From: Max Weber: Economy and Society; (Page numbers in brackets)
9. Action in the sense of subjectively understandable orientation of behavior exists only as the behavior of one or more individual human beings. For other cognitive purposes it may be useful or necessary to consider the individual, for instance, as a collection of cells, as a complex of bio-chemical reactions, or to conceive his psychic life as made up of a variety of different elements, however these may be defined. Undoubtedly such procedures yield valuable knowledge of causal relationships. But the behavior of these elements, as expressed in such uniformities, is not subjectively understandable. This is true even of psychic elements because the more precisely they are formulated from a point of view of natural science, the less they are accessible to subjective understanding. This is never the road to interpretation in terms of subjective meaning. On the contrary, both for sociology in the present sense, and for history, the object of cognition is the subjective meaning-complex of action. The behavior of physiological entities such as cells, or of any sort of psychic elements, may at least in principle be observed and an attempt made to derive uniformities from such observations. It is further possible to attempt, with their help, to obtain a causal explanation of individual phenomena, that is, to subsume them under uniformities. But the subjective understanding of action takes the same account of this type of fact and uniformity as of any others not capable of subjective interpretation. (This is true, for example, of physical, astronomical, geological, meteorological, geographical, botanical, zoological, and anatomical facts, of those aspects of psycho-pathology which are devoid of subjective meaning, or of the natural conditions of technological processes.)
For still other cognitive purposes-for instance, juristic ones-or for practical ends, it may on the other hand be convenient or even indispensable to treat social collectivities, such as states, associations, business corporations, foundations, as if they were individual persons. Thus they may be treated as the subjects of rights and duties or as the performers of legally significant actions. But for the subjective interpretation of action in sociological work these collectivities must be treated as solely the resultants and modes of organization of the particular acts of individual persons, since these alone can be treated as agents in a course of subjectively understandable action. Nevertheless, the sociologist cannot for his purposes afford to ignore these collective concepts derived from other disciplines. For the subjective interpretation of action has at least three (14) important relations to these concepts. In the first place it is often necessary to employ very similar collective concepts, indeed often using the same terms, in order to obtain an intelligible terminology. Thus both in legal terminology and in everyday speech the term “state” is used both for the legal concept of the state and for the phenomena of social action to which its legal rules are relevant. For sociological purposes, however, the phenomenon “the state” does not consist necessarily or even primarily of the elements which are relevant to legal analysis; and for sociological purposes there is no such thing as a collective personality which “acts.” When reference is made in a sociological context to a state, a nation, a corporation, a family, or an army corps, or to similar collectivities, what is meant is, on the contrary, only a certain kind of development of actual or possible social actions of individual persons. Both because of its precision and because it is established in general usage the juristic concept is taken over, but is used in an entirely different meaning.
Secondly, the subjective interpretation of action must Jake account of a fundamentally important fact. These concepts of collective entities which are found both in common sense and in juristic and ‘other technical forms of thought, have a meaning in the minds of individual persons, partly as of something actually existing, partly as something with normative authority. This is true not only of judges and officials, but of ordinary private individuals as well. Actors thus in part orient their action to them, and in this role such ideas have a powerful, often a decisive, causal influence on the course of action of real individuals. This is above all true where the ideas involve normative prescription or prohibition. Thus, for instance, one of the important aspects of the existence of a modern state, precisely as a complex of social interaction of individual persons, consists in the fact that the action of various individuals is oriented to the belief that it exists or should exist, thus that its acts and laws are valid in the legal sense. This will be further discussed below. Though extremely pedantic and cumbersome, it would be possible, if purposes of sociological terminology alone were involved, to eliminate such terms entirely, and substitute newly-coined words. This would be possible even though the word “state” is used ordinarily not only to designate the legal concept but also the real process of action. But in the above important connexion, at least, this would naturally be impossible.
11. We have taken for granted that sociology seeks to formulate type concepts and generalized uniformities of empirical process. This distinguishes it from history, which is oriented to the causal analysis and explanation of individual actions, structures, and personalities possessing cultural significance. The empirical material which underlies the concepts of sociology consists to a very large extent, though by no means exclusively, of the same concrete processes of action which are dealt with by historians. An important consideration in the formulation of sociological concepts and generalizations is the contribution that sociology (20) can make toward the casual explanation of some historically and culturally important phenomenon. As in the case of every generalizing science the abstract character of the concepts of sociology is responsible for the fact that, compared with actual historical reality, they are relatively lacking in fullness of concrete content. To compensate for this disadvantage sociological analysis can offer a greater precision of concepts. This precision is obtained by striving for the highest possible degree of adequacy on the level of meaning. It has already been repeatedly stressed that this aim can be realized in a particularly high degree in the case of concepts and generalizations which formulate rational processes. But sociological investigation attempts to include in its scope various irrational phenomena, such as prophetic, mystic, and affectual modes of action, formulated in terms of theoretical concepts which are adequate on the level of meaning. In all cases, rational or irrational sociological analysis both abstracts from reality and at the same time helps us to understand it, in that it shows with what degree of approximation a concrete historical phenomenon can be subsumed under one or more of these concepts. For example, the same historical phenomenon may be in one aspect feudal, in another patrimonial, in another bureaucratic, and in still another charismatic. In order to give a precise meaning to these terms, it is necessary for the sociologist to formulate pure ideal types of the corresponding forms of action which in each case involve the highest possible degree of logical integration by virtue of their complete adequacy on the level of meaning. But precisely because this is true, it is probably seldom if ever that a’ real phenomenon can be found which corresponds exactly to one of these ideally constructed pure types. The case is similar to a physical reaction which has been calculated on the assumption of an absolute vacuum. Theoretical differentiation (Kasuistik) is possible in sociology only in terms of ideal or pure types. It goes without saying that in addition it is convenient for the sociologist from time to time to employ average types of an empirical statistical character, concepts which do not require methodological discussion. But when reference is made to “typical” cases, the term should always be understood, unless otherwise stated, as meaning ideal types, which may in turn be rational or irrational as the case may be (thus in economic theory they are always rational), but in any case are always constructed with a view to adequacy on the level of meaning.
