Weber and his Possible Obsession with Shoes and Inspirational Quotes

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Though I am unsure of the origin of the sayings, I remember my mother always quoting things like “until you walk a mile in another person’s shoes”. And now aside from my mother, when I hear or read something similar, I think Weber. Maybe this is the reason I felt a likeness towards his ideas when I first read about Weber.

Let me explain. Weber focuses on naturalistic accounts of behavior, meaning he sticks to the naturalistic tradition, not the positivist. Naturalistic tradition is the belief that we cannot justify or explain another person’s actions or motives in ways that cannot be understood by human agent. He argues that a person’s explanation for their behavior cannot be thought of as incidental to the behavior. Unlike Durkheim, who believes society imposes behavior through a collective conscience (collective conscience being the shared values and beliefs of a society that influences the behavior of people), Weber stressed the importance of a person’s stated motives being included in part of the analysis. This belief leads to Weber not making generalizations about human behavior but instead, seeking Verstehen.

The idea of seeking Verstehen which Weber uses means obtaining a deeper, more empathetic, understanding of human behavior. Verstehen lead me to the idea of not judging someone until you have walked a mile in their shoes. Both ideas focus around empathetic tendencies as well as reaching an understanding for an individual’s behavior. I think they resonate well with each other because they imply that just because the same actions are executed by different people, does not necessarily mean both people had the same reasons behind their actions.          

Likewise to “walking a mile in someone else’s shoes”, in Weber’s explanation as to why Protestants have a high work ethic, I made a connection to quotes like “see the ball, be the ball”.  The doctrine of predestination for Calvinist’s says that a person’s eternal destiny is decided even prior to birth and only a small number of people (the “elect”) are expected to go to heaven. Anyone who accepts this understands that there is nothing for them to do to change their fates. Weber argued that people have a desire to know whether or not they are part of the “elect” which leads people to look for signs of God’s favor. He also mentions that due to the uncertainty that the doctrine of predestination gives, people who follow it will be driven to find evidence of God’s favor. With looking for evidence came working hard as well as going to church and doing other good things. This makes sense because though a person would not be able to know if they are an “elect” or not, they do know an “elect” would do certain things like going to church, and in keeping their own chances of becoming an “elect” open, they too would do things an “elect” person does. I find that Weber’s explanation for the Protestant work ethic and quotes like “see the ball, be the ball” and “monkey see, monkey do” apply nicely to his idea since both the quotes and the Protestant work ethic have an underlying quality of idolizing something in order to be more like the person/object being idolized.

Lastly, while thinking about Weber’s explanation for the Protestant work ethic, I saw a similarity in how a student may work towards becoming an A student. In a similar way to a Protestant doing thing an “elect” would do in order have a possible better chance of becoming an “elect”, a student may emulate an A student, doing things an A student does (like studying more or asking questions in class, etc.) to have a better chance of becoming an A student.  

-Madeline Baumeister


4 thoughts on “Weber and his Possible Obsession with Shoes and Inspirational Quotes

  1. I like the way you applied some of the sayings that people use on what I believe as a regular basis. I remember my mom saying the same thing to me about “until you walk a mile in someone else’s shoes”, it would seem that Weber was installing a practice of trying to make others become better citizens or what-not. The more you do good and become ‘elect’ the better chance you have to have a better life or after life. I wonder if Weber would have applied his thoughts to any religion in general not just looking at things from a Protestants point of view.

  2. heber004 says:

    I liked the comparing of protestant work ethic to being an A student. I like that you look at how individuals will mimic behavior that they feel will ensure their place in heaven or simply having high marks in class. Both will feel the need to work hard. A students will likely all have different stated motives for the same behavior. Would all protestants say they are “working hard to get to heaven?” (line from a country song, “Where I Come From” by Alan Jackson)

    I do feel from our experience in anthropology the idea of empathizing and seeing the world from their point of view is crucial and this is why it probably feels like an method easy to connect to for many.

  3. nicco321 says:

    It is interesting that you mention religion. The work ethic that can be seen in these actions can be a way to convince people to work hard. The interesting fact is that the hard work has no reward, the hard work is the reward for being elect. This is an excellent example of Marxist view point of the religious opiate of the masses.

  4. Pingback: Landnhame and Facebook’s land grabs for Africa’s new internet users – This Is Not a Sociology Blog

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