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A man is shown using a machine to install car parts on an assembly line.
An assembly line worker installs car parts with the aid of complex machinery. Has technology made this type of labor more or less alienating? (Photo courtesy of Carol Highsmith/Wikimedia Commons)

Max weber and symbolic interactionism

While Karl Marx may be one of the best-known thinkers of the nineteenth century, Max Weber is certainly one of the greatest influences in the field of sociology. Like the other social thinkers discussed here, he was concerned with the important changes taking place in Western society with the advent of industrialization. And, like Marx and Durkheim, he feared that industrialization would have negative effects on individuals.

Weber’s primary focus on the structure of society lay in the elements of class, status, and power. Similar to Marx, Weber saw class as economically determined. Society, he believed, was split between owners and laborers. Status, on the other hand, was based on noneconomic factors such as education, kinship, and religion. Both status and class determined an individual’s power, or influence over ideas. Unlike Marx, Weber believed that these ideas formed the base of society.

Weber’s analysis of modern society centered on the concept of rationalization    . A rational society is one built around logic and efficiency rather than morality or tradition. To Weber, capitalism is entirely rational. Although this leads to efficiency and merit-based success, it can have negative effects when taken to the extreme. In some modern societies, this is seen when rigid routines and strict design lead to a mechanized work environment and a focus on producing identical products in every location.

Another example of the extreme conditions of rationality can be found in Charlie Chaplin’s classic film Modern Times (1936). Chaplin’s character performs a routine task to the point where he cannot stop his motions even while away from the job. Indeed, today we even have a recognized medical condition that results from such tasks, known as “repetitive stress syndrome.”

Weber was also unlike his predecessors in that he was more interested in how individuals experienced societal divisions than in the divisions themselves. The symbolic interactionism theory, the third of the three most recognized theories of sociology, is based on Weber’s early ideas that emphasize the viewpoint of the individual and how that individual relates to society. For Weber, the culmination of industrialization, rationalization, and the like results in what he referred to as the iron cage    , in which the individual is trapped by institutions and bureaucracy. This leads to a sense of “disenchantment of the world,” a phrase Weber used to describe the final condition of humanity. Indeed a dark prediction, but one that has, at least to some degree, been borne out (Gerth and Mills 1918). In a rationalized, modern society, we have supermarkets instead of family-owned stores. We have chain restaurants instead of local eateries. Superstores that offer a multitude of merchandise have replaced independent businesses that focused on one product line, such as hardware, groceries, automotive repair, or clothing. Shopping malls offer retail stores, restaurants, fitness centers, even condominiums. This change may be rational, but is it universally desirable?

A long line of cubicles is shown.
Cubicles are used to maximize individual workspace in an office. Such structures may be rational, but they are also isolating. (Photo courtesy of Tim Patterson/flickr)

The protestant work ethic

In a series of essays in 1904, Max Weber presented the idea of the Protestant work ethic , a new attitude toward work based on the Calvinist principle of predestination. In the sixteenth century, Europe was shaken by the Protestant Revolution. Religious leaders such as Martin Luther and John Calvin argued against the Catholic Church’s belief in salvation through obedience. While Catholic leaders emphasized the importance of religious dogma and performing good deeds as a gateway to Heaven, Protestants believed that inner grace, or faith in God, was enough to achieve salvation.

John Calvin in particular popularized the Christian concept of predestination, the idea that all events—including salvation—have already been decided by God. Because followers were never sure whether they had been chosen to enter Heaven or Hell, they looked for signs in their everyday lives. If a person was hard-working and successful, he was likely to be one of the chosen. If a person was lazy or simply indifferent, he was likely to be one of the damned.

Weber argued that this mentality encouraged people to work hard for personal gain; after all, why should one help the unfortunate if they were already damned? Over time, the Protestant work ethic spread and became the foundation for capitalism.