It is important to realize that in the sociological field as elsewhere, averages, and hence average types, can be formulated with a relative degree of precision only where they are concerned with differences of degree in respect to action which remains qualitatively the same. Such cases do occur, but in the majority of cases of action important to history (21) or sociology the motives which determine it are qualitatively heterogeneous. Then it is quite impossible to speak of an “average” in the true sense. The ideal types of social action which for instance are used in economic theory are thus unrealistic or abstract in that they always ask what course of action would take place if it were purely rational and oriented to economic ends alone. This construction can be used to aid in the understanding of action not purely economically determined but which involves deviations arising from traditional restraints, affects, errors, and the intrusion of other than economic purposes or considerations. This can take place in two ways. First, in analysing the extent to which in the concrete case, or on the average for a class of cases, the action was in part economically determined along with the other factors. Secondly, by throwing the discrepancy between the actual course of events and the ideal type into relief, the analysis of the non-economic motives actually involved is facilitated. The procedure would be very similar in employing an ideal type of mystical orientation, with its appropriate attitude of indifference to worldly things, as a tool -for analysing its consequences for the actor’s relation to ordinary life-for instance, to political or economic affairs. The more sharply and precisely the ideal type has been constructed, thus the more abstract and unrealistic in this sense it is, the better it is able to perform its functions in formulating terminology, classifications, and hypotheses. In working out a concrete causal explanation of individual events, the procedure of the historian is essentially the same. Thus in attempting to explain the campaign of 1866, it is indispensable both in the case of Moltke and of Benedek to attempt to construct imaginatively how each, given fully adequate knowledge both of his own situation and of that of his opponent, would have acted. Then it is possible to compare with this the actual course of action and to arrive at a causal explanation of the observed deviations, which will be attributed to such factors as misinformation, strategical errors, logical fallacies, personal temperament, or considerations outside the realm of strategy. Here, too, an ideal-typical construction of rational action is actually employed even though it is not made explicit.
The theoretical concepts of sociology are ideal types not only from the objective point of view, but also in their application to subjective processes. In the great majority of cases actual action goes on in a state of inarticulate half-consciousness or actual unconsciousness of its subjective meaning. The actor is more likely to “be aware” of it in a vague sense than he is to “know” what he is doing or be explicitly self-conscious about it. In most cases his action is governed by impulse or habit. Only occasionally and, in the uniform action of large numbers, often only in the case of a few individuals, is the subjective meaning of the action, whether (22) rational or irrational, brought clearly into consciousness. The ideal type of meaningful action where the meaning is fully conscious and explicit is a marginal case. Every sociological or historical investigation, in applying its analysis to the empirical facts, must take this fact into account. But the difficulty need not prevent the sociologist from systematizing his concepts by the classification of possible types of subjectivity meaning. That is, he may reason as if action actually proceeded on the basis of clearly self-conscious meaning. The resulting deviation from the concrete facts must continually be kept in mind whenever it is a question of this level of concreteness, and must be carefully studied with reference both to degree and kind. It is often necessary to choose between terms which are either clear or unclear. Those which are clear will, to be sure, have the abstractness of ideal types, but they are none the less preferable for scientific purposes. (On all these questions see” ‘Objectivity’ in Social Science and Social Policy.”)
I. Social action, which includes both failure to act and passive acquiescence, may be oriented to the past, present, or expected future behavior of others. Thus it may be motivated by revenge. For a past attack, defence against present, or measures of defence against future aggression. The “others” may be individual persons, and may be known to the actor as such, or may constitute an indefinite plurality and may be entirely unknown as individuals. (Thus, money is a means of exchange which the actor accepts in payment because he orients his action to the expectation that a large but unknown number of individuals he is personally unacquainted with will be ready to accept it in exchange on some future occasion.)
2. Not every kind of action, even of overt action, is “social” in the sense of the present discussion. Overt action is non-social if it is oriented solely to the behavior of inanimate objects. Subjective attitudes constitute social action only so far as they are oriented to the behavior of others. For example, religious behavior is not social if it is simply a matter of contemplation or of solitary prayer. The economic activity of an individual is social only if it takes account of the behavior of someone else. Thus very generally it becomes social insofar as the actor assumes that others will respect his actual control over economic goods. Concretely it is social, for instance, if in relation to the actor’s own consumption the future wants of others are taken into account and this becomes one consideration affecting the actor’s own saving. Or, in another connexion, production may be oriented to the future wants of other people.
(23) 3. Not every type of contact of human beings has a social character; this is rather confined to cases where the actor’s behavior is meaningfully oriented to that of others. For example, a mere collision of two cyclists may be compared to a natural event. On the other hand, their attempt to avoid hitting each other, or whatever insults, blows, or friendly discussion might follow the collision, would constitute “social action.”
4. Social action is not identical either with the similar actions of many persons or with every action influenced by other persons. Thus, if at the beginning of a shower a number of people on the street put up their umbrellas at the same time, this would not ordinarily be a case of action mutually oriented to that of each other, but rather of all reacting in the same way to the like need of protection from the rain. It is well known that the actions of the individual are strongly influenced by the mere fact that he is a member of a crowd confined within a limited space. Thus, the subject matter of studies of “crowd psychology,” such as those of Le Bon, will be called “action conditioned by crowds.” It is also possible for large numbers, though dispersed, to be influenced simultaneously or successively by a source of influence operating similarly on all the individuals, as by means of the press. Here also the behavior of an individual is influenced by his membership in a “mass” and by the fact that he is aware of being a member. Some types of reaction are only made possible by the mere fact that the individual acts as part of a crowd. Others become more difficult under these conditions. Hence it is possible that a particular event or mode of human behavior can give rise to the most diverse kinds of feeling-gaiety, anger, enthusiasm, despair, and passions of all sorts-in a crowd situation which would not occur at all or not nearly so readily if the individual were alone. But for this to happen there need not, at least in many cases, be any meaningful relation between the behavior of the individual and the fact that he is a member of a crowd. It is not proposed in the present sense to call action “social” when it is merely a result of the effect on the individual of the existence of a crowd as such and the action is not oriented to that fact on the level of meaning. At the same time the borderline is naturally highly indefinite. In such cases as that of the influence of the demagogue, there may be a wide variation in the extent to which his mass clientele is affected by a meaningful reaction to the fact of its large numbers; and whatever this relation may be, it is open to varying interpretations.
