About social theory Essay

(1)       In understanding the view of Max Weber in his analysis of the origin of Capitalism, it is necessary that each one comprehend its two important elements; the protestant ethic and spirit of capitalism. By actively deciphering these relevant ideas, it can generate new insights on how man’s social foundations have been supplemental for this creation. At the same time, this opens up further arguments from contending theorists such as Durkheim who contend that these forces are not the sole actors moving the creation and evolution of the concept rather it is each individual’s effort for collective consciousness. On the other hand, Foucault provides an alternative analysis to such creation and argues on the basis of discipline and punishment is the one that motivates such rationality and move towards improvement.

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(a)        To effectively understand the relevance of capitalism using Weber’s theory, it is essential that readers comprehend its relationship with the tenets and principles of Spirit of Capitalism and Calvinism. By creating an awareness of these two ideas’ significance, it can lead to better appreciation of what grounds and principles Weber’s view of capitalism as a concept stands for.

            Analyzing these ideas, Spirit of Capitalism revolves around the overall goal of generating income with several restrictions and principles to follow. Weber argues that the term refers to the thought of so purely as an end in itself, that from the point of view of the happiness of, or utility to, the single individual, it appears entirely transcendental and absolutely irrational.” (p. 53).

On the other hand, the term Calvinism for Weber consists of the mindset that is educated at an early age that one does not know whether one is saved or not. Due to this, man must constantly strive for signs and engagement that can make each one a viable candidate for redemption. Weber mentions that “useless good works might be as a means of attaining salvation, for even the elect remain beings of flesh, and everything they do falls infinitely short of divine standards, nevertheless, they are indispensable as a sign of election” (p.115).

Connecting these two ideas together, it is in here that Weber asserts his theoretical orientation. It can be argued that the two ideas have been vital in the formation of the modern bourgeois capitalism. This is because they served as the important standards that operate on the term. With the initiative to provide development and improvement with the end goal of proving salvation under the Calvinist belief, the true and spirit of capitalism has been created. Thus, it is through the development of such religious beliefs and ideals that paved the way for the formulation of tenets that sprouted the early roots of the capitalist ideals.

(b)       Contrary to the idea of Weber, Durkheim argues that the development of capitalism involves around the way science has been organized and provides the effective benchmark for the creation of values and principles that are relevant to the formation of new ideas and concepts. He believes that the idea operates on man’s notion of rationality. It is through this rise of this freedom that enables man to transcend and use Science as a way to develop the necessary values. It is in here that the ability of science to answer questions provided by individuals is achieved and attained.

            With this central idea, the maximization of man’s freedom allows them to formulate and seek to find answers on important things. It is in here that they were able to develop cohesion and partnerships that enable the foundation of conscience collective. This in turn provides the necessary foundation for organic solidarity and administers the proper foundations for change.

            Operating on this idea, Durkheim shall probably address the tenets presented by Weber and mention it to be too focused on the role of institutions alone while disregarding the element of conscience collective in the process of growth and development. For Durkheim and his organic theory, this process is mainly human-oriented and takes into consideration on important values such as individualism, social justice, etc. This in turn coincides with the creation of a collective understanding that operates on similar values, principles, and tenets. This is what Durkheim believes to be an organic aspect of solidarity contrary to what Weber argues which he refers to be rooted on “mechanical solidarity”

(c)        Foucault may argue and analyze the Weber’s analysis of the origins of capitalism to be lacking the necessary principles that make the process overall operational and functional. He advocates the idea that there have been institutions that motivated the rise of this concept. However, one must understand that these also brought about disciplinary power that can give rise to the Panopticon. Foucault argues that “make the technology of power the very principle both of the humanization of the penal system and of the knowledge of man.” (p. 23)

            At the same time, he may contend with Weber’s idea that punishment must not be understood mainly as a tactic. Rather, it continuously surrounds and operates in different societies. Foucault emphasizes this by saying “do not concentrate the study of the punitive mechanisms on their ‘repressive’ effects alone, on their ‘punishment’ aspects alone, but situate them in a whole series of their possible positive effects, even if these seem marginal at first sight. As a consequence, regard punishment as a complex social function.” (p. 23)

            Lastly, there must be an emphasis on how the human body and soul functions according to regulation and how such relationship between the two can bring about power. Foucault mentions that “thus, by an analysis of penal leniency as a technique of power, one might understand both how man, the soul, the normal or abnormal individual have come to duplicate crime as objects of penal intervention; and in what way a specific mode of subjection was able to give birth to man as an object of knowledge for a discourse with a ‘scientific’ status.” (p. 24)

