Weber and Interpretive Sociology in America Author(s): Peter Kivisto and William H. Swatos, Jr.

Source: The Sociological Quarterly, Vol. 31, No. 1 (Spring, 1990), pp. 149-163 Published by: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of the Midwest Sociological Society Stable URL: Accessed: 17/07/2009 07:21
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William H. Swatos,Jr.
Universityof Manitoba
This article examines the role of Weber's methodological writings on verstehende Soziologie in the constructionof an Americanvariantof interpretivesociology during the first half of the twentieth century. It thereby illustratesthe connections between intellectualappropriation theacademicinstitutionalization competingsociological and of schools. After reviewing Weber's generalreceptionin Americansociology, it focuses on the respective relevance of Weber for symbolic interaction,which developed out of the Chicago School; Parsonian actiontheory;andthephenomenologicalsocial theoryof Alfred Schutz. Three conclusions emerge. First, the symbolic interactionistsand their that predecessorsoperatedwith theimplicitassumption theydid notneed Weber.Second, Weber was not only intellectuallyvaluable to Parsons,but also useful in his quest for intellectual hegemony. Finally, Schutz, in offering a third, alternativeand competing of interpretation Weber, served to complicate this strugglebetween the two American schools. sociological The relationship between Weber's methodological writings on verstehende Soziologie and

theconstruction anAmerican of variant interpretive of the sociologyduring firsthalfof the twentieth constitutes particularly a curious in the history thediscipline. tale of A century reviewof thathistoryfromtheperspective the sociologyof knowledge of illustrates the connections betweenintellectual and of appropriation the academicinstitutionalization schools.Specifically, focuson threeinterconnected we issues:the competing sociological to Platt(1985)refersto as the "missinglink" first,factorsthatcontributed whatJennifer betweenWeberand the ChicagoSchool;the second,the manner whichWeberwas in andaccorded privileged a in Parsonian the the appropriated by position theory; third, role scholars whomigrated America to between warsin articulating the a playedby European Weberian-inspired phenomenological sociology. Ourargument Besnard's of use parallels (1986)discussion Parsons's of theDurkheimian of Besnard contends Parsons that the of School'sconcept concept anomie. ignored Chicago
*Directall correspondence PeterKivisto,Department Sociology,Augustana to: of College,Rock Island,IL 61201-2210. The Sociological Volume Number1, pages149-163. Quarterly, 31, Copyright 1990by JAI Press,Inc. ? All rightsof reproduction anyformreserved. in ISSN:0038-0253.



the in it socialdisorganization, utility replacing withanomie anefforttodiscredit theoretical werenotonly we of theformer sociological writings concept. Similarly, findthatWeber's Parsons's valuable Parsons, servedto distance to but sociologyfromthatof intellectually as inasmuch the quest for intellectual This was important his American predecessors. that the indicating required hegemony discrediting ChicagoSchoolwhilesimultaneously the Parsonian actiontheoryprovided new basis for advancing science of society. In a for thinkers thetheoretical lookedtoWeber other and essence,Parsons European prominent of of that sociologywere theory, undergirding his grand implying thefounders American notcapable making similar of a to contribution thisenterprise.

in Weber'sworkin relationto American sociologycannotbe understood interpretive This socialthought. section of of Weberian butonlyin terms theoverall isolation, reception in sketches,in broadstrokes,the manner whichWeber'sideas filteredinto American sociology. DirkKiisler to (1988,p. 197),Inspiteof international According theGerman sociologist, of account thereception no whichhasbeengoingon fordecades, comprehensive research detailsvarious literature A voluminous been presented. of Weber'swork has hitherto in a "systematic has or connections comparisons, he argues, notresulted intellectual but, Kaisler workovertime.Although Weber's accorded of receptions investigation" thevaried elsewhere. the focuseson theGerman reception, lackis evenmoreevident and at is WhileWeberian scholarship a growthindustry present, Weber'splacein the of of pantheon "classic founders" modernsocial scienceis secure,his workhas been that for Parsons received Talcott (1980)comments, example, while slowly,by fitsandstarts. Weber's the at during 1920s,he neverheard studying the LondonSchoolof Economics that namementioned. Coser(1988,p. xiii) discovered Weberwas "practically Similarly, the in at unknown" theSorbonne theearly1930s.Bendix(1984,p. 13) didnotencounter Weber"in his "studentdays" at Chicago, he workof Weberin Europe; "discovered the underLouisWirth. The American experiences studying parallels BritishandFrench to in thiscountry havebeencontent andVelody1989,p. 160).Many (Lassman sociologists of for of utilizeselectiveportions Weber's oeuvrewithlittleconcern theoverallthrust his workhasbeena topicof inquiry intellectual the core activity. Though thematic of Weber's it of at leastsince KarlLiwith's (1932)comparison WeberandMarx,untilrecently has to contributed theway littleattention American in A number factors of received sociology. on in whichWeber's workwasimported America, into depending the they though differed can time For two particular period. ourpurposes, timeperiods be distinguished. The FirstPeriod his The firstperiodencompasses Weber's during lifetime.This is also when reception of stridesin the institutionalization sociologyweremadeandconsolidation the of major of and the emergence the creation the American of process-via SociologicalSociety success. withpartial and as for centers thediscipline-met Figures Chicago Columbia major William Graham suchasFranklin Edward Alsworth Sumner, Small, Ross,Albion Giddings, William IsaacThomas, Lester the and Frank Ward shaped scienceof society. profoundly