But furthermore, mere “imitation” of the action of others, such as that on which Tarde has rightly laid emphasis, will not be considered a case of specifically social action if it is purely reactive so that there is no meaningful orientation to the actor imitated. The borderline is, however, so indefinite that it is often hardly possible to discriminate. The mere (24) fact that a person is found to employ some apparently useful procedure which he learned from someone else does not, however, constitute, in the present sense, social action. Action such as this is not oriented to the action of the other person, but the actor has, through observing the other, become acquainted with certain objective facts; and it is these to which his action is oriented. His action is then causally determined by the action of others, but not meaningfully. On the other hand, if the action of others is imitated because it is fashionable or traditional or exemplary, or lends social distinction, or on similar grounds, it is meaningfully oriented either to the behavior of the source of imitation or of third persons or of both. There are of course all manner of transitional cases between the two types of imitation. Both the phenomena discussed above, the behavior of crowds and imitation, stand on the indefinite borderline of social action. The same is true, as will often appear, of traditionalism and charisma. The reason for the indefiniteness of the line in these and other cases lies in the fact that both the orientation to the behavior of others and the meaning which can be imputed by the actor himself, are by no means always capable of clear determination and are often altogether unconscious and seldom fully self-conscious. Mere “influence” and meaningful orientation cannot therefore always be clearly differentiated on the empirical level. But conceptually it is essential to distinguish them, even though merely reactive imitation may well have a degree of sociological importance at least equal to that of the type which can be called social action in the strict sense. Sociology, it goes without saying, is by no means confined to the study of social action; this is only, at least for the kind of sociology being developed here, ‘its central subject matter, that which may be said to be decisive for its status as a science. But this does not imply any judgment on the comparative importance of this and other factors.
Social action, like all action, may be oriented in four ways. It may be:
(I) instrumentally rational (zweckrational) , that is, determined by expectations as to the behavior of objects in the environment and of other human beings; these expectations are used as “conditions” or “means” for the attainment of the actor’s own rationally pursued and, calculated ends;
(2) value-rational (wertrational), that is, determined by a conscious (25) belief in the value for its own sake of some ethical, aesthetic, religious, or other form of behavior, independently of its prospects of success;
(3) affectual (especially emotional), that is, determined by the actor’s specific affects and feeling states;
(4) traditional, that is, determined by ingrained habituation.
1. Strictly traditional behavior, like the reactive type of imitation discussed above, lies very close to the borderline of what can justifiably be called meaningful oriented action, and indeed often on the other side. For it is very often a matter of almost automatic reaction to habitual stimuli which guide behavior in a course which has been repeatedly followed. The great bulk of all everyday action to which people have become habitually accustomed approaches this type. Hence, its place in a systematic classification is not merely that of a limiting case because, as will be shown later, attachment to habitual forms can be upheld with varying degrees of self-consciousness and in a variety of senses. In this case the type may shade over into value rationality (Wertrationalität).
2. Purely affectual behavior also stands on the borderline of what can be considered “meaningfully” oriented, and often it, too, goes over the line. It. may, for instance, consist in an uncontrolled reaction to some exceptional stimulus. It is a case of sublimation when affectually determined action occurs in the form of conscious release ‘of emotional tension. When this happens it is usually well on the road to rationalization in one or the other or both of the above senses.
3. The orientation of value-rational action is distinguished from the affectual type by its clearly self-conscious formulation of the ultimate values governing the action and the consistently planned orientation of its detailed course to these values. At the same time the two types have a common element, namely that the meaning of the action does not lie in the achievement of a result ulterior to it, but in carrying out the specific type of action for its own sake. Action is affectual if it satisfies a need for revenge, sensual gratification, devotion, contemplative bliss, or for working off emotional tensions (irrespective of the level of sublimation).
Examples of pure value-rational orientation would be the actions of persons who, regardless of possible cost to themselves, act to put into practice their convictions of what seems to them to be required by duty, honor, the pursuit of beauty, a religious call, personal loyalty, or the importance of some “cause” no matter in what it consists. In our terminology, value-rational action always involves “commands” or “demands” which, in the actor’s opinion, are binding on him. It is only in cases where human action is motivated by the fulfillment of such unconditional demands that it will be called value-rational. This is the case in widely varying degrees, but for the most part only a relatively slight extent. Nevertheless, it will be shown that the occurrence of this mode of action is important enough to justify its formulation as a distinct type; (26) though it may be remarked that there is no intention here of attempting to formulate in any sense an exhaustive classification of types of action.
4. Action is instrumentally rational (zweckrational) when the end, the means, and the secondary results are all rationally taken into account and weighed. This involves rational consideration of alternative means to the end, of the relations of the end to the secondary consequences, and finally of the relative importance of different possible ends. Determination of action either in affectual or in traditional terms is thus incompatible with this type. Choice between alternative and conflicting ends and results may well be determined in a value-rational manner. In that case, action is instrumentally rational only in respect to the choice of means. On the other hand, the actor may, instead of deciding between alternative and conflicting ends in terms of a rational orientation to a system of values, simply take them as given subjective wants and arrange them in a scale of consciously assessed relative urgency. He may then orient’ his action to this scale in such a way that they are satisfied as far as possible in order ‘of urgency, as formulated in the principle of “marginal utility.” Value-rational action may thus have various different relations to the instrumentally rational action. From the latter point of view, however, value-rationality is always irrational. Indeed, the more the value to which action is oriented is elevated to the status of an absolute value, the more “irrational” in this sense the corresponding action is. For, the more unconditionally the actor devotes himself to this value for its own sake, to pure sentiment or beauty, to absolute goodness or devotion to duty, the less is he influenced by considerations of the consequences of his action. The orientation of action wholly to the rational achievement of ends without relation to fundamental values is, to be sure, essentially only a limiting case.
5. It would be very unusual to find concrete cases of action, especially of social action, which were oriented only in one or another of these ways. Furthermore, this classification of the modes of orientation of action is in no sense meant t9 exhaust the’ possibilities of the field, but only to formulate in conceptually pure form certain sociologically important types to which actual action is more or less closely approximated or, in much the more common case, which constitute its elements. The usefulness of the classification for the purposes of this investigation can only be judged in terms of its results.
The term “social relationship” will be used to denote the behavior of a plurality of actors insofar as, in its meaningful content, the action of each takes account of that of the others and is oriented in these terms. The social relationship thus consists entirely and exclusively in the exist-(27) ence of a probability that there will be a meaningful course of social action irrespective, for the time being, of the basis for this probability.
