MAX WEBER  (1864-1920)          

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Max Weber was born 1864 and died 1920. Weber asks how is it a leader can give a command and have actions carried out? He answered the question by classifying claims to the "legitimacy" in the exercise of authority. Except for slavery, people entered into one of three kinds of leader/follower relations (Weber, 1947: 328-349, summarized).

Table One: Max Weber's (1947) Model of Transaction and Transformation Leadership Authority

THREE OPTIONS FOR THE Capitalist Entrepreneur 2. Bureaucratic (Transactional)

Bureaucracy is "the exercise of control on the basis of knowledge: (p. 339). It is the stuff of rational legal hierarchical power, the Bureaucratic leader.

1. Charismatic (Transformer)

An individual personality  set apart form ordinary  people and endowed with supernatural, superhaman powers, and heroic qualities. In short part Hero, and part Superman/ Superwoman.

3. Traditional (Feudal) 

Traditional is an arbitrary exercise of Sultan power bound to loyalty, favoritism, and politics. It is stuff of Princely leadership.


  1. Bureaucratic/ Rational Grounds - resting on a believe in the 'legality' of patterns of normative rules and the right of those elevated to authority under such rules to issue commands (legal authority).
    • The leader is subject to strict and systematic discipline and control in the conduct of the office. 
    • Claims to obedience based on rational values and rules and established by agreement (or imposition). The office holder is restricted to impersonal official obligations and commands.
    • Consistent system of abstract rules to apply to particular cases and governing the limits laid down on the corporate group.
    • There is a clearly defined hierarchy of offices. Persons exercise the authority of their office and are subject to an impersonal order; officials, not persons exercise authority. They have the necessary authority to carry out their specialized functions.
    • Each office is defined sphere of competence and is filled by a free contractual relationship (free selection based on technical qualifications or examination). Each office is a career, a full time occupation. 
    • People are remunerated by fixed salaries, in money and in pensions. Salary scales are graded according to rank in the hierarchy. 
    • There is a system of promotion based upon seniority or achievement (dependent on judgment of  superiors). 
    • Person who obeys authority does so in their capacity as a member of the corporate group. 
    • Person does not owe obedience to the individual, but to the impersonal order.
    • A specified sphere of competence involves a sphere of obligations to perform functions marked off in the division of labor. Not every administrative organ is provided with compulsory powers.
    • The means of compulsion are clearly defined and their use is subject to definite conditions.
    • There are rules that regulate the conduct of an office (either technical rules or norms). 
    • Only people demonstrating adequate technical training qualification can be selected to be administrative staff or placed in official positions. 
    • There is a right to appeal and a right to state grievances from the lower to the higher. 
    • Sometimes administrative heads are elected. But in the pure form, the hierarchy is dominated by the principle of appointment.  Appointment by free selection and and free contract is essential to modern bureaucracy.  
    • Administrative staff should be completely separated from ownership of the means of production or administration. Workers, staff, and administrators do not own the means of production. There is a complete separation of property belonging to the personal and to the organization. The exception is the peasantry who still owns the means of subsistence (p. 338). 
    • People do not own their positions
    • Administrative acts, decisions, and rules are formulated and recorded in writing.  
    • At the op of the business corporation is a position that is not purely bureaucratic.  It is more the position of a monarch (p. 3350. 
    • Capitalism fosters bureaucratic development, though bureaucracy arises in other settings (e.g. socialist).  "Capitalism is the most rational economic basis for bureaucratic administration and enables it to develop in the most rational form...". (p. 339). Weber foresaw that socialism would require a higher degree of formal bureaucracy than capitalism (p. 339). 
    • EXAMPLES: The Catholic Church, hospitals, religious orders, profit-making business, large-scale capitalistic enterprise, modern army, the modern state, trade union, and charitable organizations (p. 334-335).
    • ADVANTAGES - capable of attaining the highest degree of efficiency. Technical efficiency. The corporate control over coercive leaders. Favors the leveling of social classes.
    • DISADVANTAGES - powerful interests co-opt the offices and turn them into feudal kingdoms. 
      1. Leveling in the interest of broadest possible basis of recruitment in terms of technical competence.
      2. Tendency to plutocracy growing out of interest in greater length of technical training.
      3. Formalistic spirit of impersonality that stunts enthusiasm and passion; Duty over personal considerations.
  2. Traditional Grounds - resting on an established belief in the sanctity of immemorial traditions and the legitimacy of the status of those exercising authority under them (traditional authority).
    • Legitimacy and power to control is handed down from the past. This power can be exercised in quite arbitrary ways (Chief can declare himself above the jurisdiction of the court).
    • Office held by virtue of traditional status and be recruiting favorites or by patrimony. 
    • Obligations are not by office but personal loyalty to the chief. contracts of fealty. 
    • Promotion is by the arbitrary grace of the chief (no technical training of skill required). 
    • Commands are legitimized by traditions
    • Obligations of obedience on the basis of personal loyalty (kinship, slaves, or dependents).
    • Chief if free to confer or withhold his personal pleasure or displeasure according to personal likes and dislikes that  can be arbitrary. 
    • The traditional exercise of authority is only limited by resistance aroused in the subjects. Or, but pointing to a failure to act according to the traditions. 
    • Vassals are sorts of favorite people of the chief. This is termed Sultanism (the organization responds to arbitrariness and irrationality, rather than to the rationality of economic activity, p. 355).
    • Functions are defined in terms of competition among the interest of those seeking favors, income, and other advantage. Fees can be paid to the Royal courts to purchase functions, such as shipping or taxation. This allows some mobility among the classes. It also results in bribery and corruption as well as disorganization. 
    • There is an irrational division of official functions (established by rights or fees, as described above). 
    • EXAMPLES - ruling families, feudal kingdoms in China Egypt and Africa, family business, Roman and other nobilities, clans and armies of the coloni. 
    • DISADVANTAGES:  The development of capitalism is obstructed (p. 355). In Traditional authority, the following Bureaucratic facets are ABSENT that facilitate capitalism (p. 343):
      1. Clearly defined sphere of competence subject to impersonal rules
      2. Rational ordering of relations of superiority and inferiority
      3. A regular system of appointment and promotion on the basis of free contract
      4. Technical training as a regular requirement
      5. Fixed salaries


