Theorist Max Weber. Subject name: sociology of work and occupations Essay Example

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Theorist Max Weber: sociology of work and occupations

Theorist Max Weber: sociology of work and occupations

Theorist Max Weber: sociology of work and occupations

Brief summary of the theorist’s main theoretical argument

Work and occupation are some of the aspect of human that has been there as long as human existence. This explains the importance of this social aspect to improving human life and other factors that support life. Work and occupation is one of the most researched topics by most decorated sociologists. Sung Ho (2008) claims that one of such sociologist is Max Weber, who had studied and written books on theory work ethics and capitalism. According to Swedberg (2011) Weber’s work originated from Protestants churches (Calvin, the Puritans) which believed in social life, family, leisure and work and dignity. Weber, went ahead to differentiate contribution and belief of various religions more so Protestants and Catholics. In his research, Weber focused on two ethical questions, pleasure of the means where life of dignity ought to be controlled by the moral standards, and the respect of uniqueness and worth of each person (Kalberg 2009). His insinuation was that capitalism was being used to enrich company owners. The company owners employed managers to work as their agents to help them enrich themselves while ignoring the plight of these managers.

Juillerat (2010, p.220) posits that managers and employees were used as means as they work long hours, day and night in a poor work environment with low motivation. Also, the organization was controlled by bureaucracy, politics without ethical values (Sung Ho 2008). He believes that there is much difference between ‘old capitalism and modern capitalism’. Grossman (2006, p.13) contended that in the modern capitalism employees are lawfully free as opposed to enslaved. In the modern capitalism, the managers observe work ethics. Employees who work hard are also rewarded in terms of salary increment and elevation in ranks within the organizations (Kalberg 2009). Work is now regarded to play an important role in the creation and preserving an individual dignity and sense of self-worth. While someone is climbing the ladder of work, they gain wealth and become powerful.

How the theory explains one major transition in organization of work

The theory work, ethics and capitalism explain the transition in terms of move from capitalism to modern capitalism. One major transition in the work organization was instilling of ethics. According to Smith & Smith (2011, p.284), Weber claimed that it is critical to know that modern capitalism entails organization of work based on “economic ethic.” This ethics provides and justifies the motivation for thorough work organization, the logical approach to work, and the methodical quest of profit that is observed in modern capitalism. The theory holds that in a situation where the spirit of capitalism was inculcated, work was seen as a virtuous and noble endeavor while anybody who had a job or occupation was respected all through the society and considered to have good character (Swedberg 2011). This was contrary of historical days when ‘work hard, no economic ethics’ where was regarded important. Hence, employees approached work in a relaxed and unfocused way.

In addition, they considered work as just platform of life which deserved of no time and interest compared to other avenues of life like the family, friendship, leisure and hobbies (Juillerat 2010, p.221). In the past motivation was low and nobody could be induced to work to increase productivity. Welsh (2005, p.483) claims that in the modern capitalism, ethics is observed, motivational factors has been put in place making the employees to increase efficiency and productivity. Some employers who had introduced piece rate system of payment thought that employer would increase the speed and productivity to increase their salary (Wright 2006, p.265). However, they were still less prompting managers to sought other ways of motivation. In doing that they introduced salary increment for employees who were most committed.

How this Theory can be applied to explain one component of the modern organizational structure

Theory of ethics and capitalism can be applied in formalization aspect of organizational structure. Formalization is defined as the measure of how much organization practices and procedures are drafted into policies and rules (Jacobides 2007, p.459). Even though formalization allows workers to have a uniform form of behavior, a higher degree of formalization may decrease motivation, job and innovation and satisfaction (Wright 2006, p.467). In his study of sociology of work and occupations, Weber observed that organization which operated in capitalism had many rules and laws which hampered employees’ motivation to freely perform. Grossman (2006, p.17) contends that while managers instilled the spirit of capitalism, they looked for profit logically, managed their employees based on rules of efficient and productive management, invested revenues in their organization and were involved in competitive rivalry of economic traditionalism.

