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6: Durkheim and Weber's Contrasting Imaginations

Who is the Sociologist?

Sociology - science of society

Durkheim and Rousseau
Durkheim and Adam Smith:
Division of Labour (1893) and Solidarity

Mechanical and Organic Solidarity
Durkheim and the Thing:
Rules of Sociological Method (1895)

Durkheim and the Dance of Life:
The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1912)

Do morals have solid substance?
Weber and Hobbes
Power and Legitimacy
Weber and the Modern State
Weber's concept of sociology
Ideal Types: Weber's Toolbox
Was Weber a sociologist?
Weber and Types of Action: Disagreements with Adam Smith
Traditional and Rational/Legal Authority
Integrating Durkheim and Weber

(¶1) Imagination   This essay is about the imagination of Emile Durkheim and Max Weber, two theorists that almost everyone now accepts as founders of the science of society (sociology) - despite the fact that they start from opposing principles. Both are usually praised for their adherence to facts, and I have no quarrel with this, but I think that science is just as dependent on imagination.

Durkheim points out that whilst science needs facts, you do not even know what facts are relevant until you have created the science. We need, therefore, to use our imagination to create a science, before finding out (as we will) that the science we have created is imperfect (Durkheim 1893 Preface to the first edition p.37).

(¶2) English epistemologists (theorists of knowledge), in the tradition of John Locke, have more often worried about imagination than welcomed it. Locke argued that science is about first of all disentangling our empirical observations from the web of false conclusions that our imagination has caught them in, and then rearranging them in the order that they exist in the real world. His emphasis was on the importance to science of careful observation.

David Hume suggested that we treat this disentangling as a mental experiment. One of the most important points about an experiment is that it can fail to do what your theory expects it to. Experiments that always confirm that we are right could do wonders for the size of our egos - but would be useless to science because we would never learn from them. Hume found that his experiments left him with a big heap of doubts about the possibility of disentangling empirical observation from imagination. Imagination appeared to enter into the process at almost every move. To Hume, in his mental experiments, it seemed impossible to connect most of the empirical observations together by anything but imagination! The social scientist seemed to be trapped in his or her own mind, with very little to be sure about.

Attempts to rescue us from this pit of sceptism were made by Jean Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, Mary Wollstonecraft, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Stuart Mill and many others who insisted on the constructive role that imagination plays in science. They argued, as I do, that science needs imagination, for what use is a science that never imagines the world other than we already believe it to be? As with the always correct experiment, constantly thinking that the world is just as we always thought it was will just turn us into big headed bores who never discover anything new!

(¶3) Many modern theorists also stress the importance to science of imagination. Julie Ford, for example, says that composing "fairy tales" about the world is an essential part of science. When we have imagined our fairy tales we have to find a way of selecting the ones that are most likely to be true, but you must first make your fairy tale. She says that

"it is through imagination and only through imagination that we mortals may transcend the worlds of taken-for-granted-thoughts-already-thought."
We need to
"soar away into the freedom of make-believe. For it is there that fairies dwell" (Ford 1975 p.75).
In her glossary she tells us, that fairies are ideas, and a fairy tale is a "connection of ideas in the form of an explanatory story, or theory".

Julie Ford's approach is similar to that of Karl Popper (1963). She thinks that science is about thinking up fairy tales and then testing them to see which are falsified.

(¶4) Sociology - science of society   There is a sense in which sociology was invented in France. The name, which means science of society, was created by August Comte, whose theories were developed by another Frenchman, Durkheim. They drew on the ideas of Montesquieu, Rousseau and Saint-Simon, theorists who also wrote in French.

German theorists, like Weber and Karl Marx, have since been called sociologists, but it is not a name they would have chosen for themselves. The fairy tale that became sociology was first told in French. (See Giddens, A. 1987 Weber and Durkheim: Coincidence and Divergence in Mommsen 1987 pp 182-189)

(¶5) To many English ears the theories of the French sociologists seem like the dreams of lunatics. They thought of society in a way that conflicts with our common sense perception of reality. Durkheim said that society is real: we tend to think that only the individual is real and that society is no more than what individuals do together. Durkheim thought that society is so real that suicidogenetic currents can run through it, like nervous impulses through a human body, inciting individuals to kill themselves just as nerves incite muscles to move.

We tend to think of society as put together by individuals. Durkheim claimed that society puts individuals together. He compared society to a dance. A dance has a form that shapes the dancers. So society shapes us. Only because the dance exists are any of us able to modify the dance or create new dances. We tend to think of ourselves as constructing the dance. Durkheim thinks of us as born into the dance and constructed by it. It is only because the dance exists that we can modify it.

Perhaps you think that there must have been a time when individuals got together to create the first dance? If so you are a state of nature or social contract theorist, and your fairy tale is a different one to Durkheim's, and is a lot closer to Weber's. Weber's theory is a lot closer to English common sense.

(¶6) This essay is about Durkheim's theory of society as a real entity that constructs individuals, and Weber's theory that individuals are the real entities from whom we must construct the different kinds of society that exist. Both theories require you to use your imagination if you are going to understand them.


(¶7) The work of Emile Durkheim has one major theme: that society is real and that the reality of society is the subject matter of sociology. He explores different aspects of this theme in his different books, as I will try to show in this survey of his major works. I will start, however, with one of Durkheim's minor works, his essay on Rousseau.

Durkheim and Rousseau

(¶8) Quite late in his career Durkheim gave lectures on Rousseau that show how the science of sociology develops out of philosophy. Rousseau is a state of nature theorist. Durkheim is not. But Durkheim shows how Rousseau develops state of nature theory to a point where he can be regarded as a "forerunner" of sociology. Let us look at what it is about state of nature theory that Durkheim disapproves of, and what it is about Rousseau's version that he approves of.

(¶9) State of nature theorists try to work out what society is about by imagining what human beings would be like stripped of their social characteristics (in a "state of nature"). They put forward a picture of individuals in this state and try to show how the needs of those individuals explain their need for society. Durkheim thinks this is to start from the wrong point. Human beings, according to Durkheim, are essentially social beings. If we start with individuals and try to work out how, with their characteristics, society can be explained, we are very close to arguing that society is the result of adding individuals together - that society is the sum of its individuals. Durkheim does not believe this is so. He believes that society is "sui-generis", which means it is an entity in its own right.

(¶10) To some people, common sense says society is not real. Only the individual people are real - society is just a name for the individuals working together. This is social atomism: the belief that society is no more than the sum of its parts. Recent theorists ( Popper 1945, Hayek 1952, Watkins 1957), have called it methodological individualism because its method of science is to theorise from the individual.

The state of nature theory of Thomas Hobbes is atomistic and an example of methodological individualism. So is the sociology of Weber. John Locke, by contrast, imagines the state of nature as already a society of sorts. People in the state of nature already have a law to guide them. This law is reason, a recognition of mutual responsibilities and an ability to imagine ourself in the other person's position.

