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Max Weber

German social scientist Max Weber  (pronounced VAY-ber) (1864-1920) was also concerned about the changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution. Although he disagreed with Marx's idea that economics is the central force in social change, Weber acknowledged that economic interests are important in shaping human action. Even so, he thought that economic systems are heavily influenced by other factors in a SOciety.As we will see in Chapter 17 (~Religion·), one of Weber's most important works. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1976/1904-1905), evaluated the role of the Protestant Reformation in producing a social climate in which capitalism could exist and flourish. Unlike many early analysts. who believed that values could not be separated from.the research process, Weber emphasized that sociology should be value jru-research should be conducted in a scientific manner and should exclude the researcher's personal values and economic interests (Turner, Beeghley, and Powers. 20(2). However, Weber realized that social behavior cannot be analyzed by the objective criteria that we use to measure such things as temperature or weight. Although he recognized that sociologists cannot be totally value free, Weber stressed that they should employ verstehen (German for "understanding" or "insight") to gain the ability to see the world as others see it In contemporary sociology, Weber's idea has been incorporated into the concept of the sociological imagination (discussed earlier in this chapter). Weber was also concerned that large-scale organizations (bureaucracies) were becoming increasingly oriented toward routine administration and a specialized division oflabor, which he believed were destructive to human vitality and freedom. According to Weber, rational bureaucracy, rather than class struggle. was the most significant factor in determining the social relalions among people in industrial societies. In this view, bureaucratic, domination can be used to maintain powerful (capitalist) interests in society. As discussed in Chapter 6 rGroups and Organizations"), Weber's work on bureaucracy has had a far-reaching impact, What might Weber's work contribute to a contemporary study of consumerism and the credit card industry? One of Weber's most useful concepts in this regard is rationalization: "the process by which the modern ~r1d has come to be increasingly dominated by structures devoted to efficiency, calculability. predictability, and technological control" (Ritzer, 1995: 21). According to Ritzer, the credit card industry has contributed to the rationalization process by the ef jicitll'Y with which it makes loans and deals with consumers. For.example, prior to the introduction of credit cards, the process of obtaining a Joan was slow and cumbersome. Today, the process of obtaining a credit card is highly efficient It may take only minutes from the time a brief questionnaire is filled out until credit records are checked by computer and the application is approved or disapproved. Calculability is demonstrated by scorecards that allow lenders to score potential borrowers based on prior statistics of other people's performance in paying their bills. Factors that are typically calculated include home ownership versus renting, length of time with present employer, and current bank and/or credit card.

Posted on September 5, 2014 in The Sociological Perspective

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