In this arrangement, the organization’s circle of clients did not differ, and the relationship between owners and employees were regulated mostly by the laws and tradition. This is a proof that contemporary organizations were full of bureaucracy. Today, competition in business arena has increased tremendously forcing managers to change their organizational structure. Even though the formalization has remained, complex and unnecessary laws and regulations have been scrapped so as to increase efficiency and effectiveness of the organizations (Jacobides 2007, p.469). In the new flat organizational structure, middle managers are removed creating a close relationship between the top management and employees. When close relationship is established, employees feel involved. The only laws remaining today are those which make and keep the stability of the company.

Limitations of this theory

Although Weber’s work received praise, it also received criticism for limitation in equal measures. Sascha & Ludger (2007, p.288) claim that the research has proved that religion can be used to cause conflict within as portrayed by Max Weber. In his study, Weber outlines how different belief and the contribution of Catholicism, Calvinism, Puritanism and Lutheranism. Weber’s research survives a lot of criticisms. Weber had misconstrued the Catholicism. Critics claim that even though Weber stated on that there were fundamental dissimilarities between Protestantism and Catholicism based on economically pertinent values, he never studied Catholic doctrine in details (Sascha & Ludger 2007, p.285).
Research shows that post-medieval Catholicism has the components elements that are positively encouraging capitalist spirit. This is contrary to Weber research which indicates that Catholicism was against capitalist spirit (Swedberg 2011).

Critics also argue that Weber’s research was faulty in his claim that Luther introduced a notion of ‘calling’ that disagreed from earlier researches on Calvinist ethics. In fact previous studies claim Calvinism doctrines were ‘anti-capitalistic’ in nature and opposed to wealth accumulation (Swedberg 2011). Weber’s theory has also has been faulted because its research relies on a few sources of information which cannot be claimed to represent the view of the whole group or religion. Weber’s association of modern capitalism and Puritanism concept is founded on insufficient empirical sources. Themes of Fischer and Rachfahl revolve around these criticisms and has been reiterated numerous times. According to Smith & Smith (2011, p.292), critics contend that only logical analysis Weber uses in his analysis of Catholics and Protestants on capitalism is Fischer and Rachfahl’s work. Further detailed research can actually get more relationship between the doctrines, hence improve the theory.


Grossman, H 2006, The Beginnings of Capitalism and the New Mass Morality, Journal of

Classical Sociology, Vol.6, No.2, pp.12-27,

Jacobides, M. G 2007, The inherent limits of organizational structure and the unfulfilled role

of hierarchy: Lessons from a near-war, Organization Science, Vol. 18, No.3, p.455-477.

Juillerat, T.L 2010, Friends, not foes: Work design and formalization in the modern work

context, Journal of Organizational Behavior, Vol. 31, Issue 2-3, pages 216–239.

Kalberg, S 2009, Introduction to the Protestant Ethic, Pp. 7-58 in The Protestant Ethic and the

Spirit of Capitalism with Other Writings on the Rise of the West, fourth edition, Stephen

Kalberg (transl.) New York, Oxford University Press.

Sung Ho, K 2008, Max Weber: The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Metaphysics Research

Lab, CSLI, Stanford University.

Swedberg, R 2011, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, The Montréal Review.

Sascha, O. B & Ludger, W 2007, Was Weber Wrong? A Human Capital Theory of Protestant

Economics History, Munich Discussion Paper No. 2007-7.

Smith, V.O & Smith, Y. S 2011, Bias, history, and the Protestant Work Ethic, Journal of

Management History, Vol. 17, No. 3, pp.282 – 298.

Welsh, A. 2005, “Business is busyness, or the work ethic, Social Research, Vol. 72 No. 2, pp.


Wright, T.A 2006, The emergence of job satisfaction in organizational behavior, Journal of

Management History, Vol. 12, pp. 262‐77.