Weberand Interpretive Sociologyin America


in the ThesewereWeber'scontemporaries. Though sociologytheycreated, its diverse it (Kivisto1987;VidichandLyman American to cast 1985; had articulations, a distinctively in currents European to Swatos1984;Seidman1983),theywerereceptive contemporary to to a had Indeed, number sojourned Europe, Germany, studydevelparticularly thought. in opments the social sciences.WhilenonestudiedwithWeber,in partbecausehe was activities his until his unable resume to (he teaching longafter breakdown renewed teaching of in 1918,at theUniversity Vienna), should havebeenaware himandhiswork.He of they at to was sufficiently known,forinstance, be invitedto delivera paper the 1904Congress of ArtsandSciencesin St. Louis.(Bulmer [1984,p. 34] andDibble[1975,p. 3] claimthat did Coser[1971,p. 239], thatHugoMunsterberg so; and the Smallextended invitation; scholar The the Weber[1975]andMommsen Munsterberg [1987]support latter.) 6migr6 in from borrowed thelatter designing The of werewellaware eachother. former andWeber criticized in Roscher Knies,Weber and a surveyof industrial while, extensively relations, of thesocialpsychology Munsterberg. in that It is, therefore, somewhat only infrequently surprising Weberwas mentioned in werereviewed nordidany thistime.Noneof his works and during journals bookswritten in Journal Sociology, in of his writings despitethe fact of appear translation theAmerican editors at the timeas advisory served SimmelandTdnnies and thathis friends colleagues wereoftencited andSimmel Ratzenhofer, 1966).WhileGumplowicz, (Tiryakian Schaiflle, betweenWeberand was Weber not.The lackof directcontact sociologists, by American Americanstudentscan accountonly in partfor this situation. Perhapsthe American Weber's sociologistwho knewWeber'sworkbestwas W.E.B.DuBois(theymetduring him in as 1904trip),buthis marginality thediscipline a wholeprevented fromeffectively workwasnotyettranslated that audience. Weber a larger to Similarly, Weber's introducing as German for is onlya partial since sociologists well. explanation, thisheldgenerally other betweenWeber'sconceptionof the Of greatestimportance the incompatibility was science of society and that harbored scholarsin America.First,Weberwas not a by a on wereintent building grand ata timewhenmanyAmerican sociologists system-builder drewheavily for American forthediscipline. theoretical sociologists, thispurpose, systems Second, and,to a lesserextent,ComteandtheGerman organicist uponSpencer Schaiflle. withestabto werenotconducive thoseconcerned Weber'sinterdisciplinary proclivities In nichein theacademy. fact,at leastuntilhis visit to theUnitedStates, lishinga distinct as himself,may identified Americans aneconomist. Weber waslargely Weber, by perhaps thanprimarily rather havedefinedhis workas historical Third,Weberwas sociological. cast at thinking a spell over many anti-evolutionary a timewhenevolutionary decidedly that thepessimism coloredWeber'sworksimplydid not sociologists. Finally, prominent of in with resonate intellectuals century." participating theoptimism "theAmerican The Second Period The secondperiod deathandextendsto mid-century. Duringthis beginswithWeber's werealsonewdevelopbutthere are with continuities thefirstperiod evident, time,certain as As to mentsin theresponse Weber. theChicagoSchoolbeganto consolidate the most in of interest centerfor the discipline 1977),the lack (Bulmer1984;Matthews important to Alexander (1987,p. 21) attempts explain Weber, Jeffrey initiallyat least,exacerbated. "American this that whenhewrites during period, of for of part thereason theneglect Weber



