Weber, Max (1864–1920)

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Max Weber was a legally trained historian, appointed as a professor of economics, who played a founding role in German sociology. He was important as a political and constitutional commentator. His early work was in ancient history, where he advanced a novel account of the effect of the loss of a supply of new slaves and the declining position of the free peasants in Italy and its consequences for the decline of Roman cities. As a private scholar and editor, he wrote his most influential works, including ‘The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism,’ which argued that the doctrine of predestination created a psychological sanction which produced the rationalizing capitalist. His methodological writings were a defense of a causal social science that deals with meaningful material. The ‘Economic Ethics of the World Religions,’ considers the failure of capitalistic calculability to originate outside the West. Economy and Society consists of a typology of forms of social action, and examines the inter-relations between ideal and material interests and guiding ideas, particularly forms of legitimacy, such as charisma, in the processes of institutional and cultural transformation. In politics he supported ‘leadership democracy’ on pragmatic nationalist grounds, rather than on valuative grounds.

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Weber, Max (1864–1920), in N. J. Smelser & P. B. Baltes (Eds.), International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, Elsevier, p. 16401-16407