(¶11) Rousseau attacks Hobbes' theory and, in some ways, his theory is a development of Locke's. Rousseau's theory starts from individuals who do not have the developed social faculties that exist in Locke's state of nature, but he ends up with a society that is more than the individuals added together.

Another way of saying this is to say that society is more than the sum of its parts. This is social holism (whole-ism) as distinct from social atomism.

Rousseau argues that when individuals come together to form society, something magic happens: a new will is formed which is completely different from anything that could exist in individuals outside society. This "general will" is not the sum of individual "particular wills". It is formed by people becoming social; becoming part of a collective. It is not just all our individual wills put together, but something distinct in its own right. The general will is formed by society and it is society (see Rousseau 1762(SC) chapters six to eight).

Durkheim says that this means Rousseau sees society as a reality. If society is real, it is possible to have a science of society (sociology). So Durkheim finds in Rousseau the philosophic origins of sociology. Quoting Rousseau, Durkheim says that society is:

"a moral entity having specific qualities distinct from those of the individual human beings which compose it." (Durkheim 1960 p.82)
For Rousseau, Durkheim says,
"society is nothing unless it be one, definite body, distinct from its parts". He recognises that the social order is "an order of facts generically different from purely individual facts". (Durkheim 1960 p.83)

(¶12) The position reached by Rousseau, in the middle of the 18th century, is something like the position that 20th century American sociologists have described as the theory of emergent properties (See Parsons, T. 1937 pp 367, 609, 734 etc). This theory starts with the individual, but differs from Rousseau in that it imagines the individual in society, not in a state of nature. The individual is, therefore, called a social actor. The theory then argues that when individuals interact social systems. come into being that have properties that cannot be reduced to the characteristics of the individuals. To try to do so is what such theorists call reductionism (See Parsons, T. 1937 p.85).

Durkheim (and perhaps Rousseau) went further than this. Durkheim did not start with individuals. He started with societies and deduced from them the social properties of individuals. For Durkheim society is really real (sorry!) and not something that emerges from the interaction of individuals.

Durkheim and Adam Smith: Division of Labour (1893) and Solidarity

(¶13) In The Division of Labour Durkheim tried to show that societies are real in the sense of having similar properties to material objects. The following passage, not completely clear in some respects, clearly conveys in the word "tissue" the idea of substance linking people together:

"in the same way that an animal colony whose members embody a continuity of tissue form one individual, every aggregate of individuals who are in continuous contact form a society. The division of labour can then be produced only in the midst of a pre-existing society".   (Durkheim 1893 pp 276-277)
The last sentence tells us that, in Durkheim's theory, society is an organism before division of labour takes place. Individual people do not come together to form a society in which they are the different parts. Instead, pre-existing society develops parts with distinct functions. The society comes first, the separate parts next.

Durkheim investigates what he calls the solidarity of societies. You can imagine solidarity as a kind of social glue that holds the society together, or as an invisible tissue linking the members. Its something like the "general will" in Rousseau's state of nature theory, but it exists from the beginning rather than coming into being when isolated individuals coalesce.

(¶14) It helps us understand Durkheim and Weber, if we look at how their theories relate to the theories of Adam Smith. Both read Smith's The Wealth of Nations (1776), and their agreements and disagreements with it throw light on their theories.

Durkheim says that division of labour starts with the differentiation of organisms that biology studies. Simple organisms are low down the evolutionary tree. The higher up the tree one ascends, the more complex and differentiated the biological organism becomes. Durkheim's vision is of the same process continuing in the development of human societies.

"The division of labour is not of recent origin, but it was only at the end of the eighteenth century that social cognizance was taken of the principle....Adam Smith was the first to attempt a theory of it."
Durkheim says that social science was ahead of the natural sciences in this respect, because it was only after Adam Smith analyzed the division of labour in society that biologists analyzed it in biological organisms.   (Durkheim 1893, Introduction. The Problem).

(¶15) According to Smith, individuals are held together by the economic advantages of the division of labour. We associate because, by each playing different parts in the production of economic goods, we produce more. He imagines individuals having a natural propensity to exchange things with one another.

"This division of labour, from which so many advantages are derived, the necessary, though very slow and gradual consequence of a certain propensity in human truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another. Whether this propensity be one of those original principles in human nature of which no further account can be given; or whether, as seems more probable, it be the necessary consequence of the faculties of reason and speech, it belongs not to our present subject to inquire. It is common to all men, and to be found in no other race of animals." (Smith, A. 1776, chapter 2: Of the principle which gives occasion to the division of labour)

(¶16) Durkheim agrees with Smith that the division of labour comes about by a natural process (it is not a product of human design). He does not agree that the natural process is the hidden hand of the market guiding the selfish desires of individuals. Underneath the self-seeking of individual ends, Durkheim sees a pre-existing unity of purpose, a bonding of the individuals together into the social organism that pre-dates the differentiation.

Mechanical and Organic Solidarity

(¶17) Durkheim views society as having two types of solidarity:

There is a paradox in organic solidarity because the division of labour in society is a separation of its parts, but at the same time, Durkheim argues it is a strengthening of the bond between them. It is with this paradox that The Division of Labour in Society started.

"Why does the individual while becoming more autonomous, depend more upon society? How can he be at once more individual and more solidary? Certainly, these two movements, contradictory as they appear, develop in parallel fashion".
Durkheim's answer is that the nature of solidarity is being changed as society becomes more divided. (Durkheim 1893 Preface to the first edition, pp 37-38) Individuality and the division of labour is, in fact, the result of society's need for a new form of solidarity (organic solidarity).

(¶18) Durkheim argues that the division of labour within modern society is a much broader issue than a purely economic issue.

"We can observe its growing influence in the most varied fields of society. The political, administrative, and judicial functions are growing more and more specialised. It is the same with the aesthetic and scientific functions. It is long since philosophy reigned as the science unique; it has been broken into a multitude of special disciplines."   (Durkheim 1893, Introduction. The Problem, p.40)
This differentiation of functions is a solidifying agent. That is to say, society is becoming more and more differentiated (people are specialising more and more), but as we become more different from one another we grow closer together rather than further apart.

(¶19) In mechanical solidarity, the members of society are held together by common beliefs and practices. Everyone is much more like everyone else than in organic solidarity.

Historically, organic solidarity develops out of mechanical solidarity. So, in this sense, we can say that society makes us individuals (with the development of organic solidarity) rather than individuals making society (as state of nature and utilitarian theories suggest). So, Durkheim argues, societies are not so much the product of individuals as individuals are the product of society. In mechanistic societies human beings were not individualistic in the way they are in organic societies. The individual has evolved in the course of history. This has not happened because society has fallen apart, but because individualism provides a new and powerful way of holding society together.

(¶20) Although organic solidarity is a different form from mechanical, Durkheim says that it cannot exist completely separately:

"The division of labour produced only in the midst of pre-existing society...There is a social life outside the whole division of labour, but which the latter presupposes."   (Durkheim 1893 p.277)
Contract, the binding bargain that makes exchange possible, is a derivation of sacred ritual. If I break a contract:
"I am committing sacrilege, because I am breaking an oath, I am profaning a sacred thing "   (Durkheim 1937 p.193, quoted Nisbet 1965, p.44)
Think of the kind of economic exchange you do every time you buy something in a shop. When you exchange money with a baker for a loaf of bread, both of you benefit and this binds you together. But it is not all that binds you. Exchange would be very complicated if we only calculated our advantage and tried to maximize our individual gain. We would always be calculating what we could get away with. Everybody would be a shoplifter when the shopkeeper was not looking and the shopkeeper would never dare turn his or her back on a customer! Economic life would be impossible. Instead, most of the time, we feel that we are under some obligation to act honestly. The intensity with which we can react to any slur on our honesty - even when we have been dishonest - indicates that we have very deep feelings about the issue that are not based on a calculation of economic gain. These feelings spring, Durkheim argues, from the mechanical solidarity that underlies the organic solidarity of exchange. Dishonesty is a betrayal of the community, and the community has a sacred charge in our emotional life. So we see that the organic solidarity of exchange is dependent on a more basic mechanical solidarity.

(¶21) Common beliefs and practices, which are the characteristic of mechanical solidarity, are therefore the fundamental glue of all societies.

"The totality of beliefs and sentiments common to average citizens of the same society forms a determinate system which has its own life; one may call it the collective or common conscience....It is...independent of the particular conditions in which individuals are placed; they pass on and it remains... it does not change with each generation, but, on the contrary, it connects successive generations with one another. It is thus an entirely different thing from particular consciences, although it can be realized only through them."   (Durkheim 1893 Chapter Two: The Causes, Section 4 pp 79-80)

This collective mind, discovered in his analysis of the division of labour, became the central subject of Durkheim's study of religion (1912).

Durkheim and the Thing: Rules of Sociological Method (1895)

(¶22) A thing is something that is real. It can hit you. Try walking into a lamppost as if it was not there, and you will discover what a thing is. In his Rules of Sociological Method Durkheim tried to show that sociology is the study of society and that society has real substance. He said that we should treat social facts as things. They have the same property as the lamppost, they can hit you hard if you ignore them.

(¶23) Durkheim believed that there is a need for a distinct science of society (sociology). The science of psychology, which was being developed in the laboratories of Wilhelm Wundt, had shown that we have ideas with a social orientation. But that, for Durkheim, is not enough. We need a distinct science of sociology, the central concern of which should be the study of society. Sociology should concern itself with "social facts". By which he meant that it should concern itself with the (social) realities external to the individual, that constrain an individual.

".. we can formulate and delimit in a precise way the domain of sociology. It comprises only a limited group of phenomena. A social fact is to be recognized by the power of external coercion which it exercises or is capable of exercising over individuals, and the presence of this power may be recognized in its turn either by the existence of some specific sanction or by the resistance offered against every individual effort that tends to violate it."   (Durkheim 1895 p.10)
"A social fact is every way of acting, fixed or not, capable of exercising on the individual an external constraint; or again, every way of acting which is general throughout a given society, while at the same time existing in its own right independent of its individual manifestations."   (Durkheim 1895 p.13)

(¶24) An example of social facts are the suicidogenetic currents that Durkheim said run through the body of society. If society has nothing to do with why people commit or attempt suicide, if it is purely a psychological issue, you might expect the number of suicides and suicide attempts to vary greatly from year to year according to how many people just happened to have chosen to attempt suicide. Instead there is a fairly steady rate from year to year, which varies in relation to economic and social circumstances and according to the groups that people belong to. (Durkheim 1895 p.10. Quoted below).

(¶25) In Ingmar Bergman's film, The Seventh Seal (1956), people are caught up in a dance of death that appears to us as a dance of collective madness. If you saw the grim reaper, death, leading a conga dance, would you join on the end of the column? Some people do kill themselves. But we think of this as a very individual, personal act. If you wanted to know why someone had committed suicide you would look for the meaning of the act to them. You would look around for a note. You would ask friends what insight they could give you into the state of mind of that individual before he or she died. You would not think that the individual had got caught up in a collective dance of death.

(¶26) In his book, Suicide Durkheim tried to show that society is so real that it controls acts as (apparently) individual as suicide. According to Durkheim, there are currents of opinion, with an intensity varying according to the time or place, which impel certain groups either to more marriages, for example, or to more suicides, or to a higher or lower birth rate. These currents are examples of what he means by social facts. A marriage, suicide or birth rate

"expresses a certain state of the group mind (l'ame collective)"   (Durkheim 1895 p.10).

(¶27) Durkheim tries to demonstrate this by examining different sub-groups of society. One sub-group he chooses are the religious sub-groups. He looks at the suicide rates for members of the protestant churches and members of the Roman Catholic church. Generally he finds that church membership protects people against being suicidal, but that protestants are less protected than catholics. What is the reason for this? It is not the teachings of the churches. The beneficent influence of religion is..not due to the special nature of religious conceptions. If religion protects men against the desire for self-destruction, it is not that it preaches the respect for his own person to him with arguments sui generis; but because it is a society. What constitutes the society is the existence of a certain number of beliefs and practices common to all the faithful, traditional and thus obligatory (Durkheim 1897 p.170). Human beings are double because a social being superimposes itself on our physical being. Social man necessarily presupposes a society which he expresses and serves. If this dissolves, if we no longer feel it in existence and action about and above us, whatever is social in us is deprived of all objective foundation.. Yet this social is the essence of civilized man.. Thus we are bereft of reasons for existence; for the only life to which we could cling no longer corresponds to anything actual; the only existence still based upon reality no longer meets our needs (Durkheim 1897 p.213)

"The conclusion from all these facts is that the social suicide-rate can be explained only sociologically. At any given moment the moral constitution of society establishes the contingent of voluntary deaths. There is, therefore, for each people a collective force of a definite amount of energy, impelling men to self-destruction. The victim's acts which at first seem to express only his personal temperament are really the supplement and prolongation of a social condition which they express externally. It is not mere metaphor to say of each human society that it has a greater or lesser aptitude for suicide; the expression is based on the nature of things. Each social group really has a collective inclination for the act quite its own, and the source of all individual inclination, rather than their result."   (Durkheim 1897 p.299)

(¶28) If being part of a church can protect us against the collective inclination to suicide, perhaps it is about time that we made a study of religion, to turn from studying the dance of death, to studying the dance of life. This Durkheim did by studying the reports of anthropologists on the religious practices of Australian aborigines.

Durkheim and the Dance of Life: The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1912)

(¶29) Before looking at the detail of what Durkheim says in Elementary Forms of Religious Life, let us view it from a great height. Hover in your imagination over a tribe of aborigines in Australia. At some periods of the year you see them scattered in small groups or alone over a vast area of bushland. They are pursuing the economic tasks of hunting and gathering on which their material survival depends. In these periods the animation of their spiritual lives fades because they are separate from the tribe as a whole and the practice of its collective religion. So, periodically, we see them leaving the profane tasks of material survival and drawing together for great tribal meetings which will renew their spirits and give them the inner strength to carry on. The traditional ceremonies, rituals, dances etc of these meetings are the religion of the tribe, from the energy of which flows its art and its recreation. Durkheim argues that the life of the individual depends just as much on this spiritual re-creation as it does on the material sustenance that is hunted and gathered.

(¶30) Durkheim sees this picture as a model for the spiritual life of all societies. The picture is simple enough for us to grasp it as a whole. The picture is much more complicated and confused in so called civilised societies, but the ability to see the features of the Australian example should enable us, if we have sufficient imagination, to trace the same features of the sacred and profane.

(¶31) When you eat food it renews your animal energy, when you worship or engage in recreation or artistic creation, it renews your spiritual energy. Whilst reading the detail of Durkheim on religion do not lose sight of this image of energy giving activity. The practices he describes are a collective dance of life, renewing the joy of living. Durkheim seeks the meaning of those practices, but warns us that they are too full of life, too creative, to all have an agreed meaning.

"The state of effervescence in which the assembled worshippers find themselves must be translated outwardly by exuberant movements which are not easily subjected to too carefully defined ends. In part, they escape aimlessly, they spread themselves for the mere pleasure of so doing, and they take delight in all sorts of games. When explaining rites, it is a mistake to believe that each gesture has a precise object and a definite reason for its existence. There are some which...merely answer the need felt by worshippers for action, motion, gesticulation. They are to be seen jumping, whirling, dancing, crying and singing, though it may not always be possible to give a meaning to all this agitation."   (Durkheim 1912 p.381)

(¶32) So, we are looking for meaning, but may not always find it, because the meaningful activities of the collective religion fill us with so much energy that we create new movements of the dance without thinking of what their significance is. We can think of a writer, (Mary Shelley, the creator of Frankenstein, for example), writing a novel out of her imagination, drawing on the collective symbols of her society, without which her readers would not be able to understand it, but not able to say what the full significance of her novel is precisely because it is a creation of the imagination, not a copy of a social ritual. It is the ritual, however, that provides the creative energy. What is a religion?, Durkheim asks, what is a church? what is god? He gives some unusual answers. A religion, he says

"is a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart and forbidden - beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral community called a church, all those who adhere to them"   (Durkheim 1912 p.47).

It is not just beliefs, it is also practices, and those practices have to be part of a church: In all history, we do not find a single religion without a church. A church is any

"society whose members are united by the fact that they think in the same way in regard to the sacred world and its relations with the profane world, and by the fact that they translate these common ideas to common practices."   (Durkheim 1912 p.44)

An essential point that Durkheim is making is that religion has to be collective, and it has to be action (not just belief).

(¶33) Not all religions believe in god, although all religions have a force at their centre. The Australian tribes that Durkheim writes about had totems: animals or plants that they held sacred. Durkheim comes to the conclusion that

"The god of the clan, the totemic principle is the clan itself, personified and represented to the imagination under the visible form of the animal or vegetable which serves as totem."   (Durkheim 1912 p.206)

Durkheim concludes that religion is a collective activity in which we perceive our society. It is a periodic renewal of our social energy, and it is essential to any society. He even derives the forms of thought that we use to understand the world from the images generated by the religion, images that reflect the structure of our society, and which will therefore vary from society to society. This means that different societies will perceive time and space differently. Just as an illustration we could say that some societies will think of time and space as having no beginning or end, whilst others will perceive them both as going round in circles. (Durkheim 1912, Introduction, Subject of our Study: Religious Knowledge and the Theory of Knowledge. Section 2. pp 9-20. See extracts)

(¶34) If you have fully understood this, you will probably have blown your mind. Lets hope that you still have a functioning mind left, even at the expense of not fully understanding Durkheim, and that your mind is critical.

Perhaps you want to ask Durkheim how religion can be essential to society when so few people go to church? Unfortunately, he is dead, so we will have to question what he wrote.

Look at his definition of a church. Perhaps something else has taken on the role of a church, in place of the institution we still call church? Is there any activity in our society that involves all the members of the society in it and which virtually nobody escapes?

One of Durkheim's theoretical predecessors, Edmund Burke thought that the most effective form a religion could take was drama: the acting out in plays of the consequences of moral actions (Burke 1790 paragraphs 122-123). But it would be difficult to get everybody in a society to go to the theatre.

What if we could put an electronic theatre in every home? Would the members of the society switch it on? Could it be, as Polly Toynbee recently suggested in The Radio Times, that television is "the nation's collective consciousness"? Are most of us practising members of the orthodox church of television, with a few non conformists who only use radios? Could our society hold together without television and radio? Would we have any collective life without them? Might we even lose interest in living if we could not get our media fix?


(¶35) The reality of society is the key issue on which we can contrast Durkheim with Weber:

If you continue to develop your theories in the company of sociologists you will learn that sociologists have their own peculiar way of swearing at one another. When a Durkheimian sociologist wants to be rude about a Weberian she shouts "reductionist", which just means that the Weberian wants to reduce society to individuals. The angry Weberian shouts back "reification" (Latin for to turn into a thing), which just means that the Durkheimian is a lunatic to believe that society is real.

Do morals have solid substance?

(¶36) Underlying Rousseau and Durkheim's thought, like that of Kant, is the belief that morals have solid substance. They are not just what individuals choose to believe in, but have a rational base that is general to all human beings. In different ways, the writings of Rousseau, Kant and Durkheim are a search for this general will. Weber, and many other writers from the end of the 19th century to the present, are disillusioned with this belief in the objectivity of goodness. A phrase from Thus Spake Zarathustra (1883), by Friedrich Nietzsche is often quoted as symbolising their disillusionment. The philosophic hero, Zarathustra, meets an enthusiastic mystic praising God in a forest. He speaks with him, but then hurries away lest he should deprive the man of his joy. Alone he said to himself

"Could it be possible? This old saint in the forest has not heard anything of this, that God is dead? (Nietzsche, F.W. 1883, Zarathustra's Prologue, end of section 2)"
Weber and Hobbes

(¶37) Weber was very firmly in the disillusioned camp. He did not believe in general values. Values he thought, are irrational in the sense that they depend only on what individuals chose to be their values. Because of this, some force within society has to impose sufficient general agreement for civilisation to exist.

Weber writes on the model of Thomas Hobbes, not that of John Locke or Jean-Jacques Rousseau. If one's theory of human nature does not allow a concept like reason as a law of nature (Locke), the general will (Rousseau) or the collective conscience (Durkheim), but insists that the individuals in society can only have individual wills, and not a general will, it seems that some kind of domination or power will be needed to get the individuals to act as a society.

Hobbes thought that sovereign power was necessary even to establish a common language. Weber thought that human relations are essentially a struggle for domination.

See Weber extracts for his definitions of power and domination

Power and Legitimacy

(¶38) At the front of Hobbes' Leviathan the two types of weapon that the state uses are symbolised in a series of matching pictures.

On the one side are the instruments of force (swords, guns, battle flags etc); on the other the matching symbols of ideas and religion. Weber agreed with Hobbes that it is just as important for the state to control ideas as it is to control weapons.

According to Weber, all states are founded on political violence, but also on political legitimacy, the grounds of which vary from society to society and from time to time.

The original meaning of legitimate is lawful. This means that a government has legitimacy if it is lawful. Political philosophy and sociology, however, have extended the use of the term. Rousseau said that he could not explain how the state managed to make its subjects slaves (a figure of speech in this context), but he thought he could explain what made the slavery legitimate (Rousseau 1762(SC) pp 181-182) But he did not mean lawful.

"The first and most important rule of legitimate or popular government, that is to say, of government whose object is the good of the people, follow in everything the general will." (Rousseau 1755(PE) p.135)

Weber did not think that legitimacy depended on the general will of the people. Apart from anything else, he did not believe in a general will. He did, however, think that if a government is to survive its use of force must be supported by the beliefs of its people. A government was, therefore, as much concerned with securing the support of ideas as it was in securing the support of arms.

(¶39) Weber provided matching definitions of state and church that fit neatly with Hobbes' concept that religion is a force that achieves peace on earth by threatening us with hell for ever after.

"An imperatively coordinated corporate group will be called `political' if and in so far as the enforcement of its order is carried out continually within a given territorial area by the application and threat of physical force on the part of the administrative staff. A compulsory political association with continuous organisation...will be called a `state' if and in so far as its administrative staff successfully upholds a claim to the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force in the enforcement of its order." (Weber, M. 1947 p.154)
"An imperatively coordinated corporate group will be called a `hierocratic' group [hierocratic means ruled by priests] if and in so far as for the enforcement of its order it employs `psychic' coercion through the distribution or denial of religious benefits.... A compulsory hierocratic association with continuous organisation will be called a `church' if and in so far as its administrative staff claims a monopoly of the legitimate use of hierocratic coercion." (Weber, M. 1947 p.154)

Weber and the Modern State

(¶40) We will listen in to part of a long lecture that Weber gave in 1918 at Munich University. This was published in 1919 as Politics as a Vocation. In 1918 Germany was in disarray at the end of a war in which its army was defeated. Parts of the country were under the revolutionary control of soldiers and workers, some of whom were fired with a vision of a society no longer governed by a state. It was in this atmosphere that Weber attempted to define what the modern state is, and what maintains its power.

"Sociologically the state cannot be defined in terms of its ends. There is scarcely any task that some political association has not taken in hand, and there is no task that one could say has always been exclusive and peculiar to those associations which are designated as political ones...Ultimately one can define the modern state sociologically only in terms of the specific means peculiar to it...namely the use of political force." (Weber 1919/Politics pp 77-78)

(¶41) Weber quotes the leader of the Russian communist army, Leon Trotsky, who had recently said that

"Every state is founded on force."
Weber agreed, and added
"if no social institutions existed which knew the use of violence, the concept of "state" would be eliminated, and a condition would emerge that could be designated as "anarchy"." (Weber 1919/Politics pp 77-78)

The condition of anarchy is a condition of society without a state. Anarchists, following William Godwin, had argued that society is progressing towards a condition where everybody will be so reasonable that we will not need a state to force us. Friedrich Engels and Marx developed this idea by saying that the state is an instrument of force that is only needed when society is built on the conflict of classes. It is used by the ruling class to repress the ruled. If a classless society (communism) could be achieved it would not need a state. This was Trotsky's theory. Unfortunately, Trotsky's communist comrade, Joseph Stalin, arranged a violent death for Trotsky before the use of violence in society became redundant. This would not have surprised Weber, who was not convinced that the state would fade away or that violence would cease in human societies. In fact, he thought the state would continue to develop indefinitely. He pointed out, however, that violence is not the only means that the state uses to control its citizens:

"Force is certainly not the normal or the only means of the state... but force is a means specific to the state. Today the relation between the state and violence is an especially intimate one." (Weber 1919/Politics pp 77-78)
In the past, other institutions, like the church and the family, had their own armies, but the modern state strictly controls who uses force.
"Today, however, we have to say that a state is a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory." (Weber 1919/Politics pp 77-78)
"The right to use physical force is ascribed to other institutions or to individuals only to the extent to which the state permits it. The state is considered the sole source of the "right" to use violence. Hence, "politics" for us means striving to share power, either among states or among groups within a state." (Weber 1919/Politics pp 77-78)
Weber says that force is not the only or even the normal means by which a state maintains its domination. The inner justifications provided by the beliefs of the people are as important, or more important.
"The state is a relation of men dominating men, a relation supported by means of legitimate (i.e. considered to be legitimate) violence. If the state is to exist, the dominated must obey the authority claimed by the powers that be. When and why do men obey? Upon what inner justifications and upon what external means does this domination rest?" (Weber 1919/Politics p.78)
In the following part of his lecture Weber explored the types of idea that lead human beings to obey the state. Weber presents these as what he calls "ideal types", and I will look at what these are, and at Weber's concept of sociology, before discussing his types of legitimate authority.

Weber's concept of sociology

(¶42) Weber believed that the central concern of sociology should be the a theory of social action. By this he meant that sociology should start with the subjective meanings that individuals see in what they do. Sociology should start inside the individual with what his or her actions mean to him or her, and work outwards to understanding any laws or regularities that govern the whole of society.

" a science which attempts the interpretive understanding of social action in order thereby to arrive at a causal explanation of its course and effects. In "action" is included all human behaviour when and in so far as the acting individual attaches a subjective meaning to it." (Weber, M. 1947 p.88)

Ideal Types: Weber's Toolbox

(¶43) Weber provides us with models of social actions that are unlikely to be found in a pure form in reality, but help us to analyze reality. The types of action and types of legitimacy that follow are such ideal types. Reality is not assumed to correspond to the ideal type, for many reasons, one of which is that any particular reality will contain elements of different ideal types. Take Weber's types of action as the example. In any particular action that we take, there will probably be a mixture of types. The ideal types are tools for discussing the significance of real actions. They are fictional models that help us to understand the real world. Another way of thinking about them is to imagine Weber as creating a tool kit of concepts for you. Weber actually wrote a book that is rather like a tool box of concepts for our use. Parts of it are arranged like a dictionary or encyclopedia and it has been suggested that he meant people to look things up in it rather than just read it straight through. The book is called Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft (Economy and Society). It was written between 1910 and 1914, but not published until after Weber's death. It has been translated into English in various parts with different names.

Was Weber a sociologist?

(¶44) In Economy and Society Weber outlined ideal types and other concepts in an effort to establish The Fundamental Concepts of Sociology. He was, by this time thinking of sociology as a discipline to which he had something to contribute. But the title Economy and Society alerts us to the possibility that his primary interests were not sociological. Weber was an academic lawyer and a political economist, two disciplines that were closely linked in Germany. Sociology was a term he used, but was not very happy about. Economist is the description that fits the way he understood himself, and the way he was understood in Germany at the time. The reason he wrote so much that we consider sociology, is that political-legal-economics in Germany tried to be a science of the whole human being. It distinguished itself from economics in England and France, which it said was concerned with human beings as if all they were concerned with was the pursuit of wealth. German economics, by contrast, attempted to create a science that was political, legal and historical as well. This was why it was quite natural for Weber to study the economic foundations of world religions.

Weber and Types of Action: Disagreements with Adam Smith

(¶45) German economists, from the 1840s, opposed themselves to Adam Smith's free-market and international economics. In his The National System of Political Economy (1841) Friedrich List complained that Smith had called his book on economics

" The Nature and the Causes of the Wealth of Nations (i.e. of all nations of the whole human race)...He seeks to prove that `political' or national economy must be replaced by `cosmopolitical or world-wide economy'."
List and his followers sought to create an economics that was political in the specific sense that it was concerned with the nation. Alfred Marshall, the leading English economist contemporary with Weber, made this summary of the German approach:
"The Germans are fond of saying that...the school of Adam Smith underrated the importance of national life; that they tended to sacrifice it on the one hand to a selfish individualism and on the other to a limp philanthropic cosmopolitanism. They urge that List did great service in stimulating a feeling of patriotism, which is more generous than that of individualism, and more sturdy and definite than that of cosmopolitanism.... There is no question that the recent political history of Germany has influenced the tone of her economists in the direction of nationalism.... Surrounded by powerful and aggressive armies Germany can exist only by the aid of an ardent national feeling; and German writers have insisted eagerly...that altruistic feelings have a more limited scope in the economic relations between countries than in those between individuals." (Marshall 1890/1920. 1966: p.634)
Altruism is unselfish concern for the welfare of others. Marshall means that German economists promoted welfare state policies within Germany, to strengthen the nation, and an aggressive foreign policy for the same reason. This was the intellectual discipline to which Weber was introduced as a university student in 1882.

(¶46) As a student there was at least one lecturer that Weber could not understand. The lecturer talked too fast. But Weber eventually understood him by doing some vacation reading. He wrote to his father

"Now that I have gained a few economic concepts through studying Adam Smith and others, Knies makes a quite different impression on me." (Hennis 1987 p.40)
This lecturer, Karl Knies, had written a book called Political Economy from the Historical Point of View (1853). In this he said
"The economic life of a people is so closely interwoven with other areas of its life that any particular observation can only be made if one keeps in view its relation with the whole. If you want to make economic predictions, you can only do so on the basis of the entire development of the life of a people. Economics should not limit itself to the elaborations of laws in a world of material goods. It should treat the life of people and state as members of a living body." Knies, K. 1853 quoted Hennis 1987 p.34)

(¶47) Weber did not use the language that would represent society as a body. He wanted to explain everything in terms of individual action. The way he represented the idea that Knies was putting forward was to say that all economic actions had a "heteronomy of ends" (See Hennis 1987 pp 34 and 55). Heteronomy is a biological term that refers to the different parts of an organism having different purposes. Weber was saying that the economic policy of a nation has more than just economic objectives. It was this broad approach to economics that led him to analyze the different kinds of social actions that human beings take, and to demonstrate how many of them are not rational in the way that English economic theory understood rational.

(¶48) Weber says that social action can be classified into four types, but that it would be very unusual to find actions in the real world that contained only one of these ideal types (Weber, M. 1947 p.116). Nevertheless, I have tried to give real world examples of each type:

Weber's two types of social solidarity: communal and associative

(¶49) As far as I can tell, Weber did not talk in terms of types of society. There is not a division into successive stages in his concepts, like the division into mechanical and organic solidarity that we find in Durkheim. Weber's toolbox does, however, contain two "types of solidary social relations", communal and associative, which he relates to ideal types of society constructed by another German theorist, Ferdinand Tönnies (Weber, M. 1947 p.136). Tönnies also influenced Durkheim. So we can link Weber to Durkheim's two types of society (mechanical and organic) if we raid Tönnies tool box of concepts. An added advantage is that Tönnies' concepts link Weber's theories to those of Marx and Engels.

(¶50) According to Marx and Engels the present stage of society is capitalism or bourgeois society. In this stage of society social relations are based on exchange. Power is in the hands of the owners of capital, who purchase labour from the people who have nothing to exchange but their labour (the workers or proletariate). We can make a rough and ready approximation of social relations in such a society to those in the type of society that Durkheim called organic. Marx and Engels thought that the social relations under capitalism could not last. They argued that the workers were developing more communal relations (trade unions and cooperatives for example) and that, eventually, the mass of the people would revolt and establish a communist society.

"In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all." (Marx and Engels 1848, end of chapter 2: Proletarians and Communists)

(¶51) The way that Tönnies developed this idea was to argue that capitalism is based on relations of association (gesellschaft), which have replaced the communal relations (gemeinschaft) of the agricultural societies that preceded industrialisation.

    Geselle is a word that has associations with high society. It is used when you say "to go into society" and in the construction of words like evening dress.

    Gemein is associated with low, vulgar society. It is a closer and warmer word that is used in relation to shared property and to religious communion.

Tönnies thought that gesellschaft lacked the solidarity needed to hold it together, and that the working class (common people) would promote a society based on a new form of solidarity. (See
Krüger, D. 1987, in which he discuses Weber and his contemporaries in the Social Policy Association■Verein fur Sozialpolitik, p.74. Tönnies' book Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft was published in 1887)

(¶52) In his toolbox, Weber divides "types of solidary social relations" into the communal and the associative, which he associates with Tönnies' gemeinschaft (communal) and gesellschaft (associative). We can match them to Durkheim's mechanical (communal, gemeinschaft) societies and organic (associative, gesellschaft) societies because Durkheim's Division of Labour developed directly out of his criticisms of Tönnies. Durkheim agreed more or less with Tönnies' picture of communal society, but thought that associative society had a much firmer solidarity than Tönnies credited it with (Lukes 1973, Chapter 7, section: Comte, Spencer, Tönnies).

