Max Weber: From History to Modernity

Max Weber: From History to Modernity

Max Weber: From History to Modernity

Max Weber: From History to Modernity

Synopsis

This wide-ranging and assured book, written by one of the leading Weber scholars in the English-speaking world, shows us the many sides of Max Weber. The book provides an authoritative guide to the current burning issues in social theory, religion, rationalization, the body, modernization and capitalism. It will be essential reading for anyone interested in Weber's claim that the aim of sociology must be to explain what is distinctive about the times in which we live.

Excerpt

The debate about modernity and postmodernity (especially whether the postmodern critique of modernity has rendered sociology obsolete) has raised once more the question of the exact nature of modernity and modernization. Sociology stands in a critical relationship to this debate, because sociology arose with Saint-Simon’s analysis of industrial society as both the study and product of modernization. As the study of the ‘social’, sociology was quintessentially modern. If sociology has been historically the study of modernization (of which capitalist industrialization was a primary feature), then Max Weber’s sociology remains a dominant paradigm for understanding the dilemmas, contradictions and tensions of the processes of modernization.

Weber defined the core components of modernization in terms of a growing rationalization of the various spheres of society, an increasing secularization which brought about the disenchantment of reality, an irreversible development of bureaucratization, and a growing pluralization of values and beliefs. To understand modernity is to understand Weber. The tensions between (rational) enlightenment and (human) survival were described, one could say beautifully, by Weber in the debate about religious asceticism and the modern ethic, the bureaucratization of life and its standardization, the contrasts between hedonism and discipline, the disappearance of the autonomous liberal individual in the iron cage of state regulation, the emergence of science out of the irrational religious quest, the decline of charismatic authority with the spread of the administrative machine, the erosion of the intimate in the face of large-scale administrative structures, the death of God and the pluralization of the life-world. These developments describe modernization, while anticipating postmodernization. It is little

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