Nazi Germany and how it would be analyzed by Karl Marx, Max Weber and/or Emile Durkheim
Max Weber, born in 1864, is one of the best-known and most popular scholars of 'sociology', as well as of 'economic work'. One of his best contributions to the cause of economics as well as to sociology is his work entitled "Vertstehen" or what is also known as the theory of 'Interpretative Sociology' and his thinking on 'positivism'. Weber's theory of Verstehen is often seen as being very controversial and questionable. His view is that any research that is connected to history or sociology or economics must be approached with a particular idea or concept, or what is called a 'conceptual apparatus'. This apparatus was referred to be Weber as the 'ideal type', meaning that when an individual needs to understand or comprehend a particular sociological phenomenon, the various 'actions' of the different participants of the phenomena, and not stop at merely describing the phenomenon in itself. (Max Weber, 1864-1920)
However, the problem here is that one cannot actually comprehend interpretation unless and until the individual attempts to classify that particular within the phenomenon as belonging to that previously decided upon 'ideal type'. This was probably the reason that Max Weber described the 'Ideal Type' of behavior in four broad categories. The first ideal behavior was described as the 'rational means to rational ends', the second one as being 'the rational means to irrational ends', the third one was described, as being 'guided by emotion' and the fourth one was the 'guided by custom or habit'. Max Weber himself acknowledged the fact that utilizing the 'ideal type' for describing his theories was essentially abstract, but stated that it was an important means of understanding the various social phenomena that involved human behavior in all its intricacies, wherein an ideal type would help classify this intricate behavior into several ideal types, and this in turn would make it much easier to understand and interpret various social phenomena. (Max Weber, 1864-1920)
It is important at this point to understand the person that Max Weber was. Born into a household with strictly Protestant views, and with seven other siblings competing for his parents' attention, Max Weber was constantly striving for individuality and tried to oppose authority, both parental as well as political authority in the form of Kaiser's Germany. Weber was essentially brought up in a culturally bourgeois household where quite a few politicians and academicians were frequent visitors and houseguests. There was however growing tension between his parents and this affected the young Weber deeply. In fact, it is said that Weber suffered from psychic torment at his household, and this meant that whatever he did and wherever he went, Weber was first and foremost 'his own man', meaning that he was a free and independent thinker who was not bound by any political ideals. He formulated his own thoughts and his own theories. It was in this manner that he was able to write his famous 'Verstehen'. (Max Weber, the Person)
In the four means of actions that he describes men in general will take, Weber explains by an example the 'purposeful rationality' that is exhibited by an engineer who has been given the responsibility of building a bridge across anything. This individual is using the best-known rational means of uniting one end to the other end, or means to the end. This type of value-oriented rationality is seen as being an innate striving towards a more substantive goal that is in effect pursued with certain rational means. This does not mean however that this fact is in itself the actual ration; for example, when the goal is asceticism or holiness, then the means to achieving this goal would be to lead a life of ascetic self-denial, wherein the means would be value oriented and would lead to the striving towards a substantive goal. Affective action is seen, by Max Weber, as being a part of the emotional state of a participant or an 'actor' wherein the mental state is evaluated rather than the assessment of the means and the ends towards achieving it. (Max Weber, the Person)
It is often said that Max Weber was always attempting to analyze and understand the larger structures and maybe certain traditions that sought to and served to affect the lives of individuals, and how this factor changed over time, and space. He has stated that the economic order, as it is known, is generally of great importance in determining not only the exact positions of certain communities, but also in several important structures such as religion and ideas. These, he felt, would influence peoples in several different ways, and these need not necessarily derive solely from the above-mentioned economic interests alone. Therefore, the factor of 'rational bureaucracy' became more important than the permanently seen 'class struggle'. (Sociology 250: Max Weber)
Weber was, in fact, a historical sociologist. He felt that the study and analysis of experiential and empirical data was very essential and necessary to the creation and development of a sociologist's concepts and ideas, and such data must be not only selected extremely carefully, but also interpreted with care and caution. Weber was not attracted by the various laws of the society, by which a particular society may be described; he was rather interested in the very complexity of society and its people, and the extreme difficulty in trying to understand the entire society as a whole. He was not at all concerned with the construction of an overall and general view of the society as one whole; he wanted and tried to understand the society as he saw it: as a complex and complicated body. Human action was taken as an innate part of social change and the very social structure in itself.
This concept would help bridge the gap between the large structures called 'society' and the various social actions and the interactions of the individuals who are within the society. This would enable sociologists, Weber stated, to better understand the various intricacies of the actions committed by groups and the individuals, and this in turn would help them understand the various historical processes through the years in a better manner. This sort of understanding, or 'verstehen', as he referred to it, would enable the sociologist to become empathetic towards the individual, and this would mean that he would be able to understand the meanings that the person invariably attaches to any action committed by him. Therefore, it can be seen that the two factors of understanding and meaning are the key concepts of the thinking of Weber. (Sociology 250: Max Weber)
This does not limit itself to understanding the individual, but it also includes the results of a thorough and a systematic research conducted by the sociologist on the issue on hand. This means that at the individual level, as well as at the group level, and at the structural level, all the meanings behind the actions taking place, the motivation for the actions, the limitations and restraints that were placed on these actions before they took place, all these have to be understood and a particular methodology must be developed with which this can be assessed. This is in fact exactly what Weber does: he develops a methodology with which the sociologist can base his research, and this offers a great advantage to the sociologist because he will be able to understand this very basic of natural phenomenon. When others felt that the study of human society was extremely difficult a task, Weber turned the very difficulty of analyzing the complexity of human thoughts into action a rewarding experience, as he took it as an advantage rather than as a disadvantage. Why are Weber's ideas relevant even today? It is because the power of his ideas on issue such as nationalism and independence has become guides for large groups of people all over the world, today.
These ideas are above economic factors, and taken in the context of Nazi Germany, these ideas show that struggles against certain groups of people who exploit other people for gain and for various other purposes may eventually become associated with the inevitable emergence of newer groups of oppressors and tormentors, and though the concepts of religion and language may become predominant to most of these types of exploitative movements and events in history, the entire situation may eventually be decided by an idea of independence. Weber also concentrates on the ways and means, in which multiples of individuals act and behave in a given situation, and the base from which their power is generally derived from. Therefore, not only are economic factors important, but the language and culture of the people are also equally important, and when taken in terms of the Nazi oppression and torture of Jews in Germany, this seems to be extremely relevant, especially because of the nationalistic fervor attached to the struggle. Though Weber appeared to be an opponent to socialism…