I. Thus, as a defining criterion, it is essential that there should be at least a minimum of mutual orientation of the action of each to that of the others. Its content may be of the most varied nature: conflict, hostility, sexual attraction, friendship, loyalty, or economic exchange. It may involve the fulfillment, the evasion, or the violation of the terms of an agreement; economic, erotic, or some other form of “competition”; common membership in status, national or class groups (provided it leads to social action). Hence, the definition does not specify whether the relation of the actors is co-operative or the opposite.
2. The “meaning” relevant in this context is always a case of the meaning imputed to the parties in a given concrete case, on the average, or in a theoretically formulated pure type-it is never a normatively “correct” or a metaphysically “true” meaning. Even in cases of such forms of social organization as a state, church, association, or marriage, the social relationship consists exclusively in the fact that there has existed, exists, or will exist a probability of action in some definite way appropriate to this meaning. It is vital to be continually clear about this in order to avoid the “reification” of those concepts. A. “state,” for example, ceases to exist in a sociologically relevant sense whenever there is no longer a probability that certain kinds of meaningfully oriented social action will take place. This probability may be very high or it may be negligibly low. But in any case it is only in the sense and degree in which it does exist that the corresponding social relationship exists. It is impossible to find any other clear meaning for the statement that, for instance, a given “state” exists or has ceased to exist.
3. The subjective meaning need not necessarily be the same for all the parties who are mutually oriented in a given social relationship; there need not in this sense be “reciprocity.” “Friendship,” “love,” “loyalty,” “fidelity to contracts,” “patriotism,” on one side, may well be faced with an entirely different attitude on the other. In such cases the parties associate different meanings with their actions, and the social relationship is insofar objectively “asymmetrical” from the points of view of the two parties. It may nevertheless be a case of mutual orientation insofar as, even though partly or wholly erroneously, one party presumes a particular attitude toward him on the part of the other and orients his action to this expectation. This can, and usually will, have consequences for the course of action and the form of ‘ the relationship. A relationship is objectively symmetrical only as, according to the typical expectations of the parties, the meaning for one party is the same as that for the other. Thus the actual attitude of a child to its father may be a least approximately that which the father, in the individual case, on the average or typically, has come to expect. A social relationship in which the attitudes are completely and fully corresponding is in reality a limiting case. But the absence of reciprocity will, for terminological (28) purposes, be held to exclude the existence of a social relationship only if it actually results in the absence of a mutual orientation of the action of the parties. Here as elsewhere all sorts of transitional cases are the rule rather than the exception.
4. A social relationship can be of a very fleeting character or of varying degrees of permanence. In the latter case there is a probability of the repeated recurrence of the behavior which corresponds to its subjective meaning and hence is expected. In order to avoid fallacious impressions, let it be repeated that it is only the existence of the probability that, corresponding to a given subjective meaning, a certain type of action will take place which constitutes the “existence” of the social relationship. Thus that a “friendship” or a “state” exists or has existed means this and only this: that we, the observers, judge that there is or has been a probability that on the basis of certain kinds of known subjective attitude of certain individuals there will result in the average sense a certain specific type of action. For the purposes of legal reasoning it is essential to be able to decide whether a rule of law does or does not carry legal authority, hence whether a legal relationship does or does not “exist.” This type of question is not, however, relevant to sociological problems.
5. The subjective meaning of a social relationship may change, thus a political relationship once based on solidarity may develop into a conflict of interests. In that case it is only a matter of terminological convenience and of the degree of continuity of the change whether we say that a new relationship has come into existence or that the old one continues but has acquired a new meaning. It is also possible for the meaning to be partly constant, partly changing.
6. The meaningful content which remains relatively constant in a social relationship is capable of formulation in terms of maxims which the parties concerned expect to be adhered to by their partners on the average and approximately. The more rational in relation to values or to given ends the action is, the more is this likely to be the case. There is far less possibility of a rational formulation of subjective meaning in the case of a relation of erotic attraction or of personal loyalty or any other affectual type than, for example, in the case of a business contract.
7. The meaning of a social relationship may be agreed upon by mutual consent. This implies that the parties make promises covering their future behavior, whether toward each other or toward third persons. In such cases each party then normally counts, so far as he acts rationally, in some degree on the fact that the other will orient his action to the meaning of the agreement as he (the first actor) understands it. In part he orients his action rationally (zweckrational) to these expectations as given facts with, to be sure, varying degrees of subjectively “loyal” intention of doing his part. But in part also he is motivated value-rationally by a sense of duty, which makes him adhere to the agreement as he understands it. This much may be anticipated. (For a further elaboration, see secs. 9 and 13 below.)
A “ruling organization” will be called “political” insofar as its existence and order is continuously safeguarded within a given territorial area by the threat and application of physical force on the part of the administrative staff. A compulsory political organization with continuous operations (politischer Anstaltsbetrieb) will be called a “state” insofar as its administrative staff successfully upholds the claim to the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force in the enforcement of its order. Social action, especially organized action, will be spoken of as “politically oriented” if it aims at exerting influence on the government of a political organization; especially at the appropriation, expropriation, redistribution or allocation of the powers of government.
A “hierocratic organization” is an organization which enforces its order through psychic coercion by distributing or denying religious benefits (“hierocratic coercion”). A compulsory hierocratic organization will be called a “church” insofar as its administrative staff claims a monopoly of the legitimate use of hierocratic coercion.
1. It goes without saying that the use of physical force (Gewaltsamkeit) is neither the sole, nor even the most usual, method of administration of political organizations. On the contrary, their heads have employed all conceivable means to bring about their ends. But, at the same time, the threat of force, and in the case of need its actual use, is the method which is specific to political organizations and is always the last resort when others have failed. Conversely, physical force is by no means limited to political groups even as a legitimate method of enforcement. It has been freely used by kinship groups, household groups, consociations and, in the Middle Ages, under certain circumstances by all those entitled to bear arms. In addition to the fact that it uses, among other (55) means, physical force to enforce its system of order, the political organization is further characterized by the fact that the authority of its administrative staff is claimed as binding within a territorial area and this claim is upheld by force. Whenever organizations which make use of force are also characterized by the claim to territorial jurisdiction, such as village communities or even some household groups, federations of guilds or of workers’ associations (“soviets”), they are by definition to that extent political organizations.