were,by andlarge,alarmingly sociologyin generalandChicagosociologyin particular atheoretical deeply empiricist."While one can challengehis characterization and of as was their on not research, Chicago sociologists atheoretical, emphasis clearly empirical onthesystematic of themtosever 1973,p.45), thisdisinclined development theory (Mullins from empiricalresearchin the manner,for instance,of Parsons. theoryconstruction The However,anotherfactorwas important: ChicagoSchool was in criticalrespects whichcompounded lack of interest Weber.Conversely, empirical in its the ahistorical, concerns preoccupied Chicago that the School-the dynamics thecontemporary and of city racerelations-werenotcentral Weber. Weberian for with The preoccupation politicsand chordwith Park,his colleagues,or his students. religiondid not strikea responsive the that Regarding former topic,it is a notinfrequent complaint the ChicagoSchoolwas In seenclearlyin its ecological of of the metropolis. terms remarkably apolitical, analyses thelatter, into ethic didnotenter theProtestant debate, Chicago-trained sociologists though Americantheologians and historians so just a few years afterthe initialGerman did of thesis(Forsyth 1910;Liebersohn 1988,p. 95). publication Weber's Thissituation wouldchange the1930s,inpart accesstoEnglish abetted thegrowing by by of translations Weber'swork,beginning of with economistFrankKnight'sproduction
GeneralEconomicHistoryin 1927 andTalcottParsons'stranslation TheProtestantEthic of

andtheSpiritof Capitalism 1930(Hinkle1980,p. 311).Interest Weber evolved in in also as Americans continued study Germany; to in he wasalready dead,theynonetheless though cameunderthe influence his thought. of Beckerand are Two notableinstances Howard TalcottParsons a of and wouldreturn produce number (Gerth1982,p. 209). The former the 1933,1934;Becker publications explicating idealtypeandhistorical sociology(Becker andBarnes1952).The latter The would,in his watershed of publication, Structure Social Action in Weber of paramount as (Parsons 1937),treat importance hisownefforttoconstruct thebasisfora grand theoretical synthesis. Hadthesebeentheonlycontributing of an variant Weberian sociology figures, American in in to ascendance power 1933resulted theexodus However, mighthaveemerged. Hitler's of numerous German of intellectuals the UnitedStates.Collectivesettlements these to and scholars wereestablished theNewSchoolforSocialResearch at (Rutkoff Scott 6migr6 namesof In 1986) and, to a lesserextent,Columbia scholarship, University. Weberian EmilLederer, at Lowe,KarlMayer, included, the former institution, importance Adolph AlbertSalomon, Max Theodor AlfredSchutz, HansSpeier; at thelatter, and Adorno, and, who Herbert von PaulLazarsfceld, Alexander Schelting. and Horkheimer, Marcuse, Figures found academic homes Theodore Reinhard included elsewhere thecountry Abel, throughout of HansGerth, PaulHonigsheim. influence someof these The and Bendix,CarlFriedrich, scholars was largelylimitedto theirexilic institutions, while for othersit extended well to thediscipline large. at beyond came Due to themultiplicity interpretations Weberian of no of thought, oneassessment to dominate American Whenthisis compounded of by sociology'sunderstanding Weber. theslow andhalting translation Weber English, is notsurprising as H. Stuart of into it that,
Hughes (1975, p. 31) writes, "The Weberianattitudepermeatedsocial thought by slow capillaryaction." A fruitfuldialoguebetweenWeberiantheoryandthe Americanempirical researchtraditionwas sought by some, the relationshipbetween Paul Lazarsfeldand his American colleagues constituting perhaps the most obvious instance of this attempted

