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ROLL: B14ME037
HS654 Sociocultural Theories

Q. It is believed that Max Webers social theory provided contemporary sociology with a
systematic approach to the construction of social theory.
A. Do you agree with the statement, and why?
Answer. Yes, I agree with the mentioned statement, the reasons being that:
1. Weber approach to the contemporary sociology was futuristic. He argued that science
is the key component for the study of sociology. He said that that science delimits
what can and cannot be studied and commented on in the socio-cultural sphere.
2. The key concepts through his writings were rationality, progress, ethics, values of
reasons, purposes and motives, options and choices. These concepts reflects a well
calculated way to understand social theory.
3. Weber systematically characterizes the modern world into distinct social spheres as
science, economics, education, medicine, law, politics, and even religion. He suggests
that rationality is marked by two distinct forms of orientation one being rational
calculation and goal orientation, other being guided by ethics and morals, beliefs and
ideals, vocational considerations and responsibility.
4. In order to support his systematic and rationalisation, he explains that, that
principally there are no mysterious incalculable forces that come into play, but rather,
that one can, in principle, master all things by calculation.
5. In his Science as a Vocation Weber (1958/1919: 147-52) suggests that, within the
confines of the logic of science, social scientists are able to establish available means
to existing ends, show the advantage of some means over others, calculate the various
costs involved and assess the internal consistency between ends. And their work can
aid social control.

B. What is the systematic approach referring to?

Answer. Weber systematic approach can be summarized as:

1. His systematic approaches refers to an ideological way of living life. He said that
social scientists can clarify methods of thinking and provide training and tools for
thought. They can identify the nature of ideas and assumptions but not comment on
their being right or wrong, good or bad.
2. Weber suggests, the scientific method, appropriately applied, can bring about not just
self-clarification but also a sense of responsibility. However he believed that choice
between certain values are irreconcilable, and no correct decision can be made as
good or bad between that choices.
3. Though he said that the systematic approach he wanted to develop is fundamentally
different from study of natural sciences and physical objects. He wanted to develop a
subject-specific mode of enquiry, no less stringent and systematic. Cultural modes of
4. Weber insisted a need to take account of individually pursued purposes, values and
belief as well as socially constituted values, rules and moral codes. A science focused
on culture needs to understand purposes, make sociocultural action intelligible, which
means, never losing sight of the futures that guide actions in the present.
5. He believed that such understanding can be achieved variously by knowing the social
rules, through socially constituted empathy, that is, having shared such an experience,
on the basis of logic and on the general principle of rationality.

C. How does the above compare to the social theories as professed by Karl Marx and Emile
Answer. Fundamental differences between Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim and Max Weber can be stated
1. Karl Marx (1818-1883) was a German philosopher who believed that material goods
are at the root of the social world. According to Marx, social life is fundamentally
about conflict over food, land, money, and other material goods. Marx believed that
the ideal government would be a communist state where resources are equally shared.
2. Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) was a French sociologist who helped establish
sociology by arguing that society had to be studied on its own terms that
understanding individual psychology was insufficient. Durkheim believed that
societies are held together by shared values, which change over time as societies
become bigger and more complex.
3. Max Weber (1864-1920) was a German sociologist who agreed with Marx that
people often fight to protect their own interests, but he agreed with Durkheim that
what people consider their interests often are determined by socialization and shared
values. He believed society is becoming more rationalized and bureaucratic over time.
4. Their view on one of the most important fundamental institution, Economy and its
importance also varied. Marx viewed the economy as the base that determines the
social superstructure. Durkheim viewed the economy as one of a number of social
institutions that make up a society, whereas Weber viewed the economy in part as an
extension of religious belief.

i. Marx: He considered society to be the result of an economic base and a social

superstructure; it is the economic base which determines all other social
structures including ideology, politics, and religion. He claims that social and
political structures are derived from the economic means of production. It is
the ruling economic class that determines the dominant ideology in a society.
ii. Durkheim: Durkheim considers the economy to be one of many contributing
factors that make up a society and has no privileged position in social
superstructure. Durkheim considered religion to be an important factor on the
economy as well as law, morality, art, science, and political forms.

iii. Weber: Weber inverts Marx economic determinism by suggesting that

religious ideology can influence the economic social structure. Thus, religion
forms the base and the economy the superstructure according to Webers
theory. As a result economic forces are best understood through the sociology
of religion.

D. Analyse all three theorists named above and discuss any one criterion that they all focused
on and one which is required to maintain a significant social theory.

Answer. Alienation is one of the idea on which all three theorists focused and it plays a major
role in maintaining an equilibrium in the society. It was the problem for old system that
isolated individuals from mankind. For Marx, it was the issue of class conflict. For
Durkheim, it was a disorganized society trying to adapt. And Weber felt alienation was
because of legal rationality.
1. Marx: Marxs key concept was class conflict, especially that between the capitalist
and the working class. The working class was separated from their species being or
natural self. The capitalists separated the working class from their species being by
taking their labour and accumulating profit.
2. Durkheim: Durkheim felt that this class division was good because it created
interdependence. Durkheim saw that problem as normlessness or anomie. Anomie
occurs in societies that are disorganized or undergoing change. For example, in the
past, religion and family created a structured environment in which everyone had their
place in the community. But after a while, political and cultural changes began to
3. Weber: Weber focused on the problems created by politics. He felt the problem was
due to legal rational authority. He says that bureaucracy is the most efficient form of
authority, but that it would create an iron cage. He was afraid that people would lose
those aspects, such as emotion and values, which caused them to challenge authority.
They all mention mans disconnectedness with society and with their natural state. Marx saw
the separation between the classes (capitalists and working class) and between the workers
and co-workers. Durkheim focused on the loss of connection to society and shared values
(anomie). Weber demonstrated this in his name for the separation, the iron cage. In the iron
cage, man simply moves through the motions and obeying the rules.
Marx saw overproduction resulting in a class-consciousness, which ultimately would cause
the working class revolution. Durkheim felt that the system would take care of itself and
eventually adapt to a suitable form. For Weber, he feared that Marxs revolution would lead
to an iron cage. Instead, he hoped that a charismatic leader would come along and issue in
social change.

1. Adam, B. (1998) Values in the Cultural Timescapes of Science, in Lash, S. Quick,
A. Roberts, R. eds. Special edition, Time and Values, Cultural Values 2(2 & 3):
2. Albrow, M. (1990) Max Webers Construction of Social Theory.
3. A. Giddens, Capitalism and Modern Social Theory, Cambridge University Press,
4. Adam, B. (2004) Minding Futures.
5. Durkheim, Emile. 1951. Suicide: A Study in Sociology. NY, NY: The Free Press.