2. It is not possible to define a political organization, including the state, in terms of the end to which its action is devoted. All the way from provision for subsistence to the patronage of art, there is no conceivable end which some political association has not at some time pursued. And from the protection of personal security to the administration of justice, there is none which all have recognized. Thus it is possible to define the “political” character of an organization only in terms of the means peculiar to it, the use of force. This means is, however, in the above sense specific, and is indispensable to its character. It is even, under certain circumstances, elevated into an end in itself.
This usage does not exactly conform to everyday speech. But the latter is too inconsistent to be used for technical purposes. We speak of the foreign currency policy33 of a central bank, the financial policy of an association, or the educational policy of a local authority, and mean the systematic treatment and conduct of particular affairs. It comes considerably closer to the present meaning when we distinguish the “political” aspect or implication of a question. Thus there is the “political” official, the “political” newspaper, the “political” revolution, the “political” club, the “political” party, and the “political” consequences of an action, as distinguished from others such as the economic, cultural, or religious aspect of the persons, affairs or processes in question. In this usage we generally mean by “political,” things that have to do ‘with relations of authority within what is, in the present terminology, a political organization, the state. The reference is to things which are likely to uphold, to change or overthrow, to hinder or promote, these authority relations as distinguished from persons, things, and processes which have nothing to do with it. This usage thus seeks to bring out the common features of domination, the way it is exercised by the state, irrespective of the ends involved. Hence it is legitimate to claim that the definition put forward here is only a more precise formulation of what is meant in everyday usage in that it gives sharp emphasis to what is most characteristic of this means: the actual or threatened use of force. It is, of course, true that everyday usage applies the term “political,” not only to groups which are the direct agents of the legitimate use of force itself, but also to other, often wholly peaceful groups, which attempt to influence the activities of the political organization. It seems best for present purposes to distinguish this type of social action, “politically oriented” action, from political action as such, the actual organized action of political groups.
(56) 3. Since the concept of the state has only in modern times reached its full development, it is best to efine it in terms appropriate to the modern type of state, but at the same time, in terms which abstract from the values of the present day, since these are particularly subject to change. The primary formal characteristics of the modem state are as follows: It possesses an administrative and legal order subject to change by legislation, to which the organized activities of the administrative staff, which are also controlled by regulations, are oriented. This system of order claims binding authority, not only over the members of the state, the citizens, most of whom have obtained membership by birth, but also to a very large extent over all action taking place in the area of its jurisdiction. It is thus a compulsory organization with a territorial basis. Furthermore, today, the use of force is regarded as legitimate only so far as it is either permitted by the state or prescribed by it. Thus the right of a father to discipline his children is recognized-a survival of the former independent authority of the head of a household, which in the right to use force has sometimes extended to a power of life and death over children and slaves. The claim of the modern state to monopolize the use of force is as essential to it as its character of compulsory jurisdiction and of continuous operation.
4 In formulating the concept of a hierocratic organization, it is not possible to use the character of the religious benefits it offers, whether worldly or other-worldly, material or spiritual, as the decisive criterion. What is important is rather the fact that its control over these values can form the basis of a system of spiritual domination over human beings. What is most characteristic of the church, even in the common usage of the term, is the fact that it is a rational, compulsory association with continuous operation and that it claims a monopolistic authority. It is normal for a church to strive for complete control on a territorial basis and to attempt to set up the corresponding territorial or parochial organization. So far as this takes place, the means by which this claim to monopoly is upheld will vary from case to case. But historically, its control over territorial areas has not been nearly so essential to the church as to political associations; and this is particularly true today. It is its character as a compulsory association, particularly the fact that one becomes a member of the church by birth, which distinguishes the church from a “sect.” It is characteristic of the latter that it is a voluntary association and admits only persons with specific religious qualifications. (This subject will be further discussed in the Sociology of Religion.)
Unless otherwise noted, all notes in this chapter are by Talcott Parsons. For Parsons’ exposition and critique of Weber’s methodology, see his introduction to The Theory of Social and Economic Organization and his Structure of Social Action.
There are three pure types of legitimate domination. The validity of the claims to legitimacy may be based on:
I. Rational grounds-resting on a belief in the legality of enacted rules and the right of those elevated to authority under such rules to issue commands (legal authority).
2. Traditional grounds-resting on an established belief in the sanctity of immemorial traditions and the legitimacy of those exercising authority under them (traditional authority); or finally,
3. Charismatic grounds-resting on devotion to the exceptional sanctity, heroism or exemplary character of an individual person, and of the normative patterns or order revealed or ordained by him (charismatic authority).
In the case of legal authority, obedience is owed to the legally established impersonal order. It extends to the persons exercising the authority (2 I 6) of office under it by virtue of the formal legality of their commands and only within the scope of authority of the office. In the case of traditional authority, obedience is owed to the person of the chief who occupies the traditionally sanctioned position of authority and who is (within its sphere) bound by tradition. But here the obligation of obedience is a matter of personal loyalty within the area of accustomed obligations. In the case of charismatic authority, it is the charismatically qualified leader as such who is obeyed by virtue of personal trust in his revelation, his heroism or his exemplary qualities so far as they fall within the scope of the individual’s belief in his charisma.
1. The usefulness of the above classification can only be judged by its results in promoting systematic analysis. The concept of “charisma” (“the gift of grace”) is taken from the vocabulary of early Christianity. For the Christian hierocracy Rudolf Sohm, in his Kirchenrecht, was the 6.rst to clarify the substance of the concept, even though he did not use the same terminology. Others (for instance, Holl in Enthusiasmus und Bussgewalt) have clarifed certain important consequences of it. It is thus nothing new.
2. The fact that none of these three ideal types, the elucidation of which will occupy the following pages, is usually to be found in historical cases in “pure” form, is naturally not a valid objection to attempting their conceptual formulation in the sharpest possible form. In this respect the present case is no different from many others. Later on (sec. I I ff.) the transformation of pure charisma by the process of routinization will be discussed and thereby the relevance of the concept to the understanding of empirical systems of authority considerably increased. But even so it may be said of every historical phenomenon of authority that it is not likely to be “as an open book.” Analysis in terms of sociological types has, after all, as compared with purely empirical historical investigation, certain advantages which should not be minimized. That is, it can in the particular case of a concrete form of authority determine what conforms to or approximates such types as “charisma,” “hereditary charisma,” “the charisma of office,” “patriarchy,” “bureaucracy,” the authority of status groups, and in doing so it can work with relatively unambiguous concepts. But the idea that the whole of concrete historical reality can be exhausted in the conceptual scheme about to be developed is as far from the author’s thoughts as anything could be.
