism with the development of European capitalism. Secondly, his interest in political sociology, presented in such works as the unfinished Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft (1922; translated as Economy and Society, 1968), led him to major discussions on types of economic activity and the relationship between social and economic organization. Finally, he laid down various systems of inquiry in authoritative essays published posthumously in translation as Methodology of the Social Sciences (1949).
In all his work Weber tried to trace links between different types of social activity and stressed that the bureaucratization of political and economic society was the most significant development in the modernization of western civilization. He also produced major analyses of society in Israel, China, and India, in each of which he showed the mutual dependence of culture and society. Towards the end of his life, Weber became politically active and served on the committee that drafted the constitution of the Weimar Republic in 1918.
Subjects: social sciences — arts and humanities.