(2)       Weber argues that the establishment and development of bureaucracy can create the necessary interplay of powers among those given. This is because the foundations of this concept is rooted on the idea of democracy and has a goal of promoting capitalism. This then gives out the capability for society to function accordingly and promote harmonious relationships. Though other theories such as Lenin argue otherwise, Weber feels that revolution cannot destroy bureaucracy but rather strengthen it. At the same time, this concept of bureaucracy has its similarities with the Panopticon provided by Foucault and continues to operate on similar dimensions but different approaches. Though this may be the case, Max Weber believes that passive democracy must be treated accordingly for this can bring about counterweight to bureaucracy.

(a)        For Max Weber for a bureaucracy to actively function, it needs an economy that can sustain its ideals and objectives (capitalism). At the same time, there must also be an effective precursor that will serve as a guide for the attainment of his ideal bureaucracy. It is in here that the application of democracy should be enforced to actively coincide with the needed the machinery that will control the activities relevant to the process.

Likewise, Max Weber believes that the bureaucratic practice is the most effective way an organization handles itself. With this logic, he then tries to refer the overall idea of ‘bureaucracy’ with the term Patromonialism and how this must be prevented. It is in this condition that he outlines several relevant features that a bureaucracy must have to function efficiently. They include (1) fixed area, (2) hierarchy, (3) organization based on conditions, (4) expert training, (5) separate of work, and (6) management through rules. Weber feels that these are necessary components for it to function accordingly and remain to its overall capability of providing ideal scenarios to individuals.

            On the other hand, though his idea may prove to be feasible in the environment he envisions, there are still flaws associated in his framework. These also revolve around the six (6) elements presented by Weber in his theory. For example, under the element of hierarchy, this process may lead to lack of feedback and power never filters down and thus making the overall practice autocratic in nature. Another component such as in expert training can limit down the improvement capabilities of an individual due to narrow perspectives, or limited opportunities available.

(b)       Using the framework of Lenin, it can be argued that he will go against the principles provided by Weber theory of bureaucracy and democracy.  He will mention that the practice of such bureaucracy is an example and tenet of capitalism which undermines the welfare of workers/proletariat. This process enables the individual, system and society to create unequal and unfair practices that foregoes the interest of many. Though he admits that this is a very powerful system, it can be prevented and converted to communism. This can be made possible by creating different revolutionary tactics. After this, a dictator of the proletariat can be introduced into the process. This in turn can create a socialist bureaucracy. It is in here that Lenin will argue that Weber confides to only one part of bureaucracy though there are different types.

            In response to this, Weber will argue that socialist thinkers such as Lenin are disillusioned when he feels that he can topple down bureaucracy with revolution. He believes that this is an important instrument that we have that promotes capitalism. At the same time, he would rather prefer this than creating an order that is predominated by dictatorship. Weber feels that his view can create and justify order within society because there is a particular system that allows each one to perform according to his/her functions accordingly.

(c)        There are striking similarities between Foucault’s panopticon and Weber’s ideal bureaucracy. An important relevance between the two is that both advocate the use of punishment as an instrument in creating compliance. This is vital to ensure that power is maintained by key individuals/people. Another element of similarity is their acknowledgement of the relevance of democracy in their beliefs. Both see it as an important component in promoting the objectives of their respective bureaucratic functions (Weber) and disciplinary power (Foucault).

On the other hand, for the part of Foucault’s theory of disciplinary power, he contends differently from the point of view of Weber as far as the interplay and distribution of power is concerned. On one aspect, Weber argues that the bureaucracy operates on the idea of a top down relationship and it is owned and controlled by a head. Reacting to this, Foucault mentions that the control of power is not associated to the individual or machinery rather it is not provided to anyone concerned.

            Another issue that shows opposing tenets consists of individuals who can possess and apply power accordingly. For Weber, he believes that further examination need to be done to create opportunity for a person to be empowered and improve the process. Contrary to this, Foucault argues that the process of examination does not promote empowerment but be allowed to be subjected, subjugated and disempowered.