1. procuring goods
2. gaining a position in life and
3. finding inner satisfactions,
a probability which derives’ from the relative control over goods and skills and from their income-producing uses within a given economic order.
“Class” means all persons in the same class situation.
a) A “property class” is primarily determined by property differences,
b) A “commercial class” by the marketability of goods and services,
c) A “social class” makes up the totality of those class situations within which individual and generational mobility is easy and typical.
Associations of class members - class organizations - may arise on the basis of all three types of classes. However, this does not necessarily happen: “Class situation” and “class” refer only to the same (or similar) interests which an individual shares with others. In principle, the various controls over consumer goods, means of production, assets, resources and skills each constitute a particular class situation. A uniform class situation prevails only when completely unskilled and propertyless persons are dependent on irregular employment. Mobility among, and stability of, class positions differs greatly; hence, the unity of a social class is highly variable.
The primary significance of a positively privileged property class lies in
a) its exclusive acquisition of high-priced consumers goods,
b) its sales monopoly and its ability to pursue systematic policies in
c) its monopolization of wealth accumulation out of un consumed
d) its monopolization of capital formation out of savings, i.e., of the utilization of wealth in the form of loan capital, and its resulting control over executive positions in business,
e) its monopolization of costly (educational) status privileges.
I. Positively privileged property classes are typically rentiers, receiving income from:
a) men (the case of slave-owners),
d) installations (factories and equipment),
e) ships, .
f) creditors (of livestock, grain or money),
II. Negatively privileged property classes are typically
a) the unfree (see under “Status Group”),
b) the declassed (the proletarii of Antiquity),
d) the paupers.
In between are the various” middle classes” (M ittelstandsklassen), which make a living from their property or their acquired skills. Some of them may be “commercial classes” (entrepreneurs with mainly positive privileges, proletarians with negative ones). However, not all of them fall into the latter category (witness peasants, craftsmen, officials).
The mere differentiation of property classes is not “dynamic,” that is, it need not result in class struggles and revolutions. The strongly privileged class of slave owners may coexist with the much less privileged peasants or even the declassed, frequently without any class antagonism and sometimes in solidarity (against the unfree). However, the juxtaposition of property classes may lead to revolutionary conflict between
I. land owners and the declassed or
2. creditor and debtors (often urban patricians versus rural peasants or small urban craftsmen).
These struggles need not focus on a change of the economic system, (304) but may aim primarily at a redistribution of wealth. In this case we can speak of “property revolutions” (Besitzklassenrevolutionen).
A classic example of the lack of class conflict was the relationship of the “poor white trash” to the plantation owners in the Southern States. The “poor white trash” were far more anti-Negro than the plantation owners, who were often imbued with patriarchal sentiments. The major examples for the struggle of the declassed against the propertied date back to Antiquity, as does the antagonism between creditors and debtors and land owners and the declassed.
The primary significance of a positively privileged commercial class lies in
a) the monopolization of entrepreneurial management for the sake of its members and their business interests,
b) the safeguarding of those interests through influence’ on the economic policy of the political and other organizations.
I. Positively privileged commercial classes are typically entrepreneurs:
c) industrial and
d) agricultural entrepreneurs,
e) bankers and financiers, sometimes also
f) professionals with sought-after expertise or privileged education (such as lawyers, physicians, artists), or
g) workers with monopolistic qualifications and skills (natural, or acquired through drill or training).
11. Negatively privileged commercial classes are typically laborers with varying qualifications:
In between again are “middle classes”: the self-employed farmers and craftsmen and frequently:
a) public and private officials.
b) the last two groups mentioned in the first category [i.e., the “liberal professions” and the labor groups with exceptional qualifications].
Social classes are
a) the working class as a whole-the more so, the more automated the work process becomes,
b) the petty bourgeoisie,
c) the propertyless intelligentsia and specialists (technicians, various kinds of white-collar employees, civil servants-possibly with considerable social differences depending on the cost of their training),
d) the classes privileged through property and education.
The unfinished last part of Karl Marx’s Capital apparently was intended to deal with the issue of class unity in the face of skill differentials. Crucial for this differentiation is the increasing importance of semi-skilled workers, who can be trained on the job in a relatively short time, over the apprenticed and sometimes also the unskilled workers. Semi-skilled qualification too can often become monopolistic (weavers, for example, sometimes achieve their greatest efficiency after five years). It used to be that every worker aspired to be a self-employed small businessman. However, this is less and less feasible. In the generational sequence, the rise of groups a) and b) into c) (technicians, white-collar workers) is relatively the easiest. Within class d) money increasingly buys everything, at least in the sequence of generations. In banks and corporations, as well as in the higher ranks of the civil service, class c) members have a chance to move up into class d).
Class-conscious organization succeeds most easily
a) against the immediate economic opponents (workers against entrepreneurs, but not against stockholders, who truly draw “unearned” incomes, and also not in the case of peasants confronting manorial lords);
b) if large numbers of persons are in the same class situation,
c) if it is technically easy to organize them, especially if they are concentrated at their place of work (as in a “workshop community”),
d) if they are led toward readily understood goals, which are imposed and interpreted by men outside their class (intelligentsia).
“Status” (stiindische Lage) shall mean an effective claim to social esteem in terms of positive or negative privileges; it is typicaHy founded on
a) style of life, hence
b) formal education, which may be
(306) a) empirical training or
b) rational instruction, and the corresponding forms of behavior,
c) hereditary or occupational prestige.
In practice, status expresses itself through
b) cornmensality, possibly
c) monopolistic appropriation of privileged modes of acquisition or the abhorrence of certain kinds of acquisition,
d) status conventions (traditions) of other kinds.
Status may rest on class position of a distinct or an ambiguous kind. However, it is not solely determined by it: Money and an entrepreneurial position are not in themselves status qualifications, although they may lead to them; and the lack of property is not in itself a status disqualification, although this may be a reason for it. Conversely, status may influence, if not completely determine, a class position without being identical with it. The class position of an officer, a civil servant or a student may vary greatly according to their wealth and yet not lead to a different status since upbringing and education create a common style of life.
