6 key sociological concepts from Weber’s oeuvre rendered in emoji-speak.
Max Weber, the author of such foundational sociological texts as Economy and Society and The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, never held a professorship in sociology. Trained in law, and predominantly employed in academia as an economist, the closest Weber ever came to a post in sociology was an appointment to chair in social science, economic history, and economics at the University of Munich a year before his death. He himself, however, considered this to be an appointment as a “sociologist.” Today, many consider to be among the founders of the discipline writ large.
Yet because Weber was conversant in so many different disciplines, navigating his work can sometimes prove difficult. He made pioneering contributions not only to sociology, but to the study of politics and government, economics, religion, and the philosophy of science as well. A polymath who wrote widely and at great length, much of Weber's work concerns and continues to shape how we understand modernity and its attendant phenomena: the rise of capitalism, the secularization and bureaucratization of society, and the emergence of the rational-legal state. The Max Weber Dictionary, the second edition of which publishes next month, aims to distill key terms and core concepts from Weber's vast and complex corpus into a concise guide. And to synthesize a handful of those ideas even further we've paired a few of the entries from the latest edition into a still more concise lexicon—one well-tooled for the zeitgeist of the digital age: emoji-speak.
😯 🌏 🌬 » 🤔 🌏 ⚗ 🔭 🔬; 🚫 🌬, 💨 ✔️
Disenchantment of the world (Entzauberung der Welt)
This expression refers to a process through which people no longer explain the world and their cosmos with the help of magical forces, but instead rely on science and rational forms of thinking. In an enchanted world, explanations are given in the form of actions of gods and demons, and causality in the modern sense of the word does not exist. In a disenchanted world, on the other hand, the whole world has been “transformed into a causal mechanism.” Intellectuals have played a key role in the process of disenchantment. According to “Science as a Vocation,” where the disenchantment of the world is discussed, “there are [today] no mysterious incalculable forces that come into play, but rather … one can, in principle, master all things by calculation. This means that the world is disenchanted.
(🙂 👍 😀 ) vs. 🙂 👎 😞
Double ethic (doppelte Ethik)
During most of history, human communities have had one ethic for their own members (an in-group morality) and another for members of other communities (an out-group morality). In economic life, there has historically often been an obligation to help members of your own community who are in distress. Outsiders, in contrast, can be mercilessly cheated. As an example of this type of double ethic or dualism of the economic ethic, as Weber also calls it, one may cite the Bible, “you may exact interest on a loan to a foreigner but not on a loan to a fellow-countryman.”
This well-known concept, to which Weber gave its meaning, describes a person who is truly extraordinary (außeralltäglich). Weber defines the as term as follows “‘charisma’ will be applied to a certain quality of an individual personality by virtue of which he is considered extraordinary and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities.” Charismatic figures may appear in situations in which people feel “enthusiasm … despair and hope.” Charisma in its pure form is deeply hostile to the existing order, especially the economic order. Typical charismatic figures are heroes, prophets, and saviors. Jesus and Napoleon are examples of charismatic individuals.
💵 + 😏 + 📈 = 💰 💰 💰 🤑
Adventurers’ capitalism (Abenteurekapitalismus)
This type of capitalism has existed throughout history, according to Weber. It is typically irrational and speculative in nature; and it often aims at exploiting opportunities opened up by political forces. Adventurers’ capitalism is usually immoral as well as traditionalistic in nature, and in many ways the opposite of the methodical, ethical, revolutionary type of modern rational capitalism on which The Protestant Ethic focuses. Weber also notes that many of the types of capitalism that exist in the West today, especially financial capitalism, bear the mark of adventurers’ capitalism.
🏛 > ⛪️
This term is used in Weber’s political sociology to describe a distinct kind of rulership, that of a secular ruler who has total power over the Church. Weber’s formal definition of caesaropapism in Economy and Society reads as follows: “a secular caesaropapist ruler . . . exercises supreme authority in ecclesiastic matters by virtue of his autonomous legitimacy.” Caesaropapsim entails “the complete subordination of priests to secular power,” and it essentially means that church matters have become part of the political administration.
👨 👸 👵 👲 » 👤👤👤👤👤👤👤
Depersonalization (Versachlichung, Unpersönlichkeit)
Weber argues that social relationships, especially in the areas of the economy and politics, are becoming increasingly depersonalized in modern capitalist society. This puts pressure on the individual to conform, and makes it hard for the individual to create and maintain what Weber terms a personality. It is also hard to intervene in these relationships with some kind of ethical or moral purpose in mind. In a rational market or bureaucracy, no special attention is paid to specific circumstances in the individual case.
This post was adapted from The Max Weber Dictionary: Key Words and Central Concepts, Second Edition by Richard Swedberg and Ola Agevall.