  3. Charismatic Grounds - resting on devotion to the specific and exceptional sanctity, heroism or exemplary character of an individual person, and of the normative patterns or order revealed or ordained by him (charismatic authority). 
    • Charismatically qualified leader is obeyed by virtue of personal trust in him and his revelation, their heroism or exemplary qualities so far as they fall within the scope of the individual's belief in his charisma.
    • The words mission and spiritual duty are used q lot, as are words like heroic warrior, prophet, and visionary. 
    • Charisma regarded as of divine origin, the person is treated as a leader. 
    • Hero worship. Heroism begins with proof of charismatic qualification.  The hero must fight, and must be successful in brining benefit to followers, or charismatic authority will disappear. Acts of misfortune can be signs that the 'gift' has been withdrawn by the gods. 
    • Deference to heroes in a war, leaders of a hunt, people of legal wisdom or a shaman. founds of religions such as Mormonism (Joseph Smith) or Christianity (Christ) or Islam (Muhammad). 
    • "What is alone important is how the individual is actually regarded by those subject to charismatic authority, but his 'followers' or 'disciples' "(p. 359). 
    • Set apart from ordinary people and endowed with supernatural and superhuman powers and abilities. 
    • one type of charisma is a hereditary monarchy; Another is patriarchal authority. A third is religious charismatic. A fourth is the military hero.
    • Charismatic leaders choose members not for technical training, but on the basis of social privilege and the charismatic qualities of disciples. People are not promoted, they are only called or summoned on the basis of their charismatic qualification.  
    • Followers live in communistic relationship with their leaders on means provided as voluntary gifts. 
    • There are no established administrative organs.
    • There is no system of formal rules. the only basis of authority is personal charisma.
    • There is no abstract legal principle.
    • The leader preaches, creates, or demands new obligations.  There are revelations and then there is the leaders will to power (Nietzsche).
    • Charismatic authority repudiates the past and is in this sense a revolutionary force (in contrast to traditional authority). 
    • Charismatic authority is radically opposed to both rational and particularly bureaucratic authority (p. 361). 
    • The charismatic is also, in pure for, an anti-economic force (p. 362).  At the same time it is the greatest revolutionary force. 
    • Charisma can not be taught, learned or acquired in discipleship. charisma can only be tested for, as in the Jedi Knights of Star Wars. And there is all kinds of magical asceticism to the Jedi Knights that is proof of their charisma, not to mention their heroic journeys of adventure. 
    • When two charismatic leaders oppose one another, the only recourse is to some kind of a contest, by magical means or even an actual physical battle of the leaders (p. 361). 
    • the biggest challenge is for the charismatic administrative staff to transition to a bureaucratic and rational administration (p. 370-371). 
    • ADVANTAGES - escape the control of bureaucratic apparatus. Escape the bonds of traditional inertia. 

    Weber is careful to point out that none of the three ideal types occurs in "pure" form (p. 329, 333). And he noted that any pure charisma went through a process of routinization. There can be a combination of bureaucratic and charismatic leadership (p. 333). And Weber was quite clear in stating that at the top of the bureaucracy, sits a CEO who fits the category of the monarch; what Machiavelli calls the Prince (p. 335). And at the top of the military command, is an officer who is "clearly marked off by certain class distinctions" (p. 356).  Officers differ radically from charismatic leaders (though General Douglas MacArthur was said to combine position, class elitism, and charisma).  Mercenary armies could be dispatched for private capitalistic purposes (p. 356).  

    Weber observed that there can be gradual transitions between the three types. The capitalistic entrepreneur could charismatically organize an enterprise with loyal followers vested in their vision and mission. Then as the hierarchy, rules, contracts, and other apparatus are applied, the charismatic leader sits a top a bureaucracy.  The bureaucracy set constraints upon his exercise of authority and leadership.  It may even replace him with an office-holder.  As the bureaucracy turns to stone, it becomes increasingly feudalistic, based on precedent, ritual and tradition.  Soon people look about for a charismatic leader to transform the feudal situation into a charismatic cause. There is a decentralization of authority, more delegation, and professionalization of appointments. Thus through charismatic transformation, the traditional authority becomes a bureaucracy, and turns feudal, and the endless cycle continues on till the present moment. Only small firms escape the influence of bureaucracy, but as they grown there is no escape. 

    Yet while the cycle continues, the spread of bureaucratic administration in church, military, court, state, corporation, and university is foretold by Weber. Bureaucracy to Weber was the first knowledge organizations. 

Bureaucratic administration means fundamentally the exercise o control on the basis of knowledge.  This is the feature of it which makes it specifically rational.  This consists on the one hand in technical knowledge which, by itself, is sufficient to ensure it a position of extraordinary power.  But in addition... holders of power... increase their power... by the knowledge growing out of experience... technical knowledge is somewhat the same position as commercial secrets to to technological training. It is a product of the striving for power (p. 339). 

What is interesting and pioneering about Weber's knowledge organization, is that it is based on a theory of power. Technical and experience knowledge and the control of it is part of the striving for power. And "the capitalistic entrepreneur is, in our society, the only type who has been able to maintain at least relative immunity from subjection to the control of rational bureaucratic knowledge: (p. 339). The charismatic has divine and magical power to inspire devotion and to return successfully from heroic journeys. 

    Overtime, there is routinization of charisma.  The charismatic leader and following can not remain stable, and will turn to either traditional or bureaucratic authority. The bureaucracy may need a charismatic leader to initiate reform, even revolution, but once the change is made, the charismatic personality has to go. Other interest become conspicuously evident.

    There can be a search for a new charismatic leader. Techniques of succession are based on finding someone with a calling, but not by rational selection criteria. The designated one must attain the recognition of the community. It is not a matter of majority vote, unanimity is required. Charismatic rule is sometimes transferred by heredity, but the bearer must prove they have charisma. Kings and Queens anoint their successor in coronations with great official ritual and public spectacle.  In the weak form, charismatic legitimacy is given to the position, as in the succession of popes and their divine right to rule being decided by ritual means.  If the personal charismatic leader can not find another charismatic person to succeed them, they the corporation will turn to a Prince or Bureaucrat. 

    There are several main points. 

  1. Weber present more than an ideal type model of bureaucratic, traditional and charismatic authority. His is a dynamic model showing how one form of leadership and organization reverts into the other.
  2. Therefore, the model is cyclical, with charismatic being the most unstable form, and bureaucratic ending up as a hybrid of monarchy at the top and bureaucracy everywhere else. When the charismatic revolution happen, there is a reversion to either bureaucracy or traditional fiefdoms in the corporate world. After revolutions directed against favoritism and powers of the bureaucratic office, the charismatic hero is displaced in favor of a bureaucrat or a prince. 
  3. The model is quite situational.  Weber specified the economic and social conditions that support the selection of each type of leaderly authority. But it is an unstable situational theory. 
  4. Weber writes eloquently about the transformation of charisma into an anti-authoritarian direction. The legitimacy becomes democratic, once leaders are selected by plebiscite (vote).  The new charismatic authority is based on the legitimacy of public acclaim. For Weber the anti-authoritarian direction of the transformation of charisma is into the path of greater rationality (p. 390). 



Boje & Dennehy Managing in Postmodern World - Chapter on Follett, Fayol, Weber, and Taylor. See Chap 2 



Weber's Book on line Spirit of Capitalism 

Summary Weber's 3 Types (Bur, Charismatic, Traditional) 

Undergrad intro to Weber* MAX WEBER: ON BUREAUCRACY Copyright 1996 R.J. Kilcullen 

Good web site on Weber's works: overviews 

Weber - Dead Sociologist site 

Characteristics of Bur 

Weber Bur - outline - very short


Weber, Max (1947 Max Weber: The Theory of Social and Economic Organization. Translated by A. M. Henderson & Talcott Parsons. NY: The Free Press. 

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