Summary

Émile Durkheim believed that as societies advance, they make the transition from mechanical to organic solidarity. For Karl Marx, society exists in terms of class conflict. With the rise of capitalism, workers become alienated from themselves and others in society. Sociologist Max Weber noted that the rationalization of society can be taken to unhealthy extremes.

Short answer

Choose two of the three sociologists discussed here (Durkheim, Marx, Weber), and use their arguments to explain a current social event such as the Occupy movement. Do their theories hold up under modern scrutiny?

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Think of the ways workers are alienated from the product and process of their jobs. How can these concepts be applied to students and their educations?

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Further research

One of the most influential pieces of writing in modern history was Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’ The Communist Manifesto . Visit this site to read the original document that spurred revolutions around the world: (External Link)

References

Durkheim, Émile. 1960 [1893]. The Division of Labor in Society . Translated by George Simpson. New York: Free Press.

Durkheim, Émile. 1982 [1895]. The Rules of the Sociological Method . Translated by W. D. Halls. New York: Free Press.

Engels, Friedrich. 1892. The Condition of the Working-Class in England in 1844 . London: Swan Sonnenschein&Co.

Geographia. 1998. “The Bedouin Way.” Geograpia.com. Retrieved January 4, 2012 ( (External Link) ).

Gerth, H. H., and C. Wright Mills. 1946. From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology . New York: Oxford University Press.

Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels. 1998 [1848]. The Communist Manifesto . New York: Penguin Group.