Weberand Interpretive Sociologyin America


workwasused Weber's into As divided increasingly subspecialties, synthesis. thediscipline students sociologybecame of American Some with to eclectically littleregard itasa totality. Charles for with workintheGerman familiar Weber's Pageanda number original; example, of of other students Columbia (many whomwouldbecomeprominent graduate University von in und to wereintroduced Wirtschaft Gesellschaft Alexander by figures thediscipline) reliedon translasocialscientists mostAmerican Schelting (Page1982,p. 27). However, volume. of translation theabove-mentioned tions;theywaiteduntil1968fora complete into A consequence theway thatWeber's ideasfiltered American of sociologywas that his of or the itwasverydifficult determine anyprecision degree extent impact thought to with of his workbeganto be utilized hadin shaping American aspects developments. Clearly devotedto a the bodyof literature expanding during 1950sand 1960s,producing rapidly were that received farthemostattention bureaucracy, Weberian themes. three The by topics of amount this workdevotedto the issue of charismatic (witha considerable authority ethicthesis.In and in newly-established nations), the Protestant post-colonial legitimacy was in eachinstance, perhaps mostevidently thelast,muchof thisresearch conducted but workon thesethemes. of with in anahistorical manner atvariance thethrust Weber's quite scholars efforts notonlyvarious of previously-mentioned Despitetheinterpretive 6migr6 aloneas cameto stand onefigure scholars suchas C. Wright butalsoAmerican-born Mills, Talcott Parsons of the majorexegete advancingthe importance Weberianthought: effortswere viewed with (Mommsen1989, p. 181). Since Parsons'sgrandtheoretical in quantitative-research, empirical-especially by suspicion thoseinterested promoting he him it his location Harvard probably was crucial: removed fromthecriticisms likely at he elsewhere. in wouldhaveencountered moreestablished Nonetheless, was departments and to of withtherelationship theory quantitative forced wrestle to research, his persistently alliancewithStouffer be seen in thislight.All of this,of course,further can complicates Parsons's to relationship Weber. of Giventhe hegemony Parsonian period,manyotherWeberian theoryin thepost-war to of scholarscame to advancetheirown interpretations Weberin contradistinction the the who beganhis career engaging classicsin behalfof a offeredby Parsons, by portrait voluntaristic theory of action that would overcome the deficiencies of positivism, is Weber notalways toward of Whilehis reading andattitude and ulititarianism, idealism. of that it is certain he was convinced the mainorientation Weber'sworkhada that clear, a fostered particular marked affinitywithhis own. Thisexegeticalbias,not surprisingly, that "It is onlynatural when of critique Parsons: Alexander kind of as (1987,p. 119)notes, of wouldchallengehis readings the the criticscame to challengeParsons's theorythey theriseandfallof decades four the classicsin turn."During approximately encompassing wide rather criticspersistently the structural-functionalist soughtto illustrate paradigm, of thediscipline foundconvergence whereParsons amongtheclassicfigures divergences this Weber" weremadeto "de-Parsonize efforts during period (Popeet al. 1975).Repeated et (Cohen al. 1975). of matrix sociologyandto create(in the Parsons zealously soughtto reshape theoretical and Gordon suchasClydeKluckhohn, in with Allport, Edward part, conjunction colleagues to and socialscience.His single-mindedness apparent imperviousness Shils)anintegrated underto criticism(see Homans1984,p. 323) appeared be impelledby his Puritanical wildernesswas to createa new into the intellectual standingof vocation:his errand



the on conceptual on thehill.During 1960sandupto his deathin 1977,theattacks his city workintensified, in Gouldner's captured (1970)studyof thediscipline's "comingcrisis." Neartheendof Parsons's thenewexegete system-builder, Giddens and life, (1976), Anthony woulddeliverthe eulogyat the funeral structural-functionalism. resultof this, in of The termsof Weber'sthought, an efflorescence scholarship was of devotedto reassessing his corpus. INTERPRETIVE IN SOCIOLOGY AMERICA Withinthis contextAmerican schools of interpretive sociology arose.Threeprincipal canbe distinguished: symbolic whichdeveloped of theChicago out interaction, thought (1) actiontheory; (3) a phenomenological and most School;(2) Parsons's approach perhaps identified with the 6migr6 AlfredSchutz.In this section,each schoolis scholar, closely reviewed for of brieflyin aneffortto locatetherelevance Weber each,as wellas to indicate therelationships them. among The ChicagoSchool W.I. Thomaswas the firstimportant figurefromthe ChicagoSchoolto subsequently influence development symbolicinteraction. articulation the conceptof the the of of His "definitionof the situation"becamea touchstone those intenton establishing for a situational thatsoughtto investigate waysin whichsubjective objective and the sociology factors contribute a socialactor's to definition thesituation of 1929).Inso viewing (Thomas thetaskof sociology,Thomas's to evincesobvioussimilarities thatof Weber. As approach observes: (1986,p. 44) Rochberg-Halton
Thomas's two-sided concept of situation as the configurationof conditioning factors that are selectively defined by the person and thatshape behavior... reveals a concern somewhat similar to Weber's concept of action as subjectively intended meaning oriented to a conditioning "outer world" of objects and processes of nature and as meaning determinedthroughobjectively rationalmeans.

