Max Weber Theories


Max Weber is a German thinker and theorist of the 20th century. He proposed his own ideas in the form of theories at that time when the views of Karl Marx impressed the masses very much. Due to his theories, he became popular in the whole of Western Europe.

Theories of Max Weber

The theories of Max Weber are the following;

1. Theory of Social Action

2. Theory of Bureaucracy

3. Theory of Authority

1. Theory of Social Action

What is Action?

Action is the internal tendency in which an actor attaches some meaning to his action. For example, to meet someone happily and to show anger. Thus, the action guides us towards the behavior of others.

What is a Social Action?

Social action is a type of behavior in which there is a particular meaning to every action of the actor. 

According to Max Weber:

“An action is social if the acting individual takes account of the behavior of others.”

He says that social action is influenced by acts of past, present, or future. He further elaborates that social action is not possible in isolation.

Talcott Parsons

Talcott Parsons also supported the theory of Max Weber that saying,

“Human behavior is somehow located in the action of an individual.”

Thus the action of an individual is done for a purpose that he calls meaningful action.

Max Weber’s Method 

He believed that there was a particular meaning in every action of the actor. Action will be useful for the actor only if it contains a particular meaning. 

For example. If a car driver puts a light on a car coming in front of him, it will give meaning to the other car driver.

He proposed Two Methods to understand the meaning of the action;

1. Understanding the action

Human behavior cannot be understood on the basis of principles of Mathematics and Statistics. We can understand the meaning of the action. It cannot be measured mathematically.

2. Understanding the motives of the action

It is a meaningful complex that is due to the attitude of the actor.

Types of Social Action

According to Max Weber, there are four types of action.

Purposeful Logical Action: 

 The actor is not bound to choose specific sources.

Value-Oriented Action:

The aim is to learn and the source is online or physical.

Emotional Action:

 In this type, emotions are included in the actions of the actor.

Traditional Action:

 Here, the source and purpose are fixed.


2. Theory of Bureaucracy 

It is the theory about the structure of the government. He explained the rules of selection and promotion of the government servants in a hierarchical manner. He said that it is a type of social organization.


According to Max Weber

“It is a type of organization of classes in which the work of many people is arranged through wisdom and the people perform their duties for the achievement of their goals on a large scale.”


Characteristics of Bureaucracy

The characteristics of Bureaucracy are the following.

1. Max Weber’s concept of Hierarchy of Positions

In Bureaucracy, only those people are employed that are best fitted for their job.

2. Division of Labor

In Bureaucracy, the duties are divided among the employees in a decent manner and everyone performs his own job in his area of concern.

3. Rules and Regulations

In Bureaucracy, there are strict rules and regulations that have to be followed.

4. Accountability

Every individual is accountable to the higher authority in the office.

5. Impersonality

The people are impersonal in Bureaucracy.


3. Theory of Authority

Max Weber said that if respect for the law is found among the members of society, the distribution of authority will be proper in that society. By the above statement, he wanted to say that giving authority to a person and not to others will be according to the law.

Types of Authority

According to Max Weber, there are three types of authority that are given as follows;

1. Bureaucratic Authority:

It is also known as Rational Legal Authority. It is usually found in the offices. For example, Civil Service Officers, Medical Officers, etc.

The power of the officer is placed in law due to which he becomes authorized. The powers of the President, Prime Minister, and the Chief Justice of Pakistan are all written and Bureaucratic.

2. Traditional Authority

This authority exists mostly in norms and traditions. Everyone has to obey these norms. Examples of these authorities are Husband, Father, Syed, and Priest.

3. Charismatic Authority

This type of authority is enjoyed by a person of extraordinary qualities such as saintliness, wisdom, and invincible power. He is obeyed due to his respect in society and also due to his Charisma (The power to attract others).

For example, Hazrat Muhammad (P.B.U.H), Quai-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, Tariq Bin Ziad, and Allama Iqbal possessed great value of Charisma.

Read More: Contributions of Allama Ibn-e-Khaldun

Final Note

It is concluded that Max Weber contributed a lot to the development of sociological theory through his ideas.


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