Max Weber on India - Seeker's Thoughts

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Thursday, 8 August 2019

Max Weber on India


Max Weber, was born on April 21, 1864, in Erfurt, Prussia Germany and died June 14, 1920, in Munich Germany – he was a sociologist and political economist best for his thesis of the protestant ethic, Protestantism, capitalism – weber’s deep influence on sociological theory stem from his demand for objectivity in scholarship and from his analysis of the motives behind human action.

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Weber wrote several essays and books, with these contributions he was considered, along with Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, W.E.B DuBois, and Harriet Martinus, one of the founders of the sociology.

Weber thinking about social class- he pointed out the one’s position in society relative to others is about more than how much money one has.

He reasoned that the level of prestige associated with one’s education and occupation, as well as one’s political group affiliations, in addition to wealth, combine to create a hierarchy of people society.

Max Weber didn’t just believe that individuals shape society- societies encourage certain types of motive for action – for example, the religion of Calvinism encourages people to save money, which eventually led to capitalism.



He believed that there are four types of social action. Ideal types are used as a tool to look at real cases and compare them to the ideal types to see where they fall. No social action is pure just one of the four types.

1-    Traditional social action: actions controlled by traditions, “the way it has always been done.

2-    Affective social action: actions determine by one’s specific affections and emotional state, you do think about the consequences.

3-    Value rational social action: actions that are determined by a conscious belief in the inherent value of a type of behavior (ex :religion)

4-    Instrumental rational social action: actions that are carried out to achieve a certain goal, you do something because it leads to a result.



A little glance of his writing – The protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

In these he books he merged economic sociology with the sociology of religion, and as such, for how he researched and theorized the interplay between the cultural realm of values and beliefs, and the economic system of society.

Weber argues in the text that capitalism developed to the advanced stage that is done in the West due to the fact that Protestantism encouraged the embrace of work as calling from God, and consequently, a dedication to work that allowed one to earn a lot of money.

Weber’s work in the field of sociology of religion. His analysis of the religion of china, the religion of India and ancient Judaism. 

Weber saw religion as one of the core forces in society. His goal was to find reasons for the different development paths if the culture of the west and the east without judging or valuing them, Weber wanted primarily to explain the distinctive elements of the western civilization.

He maintained that Calvinist (and more widely, Protestant) religious ideas had a major impact on the social innovation and development of the economic system of the West, but noted that they were not the only factors in this development. 


Other notable factors mentioned by Weber included the rationalism of scientific pursuit, merging observation with mathematics, the science of scholarship and jurisprudence, rational systematization and bureaucratization of government administration and economic enterprise. 

In the end, the study of the sociology of religion, according to Weber, focused on one distinguishing the part of the Western culture, the decline of beliefs in magic, or what he referred to as "disenchantment of the world"

According to Weber, this evolution occurred as the growing economic stability allowed professionalization and the evolution of ever more sophisticated priesthood.

As societies grew more complex and encompassed different groups, a hierarchy of gods developed and as a power in the society became more centralized, the concept of a single, universal God became more popular and desirable.

The development of the concept of the calling quickly gave to the modern entrepreneur a fabulously clear conscience—and also industrious workers; he gave to his employees as the wages of their ascetic devotion to the calling and of co-operation in his ruthless exploitation of them through capitalism the prospect of eternal salvation.


Max Weber


The Religion of India



The Religion of India: The Sociology of Hinduism and Buddhism was Weber's third major work on the sociology of religion. 

In this work, he deals with the structure of Indian society, with the orthodox doctrines of Hinduism and the heterodox doctrines of Buddhism, with modifications brought by the influence of popular religiosity and finally with the impact of religious beliefs on the secular ethic of Indian society.

 In Weber's view, Hinduism in India, like Confucianism in China, was a barrier for capitalism. 
The Indian caste system made it very difficult for individuals to advance in society beyond their caste. Activity, including economic activity, was seen as unimportant in the context of the advancement of the soul.

He notes that the beliefs saw the meaning of life as an otherworldly mystical experience. 

The social world is fundamentally divided between the educated elite, following the guidance of a prophet or wise man and the uneducated masses whose beliefs are centered on magic.


Ancient Judaism
In Ancient Judaism, his fourth major work on the sociology of religion, Weber attempted to explain the factors that resulted in the early differences between west and east religiosity

He contrasted the inner-worldly asceticism developed by Western Christianity with mystical contemplation of the kind developed in India. 


Weber noted that some aspects of Christianity sought to conquer and change the world, rather than withdraw from its imperfections. 


This fundamental characteristic of Christianity (when compared to Far Eastern religions) stems originally from ancient Jewish prophecy.


 Weber claimed that Judaism not only fathered Christianity and Islam but was crucial to the rise of the modern western state; Judaism's influence was as important as Hellenistic and Roman cultures.


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