it did Despitethis similarity, is clearthatWeberian thought not enterinto Thomas's formulations. is the case in spiteof thefact thatThomas readGerman, This sociological in studied Germany theacademic 1888-1889,andtraveled during extensively throughyear outEurope various at workreflectshis immersion pointsin his life. Hisearliest published in the fields of folk psychology ethnology, and fieldshe explored duringhis intensively studiesat Gottingen Berlin.Such interests and with the central were quiteat variance thematic concerns disciplinary and of groundings Weber. Even in his monumental studyon ThePolishPeasantin EuropeandAmerica(1918Councilas the most important 1920), hailedin 1938 by the Social Science Research bookwritten Thisabsence the Weber doesnotenter. sociological during twentieth century, is surprising, part,because in was Thomas's on collaborator thestudy,Florian Znaniecki, an 6migr6 scholar familiar withcontemporary in The currents German scholarship. book usedpersonal documents getatthelivedexperience Polishimmigrants inso doing to of and

Weberand Interpretive Sociologyin America


sociology. While not methodological examplefor interpretive providedan important the in 1938byHerbert without problems, its rather assessed Blumer, bookis, Norbert harshly argues, Wiley(1986,p. 34) convincingly
completely hermeneuticand interpretivein what it does, i.e., in its logic-in-use. Such notions as the following arepresent,operatively,in the book: thatreality is constructed interactivelyas well as individually,that a level of interactionintervenesbetween and connects attitudesand values, thatinteractionproceeds within concentriccircles of life worlds ..., and that selves "ground" the validity of attitudes much as societies '"ground"the validity of values.

to Thomasappears have developedhis approach sociologicalinquiryeclectically, to in general, theworkof DeweyandMead and theimprint American of though pragmatism the constituted major inparticular occasional disclaimers Thomas), undoubtedly (despite by a basisforan interpretive for his thought. approach His provided philosophical grounding of sociology in fundamental ways untouched Weberand by the particularities the by sciencesthatso and the Rickertain debate overthedifferences between human thenatural him engaged (Oakes1988). profoundly if is his GivenThomas's omniverous intellectual interests, neglectof Weber perplexing, East in of forno otherreason thanthatWeber's sociologyon thesituation workers applied even more ElbianGermany relevance the studyof the Polishpeasant. had for However, is Park. perplexing thecaseof Robert Bulmer in attention focused Park recent has on Considerable 1984; 1977; (Matthews years in and he Lal 1987;Smith1988;Rauschenbush 1979).LikeThomas, studied Germany he knewGerman. was sufficiently He fluentto writea German thesis,MasseundPublikum. four in He Simmel's 1899he attended lectures. remained Germany years,returning During withthosewhenWeber'smental in to Harvard 1903 (theseyearsessentially correspond took breakdown its heaviest tool). an to that heart Martindale Whilethisis perhaps (1960)argues Park's belonged Simmel. in Parkwithhis only formal it is thecase thatSimmeldidprovide training overstatement, to It was, according Levine (1985, p. 112), somethingof an "ambivalent sociology. about in Park nevertheless found it "abasicwaytothink encounter"; society... byapplying resolvedtwo the focus on interaction For the notionof forms of interaction." Park, as actorswerenot an to dilemmas. reductionism, First,it provided alternative sociological external socialforces.Second,it didnotlimitsociology deemedmereeffectsof powerful science. of level. Sociologywascapable beinga nomothetic to an ideographic on Parkwas interested science,carrying sociologyas anempirical chieflyin advancing of Thomas'swar against"armchair sociology."To thatend he engageda generation he life. urban In contrast, cared students studymyriad to of aspects contemporary graduate of two a littleabout theoretical system.Indeed, strands theory developing coherent general one his workin an uneasyrelationship: is ecological,the otheris interpretive. permeate of a While spaceprecludes detaileddiscussion his interpretive sociology,one example Simmel's sufficesto illustrate impact. In "Behind Our Marks" (1950), Park's analysis of race relations views race



