Max Weber wrote his best-known work after he recovered from a period of serious mental illness near the turn of the twentieth century. After he recovered, his work transitioned from enthusiastically capitalist and liberal in the tradition of Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill to much more skeptical of the down-sides of modernization, more similar to the thinking of Nietzsche and Freud. In his first major work, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Weber argues that the Protestant faith, especially Luther's notion of "calling" and the Calvinist belief in predestination set the stage for the emergence of the capitalist spirit. With his more complex understanding of the causes of capitalism, Weber accounts for the motivations of capitalists and the spirit of capitalism and rationalization in ways that Marx does not.
Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, pp. 35-154
This course provides an overview of major works of social thought from the beginning of the modern era through the 1920s. Attention is paid to social and intellectual contexts, conceptual frameworks and methods, and contributions to contemporary social analysis. Writers include Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Montesquieu, Adam Smith, Marx, Weber, and Durkheim.
This Yale College course, taught on campus twice per week for 50 minutes, was recorded for Open Yale Courses in Fall 2009.