Questions & Answers

how many types of concepts
Ritu Reply
who is the founder of sociology
Yasir Reply
why we study sociology?
Chu Reply
there is a lot of reason that's why we study sociology ... there is no one specific reason I think it's enough to know why youstudy .. I think your question is subjective .
Ritu
I believe that there is no need to tell a sociology student that why do we have to study sociology .. try to understand my point of view look .. if i give you answer of your question that will be subjective .. if you want a general reason so you can read a in books ..
Ritu
l lMillions of books are full of it ..with due respect I am suggesting you to find reason to yourself .. it will give you a better answer than us ..
Ritu
I have thousands of answers to your question but I believe If you try to know by yourself, it will be helpful to know about why we study sociology ..Sociology is not such a subject that we have told something about it and everything has become clear .. No it is not .. Sociology is very different
Ritu
you have to realize ..in short your is easy but no easy as it looks I can give you ans .but if you find by yourself So by doing this you will not forget that life time
Ritu
as we know Some questions look as objective as the outside, and they are absolutely subjective from the inside. I am telling you this in such a detail so that you can do the study yourself.I hope you understand and have not misinterpreted my words
Ritu
what is law of trade
Ritu Reply
exchange of value
Sourabh
please could you explain it
Ritu
seller has value for money and buyer has a value for the product he wants hence the basic law of trade is exchange of value now the value accorded to an object can be subjective, but in modern capitalist society, the social and economical institutions have a monopoly of defining value
Sourabh
ok ok
Ritu
what is difference between factor and cause
Ritu Reply
cause is responsible for initiating a phenomena while factor is just one aspect of it. eg: If you want to find the cause of any phenomena, you will find it at the end of your research. But factors will be found during the process of determining the cause and can aid in it.
Sourabh
hmmm good job .and good observation
Ritu
what are the types of sociology
Jerry Reply
There are Two types of sociology. Namely 1) Qualitative sociology 2) Quantitative Sociology.
Syed
But there are sociological trends and theories which came into light over the period of time
Ashish
types can be classified on basis of methodology (qualitative, quantitative, interpretative) on basis of subject matter (sociology of crime, law etc) on basis of perspectives (conflict, structural-functionalist) also historical classification like modernism, post modernism etc.
Sourabh
Hey
Muhammad
every one hear
Muhammad
They are two types of sociology; 1, Basic (pure) sociology and 2,Apply sociology.
Mohamed
p lease if all of you don't mind .. could share your nationalities... may this helpfull in understanding about our culture ..
Ritu Reply
..
Ritu
Indian
Sourabh
may this platform can give us cultural and other relevant knowledge about our societies if we share
Ritu
may this platform can give usefull and relevant knowledge about our socities and cutures
Ritu
what is an approaches bro
Muhammad
what?
Ritu
Nigerian
Amoo
well done 👍 share guys
Ritu
don't worry there is no harm to share about nationalities
Ritu
Indian
SHIVAM
thanks 😊
Ritu
for sharing nationality
Ritu
😁
Amoo
oops I did not even tell about myself .I am fully indian
Ritu
Is that all?
Ritu
the different kind of term for collective behavior is a. groip with same thinking
LISA Reply
plz answer,The grades in various subjects of a student are given below .Testat 5%level of significance that there is sognificant difference ib grades.Mathematics= 72,80,83,75.Statistics=81,74,77,88.English=82,90,87,80.Research=74,71,77,70.
Asma
"same thinking" seems a bit too structured for collective behaviour which is spontaneous and unstructured.
Sourabh
crowd,social moments,moral panic,riots ,disaster,mobs,riots,mass hysteria ,fads and crazes are some kind of collective behaviour
Ritu
one example of collective behaviour like we sing national anthem
Ritu
Ritu verma you are right
Amoo
could all of you share about in which nationality you belong
Ritu Reply
please don't take it other way I am asking bcz it will be good for all to know about nationality since we connected due to this group ... And how many countries have this app spread, how many countries have people connected
Ritu
India
Himanshu
ok
Ritu
Where can find the exam past paper and exercises of sociology?
Sammi Reply
you may search in you tube ... there are some question papers available ..
Ritu
in the city of Pakistan
Abid
🙄🙄
Abid
😥😥😥
Abid
is there. no you tube
Ritu
pls what's today's discussion all about?
Ojewande Reply
every one can start any relevant topic on sociology... bcz every question is imp about society
Ritu
explain the term subculture
Peter
identify and explain four types of subculture in the school
Peter
explain why the status of the teacher is important in schools
Peter
explain the meaning of social stratification
Peter
a subculture is just what is sound like a smaller culture group within a larger culture; people of a subculture are a part of the larger culture but also share a specific identity with in a small group
Ritu
thousands of subculture exits within united state ethnic and racial share language,food and costume of Thier heritage
Ritu
social stratification means .. Differentiation of posts is the main belief of social stratification. Social norms are taught through social stratification.
Ritu
In social stratification, the relationship with different situations becomes part of the social system. In a stratified society, inequality is found in people.According to which some people are considered higher or lower than others
Ritu
respected sir u r asking about why a status of teacher is imp I'm schools.. sir Without a teacher, there cannot be a school. Even a society cannot imagine ... Ancient Time Selekar has changed the nature of the teacher so far. Values ​​did not decrease ..
Ritu
teachers are very important for make a future of students .. everyone comes in this world with some special power ... but He is a teacher who makes a student release his internal power ..
Ritu
Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam has told in one of his autobiography 'The Power of Prayer' that .." we came with a Divine Fire in Us."That Divine Fire cannot be achieved without teacher's help.
Ritu
what's is difference between premonition and foreknowledge
Ritu Reply
hello
suraj
g
Aimal
?
Ritu
difference between prescience and premonition is that prescience is knowledge of events before they take place; foresight; foreknowledge while premonition is a clairvoyant or clairaudient experience, such as a dream, which resonates with so
Aimal
hi
APARNA
in short foreknowledge is the knowledge of something before it's happened .and premonition a knowledgeof something is going to happen specially unpleasant
Ritu
..
Ritu
Hey bro
Muhammad
Who is the father of modern sociology
Shah Reply
who is the fat60f modern sociology
Shah Reply
Who is the father of sociology
Shah
august compte is called a father of sociology
Ritu
what can one become after studying sociology in Nigeria
Chisom Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, Introduction to sociology 2e. OpenStax CNX. Jan 20, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11762/1.6
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