German sociologist Max Weber is one of the founding fathers of modern sociology with a huge influence on social theory, critical theory and cultural studies. Weber's theories regarding economics, religion social stratification and social research methodology were ground breaking at their time as they are considered to be classics today. Here we offer you a brief overview of some of Weber's main theories and contributions to social thought and some links to elaborated summaries of some of his theories and essays (more summaries on Max Weber to come). We include some recommendations on further reading by and about Weber.
In terms of methodology, Weber is one of the most prominent father of Ethnomethodology – the examination of the manner in which people's beliefs and practices take part in producing social reality (see full summary on Max Weber and Ethnomethodology). An additional aspect of Weber's methodological theories is the problematisazation of social research and the argument that there can be no "objective" study of society. this made Weber very popular with later critical theorists, a lot of them feminist (see summary on Max Weber and feminist thought)
Weber is often contrasted with the theory of Karl Marx, especially when it comes to describing social stratification and social inequality. Unlike materialist Marx who saw everything in economical terms, Weber's theory of society tried to account for the manner in which various symbolic factors take part in establishing social status, stratification and inequality (see full summaries on: Max Weber on social inequality and Max Weber and social stratification).
One of Weber's most famous and influential theories and books is The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (published 1905) which ties the advent of capitalism as a socio-economical system to religious changes in Europe and the rise of Protestantism (see summary of Asceticism and the Spirit of Capitalism, one of the most important parts of Weber's theory on the protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism). Once central aspect of Weber's theory which can be found in "The Spirit of Capitalism" in the notion of rationality and rationalization in modern times. Here you can find a summary of chapter one "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism": "religious affiliation and social stratification.
Suggested reading by and about Max Weber and his theories: