Qualitative Sociology

, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp 34-55

First online:

Max Weber, critical theory, and the administered world

  • Harvey C. GreismanAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, West Chester State College
  • , George RitzerAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, University of Maryland

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The sociological perspectives of Max Weber and the “Frankfurt School” have been viewed as polarities in much of the recent literature. The Frankfurt sociologists were advocates of a neo-Marxism that stressed dialectical reasoning and rejected the notion of value-neutrality. Weber adhered to the canons of causal logic and cultivated the ideal of objectivity in social research. Notwithstanding these theoretical and methodological differences, Weber and the advocates of critical theory arrived at surprisingly similar conclusions about the “fate” of the modern world. Weber saw the advent of a bureaucratic “iron cage” which would effectively negate the role of the individual, while the Frankfurt sociologists posited the onset of an “administered world” in which human activity would be smothered in an ever-expanding network of management and control. Given these commonalities, a revision of the standard evaluation of Weber and critical theory is suggested.