(¶53) Weber, reducing everything to the subjective feelings and thoughts of individuals, says that communal solidarity is a subjective feeling individuals have of belonging together. It can be an emotional or a traditional bond. If, however, people relate only on a rational calculation of what they can get out of the association (like in Adam Smith), the bond is associative. Tradition is thus linked to the early forms of society, which were more communal, and rationality to modern society, which is more calculating. If we now go back to the issue of legitimacy (the kinds of popular beliefs that support governments) we find that Weber has an ideal type called traditional authority which is particular useful for analysing the power in early, communal societies; an ideal type called rational authority which is particular useful for analysing power in modern associative societies, and an ideal type called charismatic authority which is particularly useful in explaining how societies change.

Traditional and Rational/Legal Authority

(¶54) Weber says there are three main types of legitimacy. "The most universal and most primitive" is "the sanctity of tradition" (Weber, M. 1947 p.130). This is the authority that I linked to communal society. It has been the main legitimating factor for the greater part of human history. We see the vestige of its power in the English Common Law which derives from the time when, to settle a dispute, manorial courts would enquire into what the established customs were.

(¶55) Rational authority, which I linked to modern associative societies, may have begun as long ago as the Roman Empire. Weber says "the type case of legitimacy by virtue of rational belief" is "natural law" (Weber, M. 1947 p.131). He distinguishes this from revealed law, like the commandment thou shall not kill which Jewish society held to have been revealed by God (Bible 1611 Books of Moses two and five: Exodus chapter 20 and Deuteronomy chapter 5).

For Weber, revealed law would be an example of charismatic authority, which I discuss below. When the Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius says that

"the universe is a kind of Commonwealth" from which "is derived our mind itself, our reason and our sense of law" (Marcus Aurelius 1961 p.17)
he is saying that there is natural law (Latin: jus naturale) which is distinct and superior to the laws of nations (Latin: jus gentium), or positive law. This concept of natural law was a central feature of social theory in Medieval Europe, and Weber may be suggesting that it was an intermediate form of rational authority (between traditional and the modern rational authority). (Weber, M. 1947 Chapter 1 The Fundamental Concepts of Sociology. Section 7: The Bases of Legitimacy of an Order pp 130-132. See also Russell 1961 pp 275-276)

(¶56) Weber says that the modern form of rational/legal authority requires obedience to a specific type of rational rule.

"Today the most usual basis of legitimacy is the belief in legality, the readiness to conform with rules which are formally correct and have been imposed by accepted procedure" (Weber, M. 1947 p.131).
This rational/legal authority is associated with bureaucracy, which is hierarchical organisation orientated to a set of rules.
"When a civil servant appears in his office at a fixed time" his behaviour is "not determined by custom or self-interest alone" but "by the validity of an order (viz, the civil service rules), which he fulfils partly because disobedience would be disadvantageous to him but also because its violation would be abhorrent to his sense of duty." (Weber 1968 quoted in Giddens 1971 p.154)
Bureaucracy is the actual apparatus of the modern state, and is found in other organisations of modern society as well. Weber believes that the rational, bureaucratic state is an essential technical part of modern society. It is the professional way to obtain certain ends within large societies and cannot be dispensed with unless we dispense with those ends. In contrast to Engels, who believed that after the workers' revolution the state would "wither away" "fall asleep" or "die off" (Engels 1876/1878 & 1880 section 3); Weber anticipated that a socialist revolution, like that in Russia under Lenin and Trotsky in 1917, would lead to an increase of state bureaucracy.


(¶57) Weber's analysis allowed his imagination to formulate what he saw as the problem for modern politics: the problem of leadership. This is associated with the problem of change in both traditional and modern society and the solution in both is associated with that magic little word "charisma". Traditional societies may appear to stand still. Modern societies may appear to lose direction. In traditional societies the "eternal yesterday" justifies what happens today so how can there ever be change? In modern societies the government of rules may mean that no one is able or prepared to be a real ruler who charts the future of the society, because such a political career cannot be based on following rules.

(¶58) The Greek word charisma means a divine gift. Weber says that charisma means the "gift of grace" and that he takes the word from the vocabulary of early Christianity (Weber, M. 1947 p.328). This is clear enough if you know what grace is. In theology, grace is the unmerited favour of God, it is something that God gives us as distinct from something we earn. Since Weber wrote, charisma has entered the English language with two distinct, but related meanings. We say that a politician has charisma if she has some kind of natural appeal that attracts people. We say that he lacks charisma if he is dull, even if he is very worthy. You may, for example, hear people say that John Major lacks Margaret Thatcher's charisma. The second form in which you may hear the word is in reference to charismatic movements in churches where God's spirit is believed to inspire people to speak in tongues. The word charismatic here is close to the early christian roots that Weber spoke of. Nowadays the speaking in tongues needs translating. The origin, however, is from an account in the Christian Bible of disciples of Jesus, after his death and ascension into heaven, being thoroughly dispirited. Suddenly a wind blew through the room, flames of fire burst out of their heads and they were inspired to preach to the crowds who had gathered in Jerusalem from all over the world. The disciples only spoke one language. The people in the crowds spoke many, but each heard the disciples preach in his or her own language. (Bible 1611, The Acts of the Apostles, chapter 2)

(¶59) Each of these meanings of charisma should help you understand what Weber means. Weber says it is

"the absolutely personal devotion and personal confidence in revelation, heroism, or other qualities of individual leadership."
He gives as examples of charismatic domination, the power of prophet, an elected war lord, a ruler who secures absolute rule by plebiscite (popular vote), a great demagogue, or a political party leader (Weber 1919/Politics p.79). Each of these has charismatic authority if they secure their power by personal gifts in swaying people's opinions.
"The term `charisma' will be applied to a certain quality of an individual personality by virtue of which he is set apart from ordinary men and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities. These are such as are not accessible to the ordinary person, but are regarded as of divine origin or as exemplary, and on the basis of them the individual concerned is treated as a leader." (Weber, M. 1947 p.358)

(¶60) For Weber, charismatic authority is an innovating and revolutionary force. In traditional societies it may be the only such force. Weber says that:

"Conscious departures from tradition in the establishment of a new order have originally been due almost entirely to prophetic oracles or at least to pronouncements which have been sanctioned as prophetic." (Weber, M. 1947 p.131)
In modern societies Weber thought charisma is essential. This was particularly true of Germany, the modern society to which, as a nationalist, Weber was committed. Giddens, in a short, succinct booklet on Politics and Sociology in the Thought of Max Weber (1972) attempts to unravel the complexities of the whole issue. Here I just try to explain the relation of charisma to German politics. Germany, as the state that we know today, has only existed since the 1870s. It was put together by war, diplomacy and politics under the leadership of Bismark. Before the 1870s one could speak of the German nation, in terms of people with a common language and culture, but not of the German state. A German Empire was proclaimed at Versailles on January 18th 1871, when Germany won a war it had engineered with Napoleon 3rd of France. Both Bismark and Napoleon were what Weber called charismatic leaders - specifically the type who secured absolute rule by plebiscite, or popular vote. Democracy was not one of Weber's ideals, but he came to think it necessary as a means for training charismatic leaders. According to Giddens, Weber saw the likelihood of uncontrolled bureaucratic domination as the greatest threat facing Germany after Bismark, because there was a lack of political leadership. Democracy, as a means of choosing a leader, could be the means of rising above a rule- bound bureaucracy. In the modern world democracy was almost unavoidable. So, Weber said,
"there is only the choice: leadership-democracy (Fuhrerdemokratie)...or leaderless democracy."
Leaderless democracy would be
"the domination of "professional politicians" without a vocation, without the inner charismatic qualities that alone make a leader (Weber 1958 p. 532, translated and quoted Giddens 1972 p.19)."
The German word Fuhrer just means leader, guide or conductor.

(¶61) Weber thought that politics, by its nature, is a dirty business, but that it should be pursued in the cause of worthy cultural ideals. One of the cruelties of history is that a clause Weber was instrumental in inserting in the German constitution, proved the way to power for Adolph Hitler, a charismatic leader far nastier than any that Weber would have supported.

Integrating Durkheim and Weber

(¶62) In this essay I have contrasted Durkheim and Weber. I think this is sensible in an introductory essay because the two theorists start from such different premises. Some commentators have suggested that they probably would not have thought of themselves as studying the same subject. But that does not mean that our theories have to be either Weberian or Durkheimian, we can also attempt to integrate their theories.

Like making theories in the first place, integration is a work of creative imagination. What emerges is something new that loses some of the old imaginations, and gains something from the imagination of the person who integrates. After the second world war a new sociology was created in America based on Talcott Parsons' integration of Durkheim, Weber and other theorists (Parsons, T. 1937 followed by Parsons, T. 1951). It really was a new sociology. In the process of integrating, Parsons changed the theories, lost some of their meaning, and created something new and valuable in its own right. Most of the sociology you read in text books is written in the light of this integration, and the criticisms that have been made of it.

(¶63) The end of a long essay is not the place to outline the imagination of Talcott Parsons. Instead I will take a few pages from a book by Frank Pearce which argue that Weber's concept of charisma can be made more useful if it is integrated with Durkheim's understanding of society (Pearce, F. 1989, chapter 2, especially pages 29 to 38 Durkheim and the concept of charisma and Politics and Charisma).

Pearce draws out the similarities between charisma and the mana with which, according to Durkheim, society can imbue individuals.

Mana is a polynesian word for an impersonal spiritual force that results in people having good fortune or magical powers.

"It shows itself in...any kind of power or excellence which a man possesses" (Durkheim 1912 p.194 quoting Codrington, The Melanesians)

The similarity with charisma is very clear, but Durkheim's concept has a richness that Weber's lacks. One aspect of this is that mana comes from the society. It can sustain someone who has no real personal gifts. For example, a king might be a very ordinary person if he was not king, but the role imbues him with character that he actually takes on. Equally, however, he could be a person with characteristics that particularly suit him to the social role. Pearce says that for Durkheim

"charisma [mana] is a real phenomenon and a social relation...Society `deifies' a man who personifies its principal aspirations" (Pearce, F. 1989 p.31).
One of the ways in which this enriches the use of Weber's concept is that it allows one to create theories about the content that society contributes to a particular charisma.
"`Charismatic' qualities are inevitably context-dependent and need to be socially sustained. The appeal of such leaders to their followers depends upon a shared background of culture - of style, symbols, myths etc" (Pearce, F. 1989 p.32).
In Queen Elizabeth's Silver Jubilee her family was "represented as the essence, the purest example of the British family". This, Pearce suggests, had as much or more to do with qualities projected on the Royal Family by our society, as it had to do with any intrinsic qualities in the Queen's family. Pearce links this into concepts of class struggle that he takes from marxism. The family image identifies the rulers with the ruled. The royal family are portrayed as like ordinary families and this counters the divisive influences of class conflict.
"Thus charisma can take various forms and it may or may not be stage-managed, but what is important is that through it individuals should experience themselves as part of a national collectivity where differences between social ranks are believed to be a matter of degree rather than signifying irreconcilable antagonistic differences." (Pearce, F. 1989 p.38).

(¶64) Frank Pearce's fairy tale is not pure Durkheim, pure Weber or pure Marx. It is his own. But he could not have made it without trying to understand the imagination of Durkheim, Weber and Marx. Anyone who has reached the end of this essay will have worked very hard trying to understand Durkheim and Weber. Perhaps it is time to follow Frank's example and make your own fairy tale? Or perhaps it is time to do something completely different!

chapter 1
Empiricism, Theory and Imagination chapter 2
Hobbes, Filmer, Locke chapter 3
What is Science? chapter 4
Can Theory Redesign Society? chapter 5
Social Science and the 1834 Poor Law chapter 6
Durkheim and Weber's Contrasting Imaginations

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chapter 1
Empiricism, Theory and Imagination chapter 2
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What is Science? chapter 4
Can Theory Redesign Society? chapter 5
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Durkheim and Weber's Contrasting Imaginations

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chapter 1
Empiricism, Theory and Imagination chapter 2
Hobbes, Filmer, Locke chapter 3
What is Science? chapter 4
Can Theory Redesign Society? chapter 5
Social Science and the 1834 Poor Law chapter 6
Durkheim and Weber's Contrasting Imaginations

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Curses: par. 35

Emergent properties: par. 12

Emile Durkheim:
par. 7

Julie Ford: par. 3



Thomas Hobbes: pars 10 + 11 and 37 to 39

Ideal types: par. 41

Mechanical solidarity: par. 17 to 21

Methodological individualism: par. 10

Organic solidarity: par. 17 to 21 and 17 to 21

Frank Pearce: par. 63

J.J. Rousseau: pars 2, 4, 7, 8 to 12, 13, 36 to 38,

Science: pars 1 to 3, from philosophy: pars 8 to 12, 18; biology and social: par. 14; psychology and sociology: par. 23, of the whole human being: par. 44, Weber: par. 42.

Adam Smith: pars 13 to 16, 45 to 46, 48 and 53

Social atomism: pars 10 + 11

Social action: par. 42

Social facts: par. 22

Society: par. 7

Sociology: Durkheim par. 7, Weber par. 42

Solidarity: Durkheim: pars 13, 17 to 21
Weber: pars 49 to 53

State of nature: par. 9

Ferdinand Tönnies par 49

Totem: par 33

Max Weber: par. 35

  Social science history weblinks

and the dear habermas class