Weber, Understanding and the Charge of Subjectivism

Boike Rehbein, Humboldt University Berlin

According to the prevailing opinion, there are three fathers of sociology, namely Emile Durkheim, Karl Marx and Max Weber, and Weber is supposed to be a subjectivist in contrast to the two other classics. This paper argues that Weber is not subjectivist enough. He awards the notion of understanding a key role in his philosophy of science but actually dismisses it in his empirical research. An average meaning, which can be identified on the basis of observation, replaces the process of understanding other human beings. The chapter explores the notion of understanding and the role that it should play in the social sciences in some detail.

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