            Finally, Foucault may address the idea of Weber surrounding passive democracy in the bureaucratic process is still possible to grow and improve even if it is considered a constraint. He may mention that the overall concept of passive democracy is essential in promoting the element of disciplinary power. In here Foucault argues that “”The expiation that once rained down upon the body must be replaced by a punishment that acts in depth on the heart, the thoughts, the will, the inclinations. Mably formulated the principle once and for all; ‘Punishment, if I may so put it, should strike the soul rather than the body’.” (p. 16)

(3)       In responding to the developments happening in NUMMI, Weber can argue that this is a manifestation of how the concept of his ideal bureaucracy works on this case. This is because it helps consolidate the essential elements of democracy and capitalism within the overall objective of the Freemont auto-assembly plant. At the same time, it clearly advocates with the logic of rationalization as members of the group outline the relevant values and principles that are essential in their profession. Weber argues that “for modern rational capitalism has need, not only of the technical means of production, but of a calculable legal system and of administration in terms of formal rules” (p.25). Seeing the carefully laid out strategy and incorporation of new values and principles within the organizational culture, it allowed better and effective instruments to be channeled on important functions and practices.

            Looking at its division of labor, Weber will argue that NUMMI was able to address the challenges brought about by the dysfunctions of bureaucracy. In here, management was able to address its role of distributing power accordingly to individuals who deserve it. Likewise, though the Freemont auto-assembly plant embraces technological improvements such as robots in several tasks, it continuously trains and rotates individuals in different directions to make them less stagnant of the work. Moreover, having a hierarchical setting mixed with group-based dynamics also allows workers to take part and grow in the process. This then opens up the areas of employee improvement, specialization and expert training.

            Lastly, Weber will argue that with the incorporation of new strategies and rules, it provided the needed shift and change of organizational culture. The NUMMI was able to facilitate greater access to effective monitoring mechanisms and members will respond accordingly. This is then congruent and responsive to the democratic role of the bureaucratic process and how it is essential that power be distributed accordingly. Moreover, it opens up the worker to have an active voice and provide inputs and feedbacks on issues that matter.

            On the other hand, Foucault would mention that the relevance of this issue revolves around the merging of the two ideas that provided the creation of the Panopticon. For Foucault, he can argue that the layoff of previous NAMMI employees and members was an evident sign of how this event serves as a method for exclusion and surveillance of appropriate mechanisms for disciplining. This then was supplemented with the partnership of GM and Toyota to re-establish a plant at that location.

            At the same time, this the harmonious relationship exhibited by members of the NAMMI were a response to the creation of the Panopticon within the company. This is then manifested by the workers easiness in doing their jobs and responding to the challenges of the workplace. Foucault mentions that “”in each of its applications, it makes it possible to perfect the exercise of power. It does this in several ways: because it can reduce the number of those who exercise it, while increasing the number of those on whom it is exercised because it is possible to intervene at any moment and because the constant pressure acts even before the offenses, mistakes or crimes have been committed” (p.206).

            The point of view of Foucault also varies with Weber on the source of power of the organization. Contrary to the notion of Weber, Foucault believes that the company did not lose its power. It is embedded within the institution. It can operate on its own if it wants to. Due to careful examination via surveillance, it decided that it should adopt a new strategy wherein it can make the workers realize their relative worth in the overall process of production.

            Another area that needs consideration is the element of hierarchy in the stabilization of the individuals at the plant. This then can create the necessary discipline to establish better production of output and foster better relationships. Foucault points out that “discipline makes possible the operation of relational power that sustains itself by its own mechanism and which, for the spectacle of public events, substitutes the uninterrupted play of calculated gazes” (p. 177). Thus, such developments are contrary to the notion provided by Weber and his theory.

            Likewise, as far as division of labor is concerned, Foucault will mention that it is not because of newly implanted rules and practice standards as what Weber would say. Rather, it is the realization of the employee of its ability to regulate its own body and provide the necessary areas of improvement. He justifies that “the body becomes a useful force only if it is both a productive body and a subjected body” (p.26).


Durkheim, E. (1997) The Division of Labor in Society. (US; Free Press). Retrieved April 19,


Foucault, M. and Sheridan A. (1995) Discipline and Punish: the birth of the prison. (US;

Vintage Books) Retrieved April 19, 2009.

Solidarity (n.d.) Nummi: A New Kind of Workplace in Solidarity Magazine. Retrieved April 19,

2009. 41-46.

Weber, M. (2003) The Protestant Ethic and Spirit of Capitalism. (UK; Courier Dover

Publications). Retrieved April 19, 2009.

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