chapter  17
16 Pages

The Perpetual and Tight Interweaving of Past and Present in Max Weber’s Sociology

Commentators have discussed Max Weber’s ‘view of history’ for over 100 years.

Agreement has been rare and quite contrary conclusions have been drawn.

Many interpreters insisted that Weber understood the course of history in

dichotomous terms. He described, according to this position, the distant past as an era of great charismatic figures standing occasionally in direct opposition to the

sheer weight of tradition. A different dichotomy reigned in the industrial epoch:

now heroic leaders placed their powerful personalities against rigid bureaucracies

(Mommsen 1974, 1989; Salomon 1935). Other commentators detected in Weber’s

writings a further dichotomy: persons prominently influenced by their emotions

and the grip of traditions inhabited earlier societies while in later societies a

predominance of means-end rational (Zweckrationales) action reigned (Alexander 1987).