Birthday: April 21, 1864
Died At Age: 56
Sun Sign: Taurus
Also Known As: Karl Emil Maximilian Weber
Born Country: Germany
Born in: Erfurt, Germany
Famous as: Sociologist
Spouse/Ex-: Marianne Weber m. 1893–1920
father: Max Weber Sr.
mother: Helene Fallenstein
siblings: Alfred Weber, Alwin Weber, Anna Weber, Helene Weber, Karl Weber, Klara Weber, Lili Weber Schafer
Died on: June 14, 1920
place of death: Munich, Bavaria, Germany
City: Erfurt, Germany
education: University of Göttingen, Heidelberg University, Humboldt University of Berlin
Who was Max Weber?
Max Weber was a German sociologist, philosopher, management theorist, jurist, and economist, whose ideas had a major influence on the early development of social theory and on the basis of social research. Often cited alongside Émile Durkheim and Karl Marx, as one of the founders of sociology, Weber regarded sociology as primarily a useful tool for the analysis of how social forces could be influenced by the rise of capitalism, and how capitalism itself could be affected by social changes such as improved education and literacy. Weber is best known for his study of how cultural influences embedded in religion could be used as a way to understand how capitalistic systems are formed. After the First World War, Max Weber ran (unsuccessfully) for a seat in the parliament and was one of the founders of the short-lived ‘German Democratic Party’ or the ‘Deutsche Demokratische Partei’ (DDP). He also served as an advisor to the committee that drafted the ‘Weimar Constitution’ of 1919.
Childhood & Early Life
Karl Emil Maximilian Weber was born in 1864, in Erfurt, in the Province of Saxony, which was then part of Prussia. Weber was the first of the seven children of Max Weber Senior and his wife, Helene. A prominent civil servant and a member of the ‘National Liberal Party,’ Weber’s father had descended from the French Huguenot stock and, as a wealthy man himself, held strong moral and absolutist ideas about the nature of man and society.
As a prominent public figure, Weber Sr. often invited prominent scholars and public figures to his home, which meant that young Max Weber, together with his younger brother Alfred (who also became a noted sociologist and economist), could develop in an intellectual and politically astute milieu. Compared with this, Weber often found school uninteresting and dull, an attitude which made him unpopular with his teachers, despite his obvious intelligence and quick-wittedness. Unimpressed with their educational efforts, young Weber turned to reading classics and even managed to read all 40 volumes of Goethe while not paying due attention in class.
In 1882, Weber joined the ‘University of Heidelberg’ to study law, but his studies there were interrupted by a compulsory year of military service. Following this, he transferred to the ‘University of Berlin,’ again reading law. Alongside his legal studies in Berlin, Weber worked part-time as a junior lawyer. By 1886, he was able to pass the German equivalent of the bar exam: the “Referendar.” He continued his studies and gained his doctorate in law in 1889. Following this, he joined the ‘University of Berlin’s faculty of law, lecturing and working as a consultant for various government departments.
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Prior to his marriage to Marianne Schnitger in 1893, Max Weber was part of various social and political bodies, such as the ‘Verein für Socialpolitik the Evangelical Social Conference’ (the ‘Evangelical Social Congress’) and the ‘Pan-German League.’ He got caught up in "the Polish question," or the “Ostflucht,” the perceived problem of an influx of Polish farm workers into the eastern part of Germany. It was believed that the farmers wished to try their luck in Germany's dramatically growing industrial heartlands. Weber’s position on the “Polish Question” is never clearly stated, but his 1895 lecture "The Nation State and Economic Policy" criticizes the immigration of the Poles and the people and circumstances that continued to encourage it.
After his marriage, Weber gained financial independence and was able to leave the family home. He and his wife moved to Freiburg in 1894, where Weber was appointed as a university professor of economics. Weber soon accepted an offer to serve as a professor at the ‘University of Heidelberg,’ moving there in 1896.
In 1897, Weber’s father died. This happened just a few months after a major row between them that was never settled. It is not clear why this caused Weber Jr. to have such a major reaction. Following this, he was always prone to bouts of depression, suffered from insomnia and acute nervousness, and was basically unable to do justice to his role as a professor. He ultimately gave up teaching altogether in 1903 and did not return to teaching duties until 1919, after the First World War.
During this period, however, Weber was able to give his attention to what he regarded as the key issues in the social sciences. He also published what are regarded as his greatest contributions to literature, including his seminal essay ‘The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism’ (1904), which served as the foundation stone for all his later work on how culture and religion could affect socio-economic development. This was the only piece of work published in his name during his lifetime, but many of his most important intellectual pieces written in these early decades of the 20th century were later published posthumously.
He was the first to use the term “bureaucracy” and was the proponent of the bureaucratic theory of management. The theory stated that bureaucracy, or a clear division of labor and statement of hierarchies in an organization, was important to an organization’s efficiency.
Weber's most famous work is his long essay ‘The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.’ This work is now generally viewed as an introduction to some of the key ideas elaborated in his later works. He focused on the interaction between religious belief systems and economic behavior as a functional mechanism within the economic system.
In ‘The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism,’ Weber put forward the argument that religious ethics and ideas influenced the development of capitalism, based on the proposition that there was a strong post-‘Reformation’ shift of Europe's economic center, away from the predominantly Catholic countries, such as France, Spain, and Italy, toward largely Protestant countries, such as the Netherlands, Britain, and Germany.
Weber also highlighted his observation that societies having a stronger Protestant element in their populations were also those with a generally higher-performing capitalistic economy. He also observed, with scant justification, that in societies with different religions, most successful business leaders were Protestants. This demonstrated, according to Weber, that Catholic tendencies had impeded the development of the capitalist economy in Europe, just as other religions, such as Confucianism and Buddhism, had done elsewhere around the world.
Family & Personal Life
Karl Emil Maximilian Weber was born April 21, 1864, in Erfurt, Lower Saxony (Now Thuringia). He was the oldest child of Maximillian Weber Sr., a wealthy civil servant, and his wife, Helene (Fallenstein) Weber, a devout Calvinist.
With six brothers and sisters, Weber grew up in a highly disciplined household. His father appears to have had a domineering personality. However, Weber never got over the death of his father.
Weber married his distant cousin Marianne Schnitger in 1893. Schnitger would later posthumously publish the majority of Weber’s essays and letters, including his unfinished magnum opus ‘Economy and Society’ (1921–1922). The couple had no children.
A late victim of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, Weber died in Munich, Germany, on June 14, 1920.