at level to racedynamics the and at phenomenologically linksinteraction the individual force is great macro-level. contends societies He of that where significance racial the identity race of another to to for racelikea mask,making impossible members it persons weartheir of seetheperson anindividual. as is this appropriationSimmel's Underlying analysis Park's The in the the of interaction reading faceof theother. insight regarding importance human of workof everyday entailsan ongoingassessment adjudication the and life interpretive motivesandintentions others, of possibleonly whenthe faceof theotheris a transparent text.Whenoccluded a racialmask,suchunderstandingimpossible. is Thus,in societies by and so characterized, relations themicro-level proneto tension conflict. race at are Inherstudyof intellectual influences Park, on (1988,p. 364;cf. Platt1985) Lengermann followedby Sumner, thatSimmelis the figurehe cites mostfrequently, Thomas, reports in andSpencer. laterwritings, Whileonefindsinfrequent references Weber Park's to clearly Weberdid not play a role in shapingPark'sconception the sociologicalenterprise. of a Simmel'sformalsociologyattracted Parkbecauseit was seen as providing basis for a fromhistory a in science.Simmelaccomplished by divorcing this generalizable sociology to manner wasquiteat oddswithWeber's whichattempted providethebasis that project, thrust fora genuinely was historical de-historicizing sociology.Theconsequence a marked to Park'ssociologyin particular to theChicago Schoolin general. and of theoretical WithHerbert we of Blumer, see thedistillation themajor preoccupations theChicago of aninterpretive Schoolandtherefinement further and sociology development whichin 1937he dubbed herearethe antecedent Of "symbolicinteractionism." interest insofar Blumer mostimportant Blumer. thisregard, In to (1969,p. 3) is helpful sociologists in his as he citesa number thinkers of deemed be instrumental shaping own sociological to and Znaniecki, Cooley. Thomas, Park, Sumner, James, Baldwin, perspective: Dewey,Mead, of brand All are Americans, a Thus,Blumer represents distinctive exceptfor Znaniecki. Weber is thinkers. at by interpretive sociologythatis notinformed, leastdirectly, European this referred only infrequently Blumer'swritings(for thatmatter, is the case with to in Simmel, also). as ThatBlumer not explicitlyinvokeWebershouldnot be construed an indication did in thattheworkof thetwodidnotresonate key respects 1989,p. 40). In the (Hammersley be should applied sciences first that to place,bothargued themethods appropriatethehuman that Blumer contended theconcepts witha sensitivity thecontingencies human to action. of theirpurpose andtheories thesocialsciencesshould "sensitizing," of be beingto cull out andofferinterpretationsprimary of socialreality. of order Thus,heopposed interpretations But and to theories claimto be bothuniversal context-free. that attempts construct grand this is not to suggestthatsymbolicinteractionism hostileto theoryand is primarily is as concerned describe to interaction themicro-level. at Indeed, Lyman (1987,p. 6; see also is interactionism "neiBlumerian indicates, symbolic Lyman1984andFineunpublished) ther anti-theoretical, purely ideographic,inherently subjective, nor confined to .... microecological investigations " Blumer'sviewpointwas very similarto Weber's, saw Weber idealtypes,for whichopposed effortsto create immutable theoretic an system. to as and This (1986,p. instance, transient contingent. view resulted, according Fitzhenry structure." in minimalism" tentativeness "hisformal and 148),in a "certain conceptual It is ironicthatthe similarity and Weberian Blumerian between sociologyshouldbe so

Weberand Interpretive Sociologyin America


To we of the this, longobscured. explicate at leastin part, explore appropriation Weber by Parsons. Parsonian ActionTheory ThesameyearthatBlumer coinedtheterm"symbolic Talcott Parsons interactionism," his firstmajorwork,TheStructure SocialAction(1937). Therein Parsons published of of of scholars-but especiallythe writings employedthe thought a varietyof European and a of Marshall, Pareto, Durkeim, Weber-to articulate voluntaristic theory actionthat would overcome limitations utilitarianism yetfindroomforrational the of and action within the parameters societaland cultural of constraints. soughtto indicatean incipient He in of last Thathe discussed Weber suggests convergence thethought theseclassicfigures. Weber's to peculiar importance him. Parsons a in in Indeed, expressed lifelonginterest Weber, beginning the 1920s,whenhe an and and The Ethic published essayon Weber theriseof capitalism translated Protestant andtheSpiritof Capitalism English, extending someof his lastwritings, into and to where he soughtto reappraise ownthought. his Of relevancehere is Parsons'suse of Weber'sverstehen method,which he saw as a of socialactor:its conceptof intenproviding crucialbasisfor analyses the individual or an of to reductionism behavtionality, voluntarism, provided alternative thesociological iorism. Extended debatehasensuedconcerning of Parson's particular interpretation Weberian In verstehen. part,the exegesisis impeded ambiguities Weber.However,another in by did difficultyis thatParsons not merelyseek to explicateWeber,but used him in the construction his own theoretical of of edifice.Of importance is the centrality value here in consensus Parsons's for thisis directly oddswithWeber,whoseportrait at of thought, valueconflictis actually similar thatof Blumer. to Weber's on in as socialactionwasreinforced Parsons, emphasis rational resulting, Alan Sica(1988)indicates, a theoretical in This devaluation theirrational. is rather of surprising in Parsonsgiven the prominence accordedto Pareto,but it nonethelessresultsin he out a of bracketing of consideration significant spectrum socialaction.Some arguethat Parsons misconstrued Weber fromthestart, and due translations, thusgave perhaps tofaulty verstehen undue"psychological an twist" (Munch1975, p. 61; see also Graber 1975). with that true Parsons have Others, beginning Scott(1963),contend however to Weber may beenin 1937,heprogressively in of abandoned action his a theory favor functionalism,social structural or approach, systems theory,all of which are much more congruentwith Durkheimian than thought withWeberian theory. Jonathan Turner and that Recently, (1988,p. 73, pp. 134-135)hasargued Weber Parsons a shared common theiractiontheories lacked"a modelof interaction." Turner problem: notesthatParsons to havebeenunaware" bothSchutz's of of "appears earlyanalysis this andthe "relevant workof GeorgeHerbert Mead."Indicating valueSimmel the problem should havehadforParsons, Turner recalls Parsons's decision excludeSimmelfromThe to Structure SocialAction because "didnot'fit' intothescheme he wasproposing." he that of From perspective, interest Parsons's our of in various resistances theoretical to incorporation is theissueof intellectual a to competition. Simply Schutz put, representeddirect challenge



