FROM MAX WEBER: Essays in Sociology ..
In From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology
Weber was familiar with, and part of, the major German intellectual debates of his time, first in his parents' household, and then in his own and through his professional, academic contacts. As Ritzer notes (pp. 113-114), Weber was concerned with the debate concerning science and history, and attempted to establish a foundation for sociology. Weber felt that historical sociology should be "concerned with individuality generality." (Ritzer, p. 114). The philosopher who dominated German philosophical thought during Weber's time was Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). Kant argued that "the methods of the natural sciences give us true knowledge about the external phenomenal world – the world we experience through our senses." (Ashley and Orenstein, p. 268). At the same time, Kant argued that moral philosophy or a system of morality, is also important and "involves reflection on moral axioms that appear to be innate and are understandable without reference to human experience." (Ashley and Orenstein, p. 268). That is, empirical analysis and moral judgment are two separate systems – sociology could not set out moral values, but could discuss the effects of these. While sociology must be concerned with empirical analysis of society and history, the method of sociology would have to be different from that of the natural sciences. Sociological analysis would have to examine social action within a context of social interaction, and would have to be interpretive, not viewing people as object just driven by impersonal forces. Marianne Weber's biography argued that Max Weber believed that the purpose of political and social institutions is the development of autonomous, free personality. These influences can be seen in Weber's approach to methodology, understanding and social action. (Paragraph based on Ashley and Orenstein, pp. 267-271).
(Translated and edited), From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, pp
Weber studied at Heidelberg and Berlin (earning a Ph. D.) and, unlike Marx, was not prevented from taking up an academic career because of his politics, but became an important German professor. As Marx had done, he studied law and became a lawyer. He began studying the conditions of agricultural workers in east Prussia in 1892 and by 1894 became a professor of economics. His studies branched out into the study of history, economics, sociology, religion and languages. Like Marx, he tackled practically any subject which interested him, and both were products of a broad intellectual tradition. "Max Weber belonged to a generation of universal scholars ... ." (Gerth and Mills, p. 23).