A “status group” means a plurality of persons who, within a larger
group, successfully claim
a) a special social esteem, and possibly also
b) status monopolies.
Status groups may come into being:
a) in the first instance, by virtue of their own style of life, particularly the type of vocation: “self-styled” or occupational status groups,
b) in the second instance, through hereditary charisma, by virtue of successful claims to higher-ranking descent: hereditary status groups, or
c) through monopolistic appropriation of political or hierocratic powers: political or hierocratic status groups.
The development of hereditary status groups is generally a form of the (hereditary) appropriation of privileges by an organization or qualified individuals. Every definite appropriation of political powers and the corresponding economic opportunities tends to result in the rise of status groups, and vice-versa.
Commercial classes arise in a market-oriented economy, but status groups’ arise within the framework of organizations which satisfy their wants through monopolistic liturgies, or in feudal or in ständisch patrimonial fashion. Depending on the prevailing mode of stratification, we shall speak of a “status society” or a “class society”. The status group (307) comes closest to the social class and is most unlike the commercial class. Status groups are often created by property classes.
Every status society lives by conventions, which regulate the style of life, and hence creates economically irrational consumption patterns and fetters the free market through monopolistic appropriations and by curbing the individual’s earning power. More on that separately.
1. For the early formulation of class and status, see Part Two, ch. IX: 6. eR)
The term “political community” shall apply to a community whose social action is aimed at subordinating to orderly domination by the participants a “territory” and the conduct of the persons within it, through readiness to resort to physical force, including normally force of arms. The territory must at any time be in some way determinable, but it need not be constant or definitely limited. The persons are those who are in the territory either permanently or temporarily. Also, the aim of the participants may be to acquire additional territory for themselves. 1
“Political” community in this sense has existed neither everywhere nor always. As a separate community it does not exist wherever the task of armed defense against enemies has been assigned to the household, the neighborhood association, or some association of a different kind and essentially oriented toward economic interests. Nor has political community existed everywhere and at all times in the sense that its conceptual minimum, viz., “forcible maintenance of orderly dominion over a territory and its inhabitants,” be conceived necessarily as the function of one and the same community. The tasks implied in this function have often been distributed among several communities whose actions partly complement and partly overlap each other. For example, “external” violence and defense have often been in the hands partly of kinship groups, partly of neighborhood associations, and partly of warrior consociations established ad hoc. “Internal” domination of the “territory” and the control of intragroup relations have likewise been distributed among various powers, including religious ones; and even in so (900) far as violence has been used it has not necessarily been monopolized by anyone community. Under certain circumstances, “external” violence can even be rejected in principle, as it was, for a while, by the community of the Pennsylvania Quakers; at any rate, organized preparation for its use may be entirely lacking. As a rule, however, readiness to apply violence is associated with domination over a territory.
As a separate structure, a political community can be said to exist only if, and in so far as, a community constitutes more than an “economic group”; or, in other words, in so far as it possesses value systems ordering matters other than the directly economic disposition of goods and services. The particular content of social action, beyond the forcible domination of territory and inhabitants, is conceptually irrelevant. It may vary greatly according to whether we deal with a “robber state” a “welfare state”, a “constitutional”, or a culture state. Owing to the drastic nature of its means of control, the political association is particularly capable of arrogating to itself all the possible values toward which associational conduct might be oriented; there is probably nothing in the world which at one time or another has not been an object of social action on the part of some political association.
On the other hand, a political community may restrict its social action exclusively to the bare maintenance of its dominion over a territory, and it has in fact done so frequently enough. Even in the exercise of this function, the action of a political community is, in many cases, intermittent, no matter what its general level of development may be in other respects. Such action flares up in response to external threat or to an internal sudden impulse to violence, however motivated; it dies down, yielding factually to a state of “anarchy” during “normal” peaceful times, when coexistence and social action on the part of the inhabitants of the territory take the form of merely factual mutual respect for the accustomed economic spheres, without the availability of any kind of coercion either for external or for internal use.
In our terminology, a separate “political” community is constituted where we find ( I) a “territory”; (2) the availability of physical force for its domination; and (3) social action which is not restricted exclusively to the satisfaction of common economic needs in the frame of a communal economy, but regulates more generally the interrelations of the inhabitants of the territory.
The opponents against whom the possibly violent social action is directed may be located outside or inside the boundaries of the territory in question. Since the political power has become the monopoly of organized, today “institutional,” action, the objects of coercion are to be found primarily among the compulsory members of the organization. (903) For the political community, even more than other institutionally organized communities, is so constituted that it imposes obligations on the individual members which many of them fulfill only because they are aware of the probability of physical coercion backing up such obligations. The political community, furthermore, is one of those communities whose action includes, at least under normal circumstances, coercion through jeopardy and destruction of life and freedom of movement applying to outsiders as well as to the members themselves. The individual is expected ultimately to face death in the group interest. This gives to the political community its particular pathos and raises its enduring emotional foundations. The community of political destiny, i.e., above all, of common political struggle of life and death, has given rise to groups with joint memories which often have had a deeper impact than the ties of merely cultural, linguistic, or ethnic community. It is this “community of memories” which, as we shall see [see sec. 5 below], constitutes the ultimately decisive element of “national consciousness”.
The political community never has been, nor is it today, the only community in which the renunciation of life is an essential part of the shared obligations. The obligations of other groups may lead to the same extreme consequences. To name but a few: blood vengeance on the part of kinship groups; martyrdom in religious communities; the “code of honor” of status groups; or the demands of a good many athletic associations; of groups like the Camorra2 or, especially, of all groups created for the purpose of violent appropriation of the economic goods of others.
From such groups the political community differs, sociologically, in only one respect, viz., its particularly enduring and manifest existence as a well-established power over a considerable territory of land and possibly also sea expanse. Accordingly, the differentiation between the political community on the one hand and, on the other, the groups enumerated above, becomes less clearly perceptible the further we go back in history. In the minds of the participants the notion that the political community is just one among others turns into the recognition of its qualitatively different character in step with the change of its activities from merely intermittent reaction to active threats into a permanent and institutionalized consociation whose coercive means are both drastic and effective but which also create the possibility of a rationally casuistic order for their application.
