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Max Weber, 1864-1920

Synopsis Weber's methodological writings form the bedrock of key ideas across the social sciences. Excerpt Methodology is not a hard and fast category. We use cookies to deliver a better user experience and to show you ads based on your interests. Bodies of theory about culture emerged, often overleaping the boundaries between disciplines.

Max Weber's Defense of Historical Inquiry | Max Weber | Causality

But distinctive national approaches also revealed themselves, each largely shaped by the public context of intellectual life in a particular country. This book is concerned with the cultural sciences in Germany between the s and about During those years, German academia exercised its most profound influence on the rest of the world — an influence that is generally acknowledged in some cultural sciences, for example geography, but to which rather little attention is paid in others, such as cultural anthropology.

In the German intellectual setting, Kulture and Kulturwissenschaft came to have many meanings. Here we shall concentrate on cultural scientists who believed that they were practicing a nomothetic science i. Ringer is writing as an historian of ideas, and he borrows an important concept from Bourdieu as an intellectual framework for his analysis — the idea of an intellectual field.

Methodology, science, values, objectivity and ideal types

He explains the idea in these terms:. Joseph Schumpeter offers some notes on the historicist school in his massive volume on the history of economics, History of Economic Analysis IV:4 ; Google Books link. Historicists reject the idea that the social sciences or economics should aspire to the discovery of universal laws of society or universal and unchanging human institutions.

The concrete study of specific economic institutions of the past — economic history — is a more insightful way of understanding the workings of economies than pure mathematical theories of competitive equilibria that are intended to apply in all times and places. Johann Gustav Droysen was a particularly articulate critic of the positivist strand of thought. Instead of general laws and uniform structures, the historicists argue that human society illustrates historical particularity and individuality — in structures and institutions as well as persons.

Often this insistence on historical particularity converged with the hermeneutic view that social understanding always involves the interpretation of meaningful human action and motivation. Here is an earlier post on interpretation theory, and here is a post on the ways in which Alasdair MacIntyre and Charles Taylor have adapted these ideas. Wilhelm Dilthey argued that the human sciences were profoundly different from the natural sciences because they involved interpretive understanding of human action rather than mechanical explanation of a system of causes.

But there was a current of thought in Germany in the late nineteenth century that took its lead from the logic of the natural sciences and attempted to apply this model to the human sciences. Mid-century philosophers such as Friedrich Albert Lange advocated for a philosophy that combined the methods of the natural sciences with a neo-Kantian metaphysics If there is to be such a thing as a social science, positivism maintains that it should have the same logical characteristics as natural sciences like physics and chemistry; and this was taken to mean that it should seek out lawlike generalizations that are independent of space and time.


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  5. One important voice representing a broadly naturalistic perspective on the social sciences was Carl Menger. His critique of the historicist school from the point of view of pure economic theory is an important stage in the debate. Our cognitive interest is directed either at the concrete phenomena in their position in space and time and at their concrete interrelationships, or else … at the recurrent patterns in which they appear. The former research direction aims at knowledge of the concrete or, more correctly, the individual, the latter at knowledge of the general. Investigations into the Methods of the Social Sciences , quoted in Ringer, It appears that we could summarize the development of the two traditions as including a few branching streams of thought:.

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