Parsons's of whileMeadandSimmelweretheoretically central leading to analysis Weber, outof theChicago School. figures coming The presentreappraisal Parsons of 1981;Miinch1987) 1978;Bourricaud (Alexander reflectsthe "current in socialtheory interregnum" contemporary (Wiley1985).Parsonian to but has of thought mayno longerbe hegemonic, neither it beenconsigned thedustbins intellectual It in one history. remains of manycompetitors thesociological marketplace. WhenParsons themostimportant in was he theorist thesociological universe, operated with proselytizing zeal in an ecumenical and politicallymarginal fashion.Ethnically students werewelcomed thefold.Competing into with wereadjudicated patrician theories His was and of of the generosity. strategy to facilitate inclusion individuals ideas;channels communication always were waspermitted, that (thisis nottosuggest genuine dialogue open as will be seen below in the case of Schutz).Thus,an interesting exchangetookplace betweenParsons Blumer a resultof theclaimby Jonathan and that as Turner Parsons and the symbolicinteractionists theirviews on were in fundamental concerning agreement socialaction, organization. and on Parsons's expressed personality, (1976)comment Turner essential withthisclaim.Incontrast, that Blumer (1976)argued thedifferences agreement wereconsiderable: of whereas the studied processes interaction, symbolicinteractionism Parsonian the functionalism onlyinterested theproducts interaction. in was of Furthermore, former inductive; latter, was the deductive. Thisexample like indicates Parsons's desireto be inclusive. Others, Coser(1976, clearly Luddism." in assaulted for interaction its "intellectual Parsons, p. 157),directly symbolic be seenin a could to of that contrast, patiently attempted indicate thevirtues interactionism morepristine of in the articulation hisownwritings. is important remember context this to It Parsonian and under attack fromseveral from exchange. thought, though quarters, especially conflict-oriented had over sociologists, threedecadesearlier triumphed symbolicinteractionism. Blumer hisdescendants beenconsigned theroleof theloyalopposition. and had to to Parsons fromhis throne. Thus,notonlycould Theywerenotthelikelycandidates usurp Parsons afford be generous, suchwasprobably wise defensive to maneuver. but a in Prior thisoverture symbolic to to evident hisearly interactionists thisis especially (and American workin any significant didnot factorintoParsons's publications) sociologists it way. In the questfor hegemony, was essentialthatthe workof the ChicagoSchoolbe devalued. was already It its who beingchallenged quantifiers considered empiricism by who hadmovedfromColumbia Chicago,pressedto to insufficiently rigorous. Ogburn, method withstatistical Parsons, contrast, replacethe ethnographic by soughtto analyses. not its methodology. tacticfor questioning adequacy the of His replace Chicago's theory, its theoretical orientation to operate if suchtheory notexist.No critique the was of as did and of ChicagoSchoolwas everoffered,no explicitassessment its strengths weaknesses Hamilton of presented. (1983, p. 81) refersto this as "Parsons's benigndisregard the and in traditions American socialtheory."In outcome, pragmatic symbolicinteractionist hiscourse action moredamning: elements of was the needed histheory for construction had tobe imported, American to on sociology prior hisarrival thescene,to histhinking, existing in a kindof theoretical void. Schutzand Phenomenological Sociology Parsons to responded similarly AlfredSchutz.Schutzwantedto createan interpretive