The modern position of political associations rests on the prestige bestowed upon them by the belief, held by their members, in a specific consecration: the “legitimacy” of that social action which is ordered (904) and regulated by them. This prestige is particularly powerful where, and in so far as, social action comprises physical coercion, including the power to dispose over life and death. It is on this prestige that the consensus on the specific legitimacy of action is founded.
The belief in the specific legitimacy of political action can, and under modern conditions actually does, increase to a point where only certain political communities, viz., the “states,” are considered to be capable of “legitimizing” by virtue of mandate or permission, the exercise of physical coercion by any other community. For the purpose of threatening and exercising such coercion, the fully matured political community has developed a system of casuistic rules to which that particular “legitimacy” is imputed. This system of rules constitutes the “legal order,” and the political community is regarded as its sole normal creator, since that community has, in modern times, normally usurped the monopoly of the power to compel by physical coercion respect for those rules.
This preeminence of the “legal order” guaranteed by the political power has arisen only in the course of a very gradual development. It was due to the fact that those other groups which once had exercised their own coercive powers lost their grip on the individual. Under the pressure of economic and structural displacements they either disintegrated or subjected themselves to the political community which would then delegate to them their coercive powers, but would simultaneously also reduce them.
The rise to preeminence of the politically guaranteed legal order was also due to the simultaneous development of constantly arising new interests requiring a protection which could not be provided within the earlier autonomous communities. Consequently, a steadily widening sphere of interests, especially economic ones, could find adequate protection only in those rationally regulated guaranties which none but the political community was able to create. The process by which this “nationalization” of all “legal norms” took place, and is still taking place, has been discussed elsewhere. 3
A. ECONOMICALLY DETERMINED POWER AND THE STATUS ORDER. The structure of every legal order directly influences the distribution of power, economic or otherwise, within its respective community. This is true of all legal orders and not only that of the state. In general, we understand by “power” the chance of a man or a number of men to realize their own will in a social action even against the resistance of others who are participating in the action.
“Economically conditioned” power is not, of course, identical with “power” as such. On the contrary, the emergence of economic power may be the consequence of power existing on other grounds. Man does not strive for power only in order to enrich himself economically. Power, including economic power, may be valued for its own sake. Very frequently the striving for power is also conditioned by the social honor it entails. Not all power, however, entails social honor: The typical American Boss, as well as the typical big speculator, deliberately relinquishes social honor. Quite generally, “mere economic” power, and especially “naked” money power, is by no means a recognized basis of social honor. Nor is power the only basis of social honor. Indeed, social honor, or prestige, may even be the basis of economic power, and very frequently has been. Power, as well as honor, may be guaranteed by (927) the legal order, but, at least normally, it is not’ their primary source. The legal order is rather an additional factor that, enhances the chance to hold power or honor; but it can not always secure them.
The way in which social honor is distributed in a community between typical groups participating in this distribution we call the “status order.” The social order and the economic order are related in a similar manner to the legal order. However, the economic order merely defines the way in which economic goods and services are distributed and used. Of course, the status order is strongly influenced by it, and in turn reacts upon it.
Now classes, status groups, and parties are phenomena of the distribution of power within a community.
B. DETERMINATION OF CLASS SITUATION BY MARKET SITUATION. In our terminology, “classes” are not communities; they merely represent possible, and frequent, bases for social action. We may speak of a “class” when (I) a number of people have in common a specific causal component of their life chances, insofar as (2) this component is represented exclusively by economic interests in the possession of goods and opportunities for income, and (3) is represented under the conditions of the commodity or labor markets. This is “class situation.”
It is the most elemental economic fact that the way in which the disposition over material property is distributed among a plurality of people, meeting competitively in the market for the purpose of exchange, in itself creates specific life chances. The mode of distribution, in accord with the law of marginal utility, excludes the non-wealthy from competing for highly valued goods; it favors the owners and, in fact, gives to them a monopoly to acquire such goods. Other things being equal, the mode of distribution monopolizes the opportunities for profitable deals for all those who, provided. with goods, do not necessarily have to exchange them. It increases, at least generally, their power in the price struggle with those who, being propertyless, have nothing to offer but their labor or the resulting products, and who are compelled to get rid of these products in order to subsist at all. The mode of distribution gives to the propertied a monopoly on the possibility of transferring property from the sphere of use as “wealth” to the sphere of “capital,” that is, it gives them the entrepreneurial function and all chances to share directly or indirectly in returns on capital. All this holds true within the area in which pure market conditions prevail. “Property” and “lack of property” are, therefore, the basic categories of all class situations. It does not matter whether these two categories become effective in the competitive struggles of the consumers or of the producers.
Within these categories, however, class situations are further dif- (928) ferentiated: on the one hand, according to the kind of property that is usable for returns; and, on the other hand, according to the kind of services that can be offered in the market. Ownership of dwellings; workshops; warehouses; stores; agriculturally usable land in large or small holdings-a quantitative difference with possibly qualitative consequences; ownership of mines; cattle; men (slaves); disposition over mobile instruments of production, or capital goods of all sorts, especially money or objects that can easily be exchanged for money; disposition over products of one’s own labor or of others’ labor differing according to their various distances from consumability; disposition over transferable monopolies of any kind-all these distinctions differentiate the class situations of the propertied just as does the “meaning” which they can give to the use of property, especially to property which has money equivalence. Accordingly, the propertied, for instance, may belong to the class of rentiers or to the Class of entrepreneurs.
Those who have no property but who offer services are differentiated just as much according to their kinds of services as according to the way in which they make use of these services, in a continuous or discontinuous relation to a recipient. But always this is the generic connotation of the concept of class: that the kind of chance in the market is the decisive moment which presents a common condition for the individual’s fate. Class situation is, in this sense, ultimately market situation. The effect of naked possession per se, which among cattle breeders gives the non-owning slave or serf into the power of the cattle owner, is only a fore-runner of real “class” formation. However, in the cattle loan and in the naked severity of the law of debts in such communities for the first time mere “possession” as such emerges as decisive for the fate of the individual; this is much in contrast to crop-raising communities, which are based on labor. The creditor-debtor relation becomes the basis of “class situations” first in the cities, where a “credit market,” however primitive, with rates of interest increasing according to the extent of dearth and factual monopolization of lending in the hands of a plutocracy could develop. Therewith “class struggles” begin.
Those men whose fate is not determined by the chance of using goods or services for themselves on the market, e.g., slaves, are not, however, a class in the technical sense of the term. They are, rather, a status group.