Max Weber, a German political economist, legal historian, and sociologist, had an impact on the social sciences that is difficult to overestimate. According to a widely held view, he was the founder of the modern way of conceptualizing society and thus the modern social sciences. His major interest was the process of rationalization, which characterizes Western civilization---what he called the "demystification of the world." This interest led him to examine the three types of domination or authority that characterize hierarchical relationships: charismatic, traditional, and legal. It also led him to the study of bureaucracy; all of the world's major religions; and capitalism, which he viewed as a productof the Protestant ethic. With his contemporary, the French sociologist Emile Durkheim---they seem not to have known each other's work---he created modern sociology.
The new introduction by Ira J. Cohen is an original scholarly work of interest to all who study Max Weber's conception of modern Western capitalism.Theessay situates the institutional and cultural aspects of Weber's view of modern capitalism in the context of his overall vision of the emergence of formal rationality in the Western world. Both aspects of modern capitalism are shown to be defined by economic formal rationality, a type of orientation which is distinct from the legal formal rationality characteristic of Weber's conception of modern bureaucracy.