Max Weber

Max Weber in Europe

Literature Review on Max Weber

In the Encyclopedia of Public Administration and Public Policy, [1] Sean Hildebrand offers the following summary about the topic of Max Weber: Max Weber was a German sociologist who while being recognized as the “founder of sociology” as a field of study, also had a profound impact on the field of public administration with his theories on leadership, an “ideal” bureaucracy, and the behavior of bureaucrats within his envisioned system. Additionally, Weber’s studies broadened into religion and economics and his influence lives on today throughout all these fields. With respect to public administration, Weber developed three “ideal types” of authority figures: traditional, charismatic, and legal rations, all of which set to explain why individuals follow those who hold various positions of leadership. Additionally, Weber defined an “ideal type” of structure and actions that would maximize the output of a bureaucratic organization. While this too is not a description of reality (then or now), these characteristics are still used today to determine what could occur to improve functionality within a bureaucratic setting.


Notes and References

  1. Entry about Max Weber in the Encyclopedia of Public Administration and Public Policy (2015, Routledge, Oxford, United Kingdom)

See Also

Further Reading

  • Global Encyclopedia of Public Administration, Public Policy, and Governance (2018, Springer International Publishing, Germany)

4 thoughts on “Max Weber”

  1. The purpose of Weber’s typology is to differentiate the dimensions of legal organization of the law-society relationship. The different types chart differences among the way in which legal systems handle the problems of formulating authoritative norms [law making] and applying such norms to specific instances [law finding].

    Weber analyzes the structure of law making to show the differences between consciously constructed law and sacred law. Consciously constructed law can be seen as the instrument to achieve some set of extrinsic set of goals. And this is obeyed only to the extent that the goals are met. Sacred law can be seen as a specific set of social purposes and should be obeyed for their own sake.

    Analyzing structures of law-finding shows the different ways laws are applied. According to Weber’s typology, law finding can be rendered in many ways. Decisions can be rendered through soothsayers and followed because people believe in their magical powers. Decisions can be based on secular grounds. Decisions can result from a resolution of specific conflicts.

    So, Weber was primarily concerned with the extent to which decisions are:

    1) Determined by prior existing general rules of universal application,

    2) Established by differentiated legal organs.

    Logical Formal Rational (1,1): states that all human action is ordered by law. Whatever cannot be constructed rationally is legally irrelevant. The law is or must be perceived as a gapless system. Every concrete legal decision is the application of an abstract proposition to a concrete factual situation. It must be possible in every case to derive the decision from abstract propositions by means of legal logic. These decisions are not based on political, economical, and social factors (PES) and like cases get like decisions. An example of this is the U.S. Constitution.

    Substantive Rational (2,1): employs a set of general rules, but these are of some body of thought extrinsic to the legal system (religion and or political ideology). To the extent to which the external ideology is understood, it is possible to understand how the legal order generates decisions. But, this is problematic. These decisions are based (PES) and like cases get like outcomes. An example of this would be Iran. [Puritan use of Biblical commandment.]

    Formal Irrational (1,2): would indicate prophetic decisions or revelation decisions which does not reference any standard, or even the parties disputing (e.g., poison oracle). The criteria of decision making is intrinsic to the legal system but mysterious or unknowable with no possibility of prediction (poison chickens). This legal system would not be based on PES forces and the same situation in one case may not get the same outcome. Like cases do not get like decisions. A good example of this would be a shaman.

    Substantive Irrational (2,2): would apply observable criteria (PES) but the decisions are not based on case precedent, but rather on individual cases. This is known as revolutionary justice. It is meant to meet the welfare of the citizens. Like cases do not get like decisions. This is an example of true communism. [Solomon’s wisdom]

  2. For Weber, the capitalist legal order facilitated the expansion of the growth of capitalism as an economic order–why and how? Use Weber’s analysis of the laws surrounding contracts to show why and how capitalism needs a formal rational legal order. Compare and contrast Weber and Durkheim’s analysis [Inverarity Ch. 4] of contracts. Again, it can be argued that an analysis of law is a means by which one can understand how social order is created and maintained–explain. That is, through Weber’s analysis of contracts he develops a very critical approach of the consequences of a formal legal order and capitalism as an economic system–explain. Is this perspective similar or different from Durkheim–why or why not?

  3. Weber emphasizes the importance of the creation of separate ‘status groups’ – lawyers as an essential condition for the growth of legal realism.

    A status group is an organization founded on the basis of formal education, prestige, and style of life.

    [Insulated from political, economic, and social concerns] Since law is autonomous, it then can be perceived as a medium to resolve social conflict and since the legal profession is also autonomous, they are the status group looked to become responsible for the resolution of social conflict. Any group that is self-policing is a status group.

    ?Why does capitalism and legal realism need each other?

    1. capitalism needs a legal order which has a relative degree of calculability.

    2. its capacity to develop substantive provisions – principally those relating to freedom of contract–essential to a free market system.

  4. Criticisms of Weber

    There is a potential conflict between legal rationalism of logically formal types and a legal system’s creative capacity to generate new substantive concepts and institutions required by a changing economic structure.

    Contradiction between the values of a democratic order and the requirements of formal rationality. No substantive social justice, consequently legal rationality legitimates the inequalities of modern capitalism.

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