Weberand Interpretive Sociologyin America


in and He sociologyexplicitly grounded theworkof Weber Husserl. wasdeeplyimmersed in theintellectual in as and,whenhe arrived America an 6migr6 legacyof Weber scholar, scholars who shared interest. particular, his In Schutzsaw soughtcontactwithAmerican Parsons a "fellowWeberian grasped sociology understanding" as who of his 1983, (Wagner a with who p. 75). Schutzinitiated correspondence Parsons, in 1940invitedhimto present a lectureat Harvard. encounter This for provedfrustrating Schutz:fromhis perspective, Parsons showedno interest seekingto rectify clarifyvarious in in and ambiguities Weber's whenSchutzofferedcollegiallyintended criticisms of Moreover, interpretive sociology. Parsons's own work,he was met withsilence.Whiletheircommunication continued for sometime(Grathoff concluded Parsons unwilling enter that to was 1978),Schutz ultimately intogenuine withhim.Furthermore, Parsons when to his turned attention systems dialogue in for struck theoryin the 1950s,Schutzlost interest theParsonian project, this approach himas an abandonment thecentrality interpretation, of of whichhe sawas thehallmark of Weber's work. Parsons'scourtesytowardSchutzwhile simultaneously to impervious the remaining latter's criticisms be understood terms their can in of At intellectual locations. the respective timeoftheir Parsons had He himself a major as encounter, clearly "arrived." hadestablished forcein thediscipline wasalready and surrounded a coterie graduate of He students. had by also forgedrelationships key figuresat Harvard othersocialsciences-part of his with in an for theoretical framework thesocialsciences.Meanwhile, planto construct overarching Schutz a doubly was intellectual: onlywashe located not out marginalized academically of the mainstream, thatbastionof iconoclastic at theNew School,buthis position thought, therewas part-time. survived He in financially working a bank.Thesecircumstances by madeit impossible Schutz be a significant for to to could Thus,Parsons challenger Parsons. to witha kindof civil inattentiveness. respond Schutz It is peculiar Schutzian that in was or phenomenology neverengaged a serious sustained withsymbolic interactionism. Should havehappened, this Weber's would dialogue thought havemadecontact withthatof theAmerican of It progenitors symbolicinteractionism. is notclearwhySchutz exhibited littleinterest suchanexchange. so in theconverse Similarly, lackof interest symbolic interactionistsperplexing, is Fine by though (1988,p. 31) suggests atleasta partial whenheargues the"interactionist that is explanation perspective at its core socialandrelational, whereas phenomenological the the approach emphasizes individual construction theworld, world discrete separate of a of and As actors. a result, interactionists feel uncomfortable the writingsof Schutzwhose conceptof relations (sic) atwith are In tenuated." consequence, the 1960s,an American until on intellectual tradition, theone and influenced Weber, theother, on remained hand, a European counterpart by remarkably alooffromeachother. CONCLUSION Froma presentist whereWeber'sintellectual looms largeover the perspective, heritage it to the horizon, is at timesdifficult appreciate slowandfitfulincorporation of sociological Weber American into as hasbeensuggested of above,thereception Weber sociology.Yet, in general aptlybe characterized whatPaulHonigsheim can by (1968,p. 142)refersto as "American eclecticism."This articlehas focusedon the variedreceptionof Weber's



but not responses, interpretive sociology,andhassoughtto illustrate only threedifferent Weberinto an established effortsto appropriate especiallythose factorsthatmitigated American tradition interpretive of sociology. Simply put, Blumerand his immediate that and with assumption theydidnotneedWeber. predecessors heirsoperated theimplicit Weber to to he in needed we Parsons, contrast, Weber; part, haveargued, needed import by and indicate theoretical the deficiencies American of sociologyin general of the Chicago this School in particular. of Schutz(like a number other6migr6scholars) complicated of In for intellectual a distinctly reading Weber. European struggle hegemony offering by Buteven in this American so doing,he helpedestablish morecosmopolitan a sociology. in opennessto competing present"interregnum" sociology,characterized a greater by little has been done to theoretical traditions thanwas the case in the past,remarkably between and the andtocomprehend significance both similarities differences the of explicate Weber's verstehende andAmerican sociology. interpretive Soziologie

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