Verstehen of Max Weber

verstehen weber

Verstehen of Max Weber

Verstehen is one of the most important Methodologies propounded by Max Weber in sociology. According to Weber, as a methodology, it can be used in understanding social actions at the leave of meanings and motives.

Weber borrowed the term “Verstehen” from a science called Hermeneutics. Hermeneutics is not at all related to sociology. It is a science that not only deals with the study of the content of published material but also deals with understanding the mental status while writing the piece of work. Hermeneutics was mainly used for the purpose of interpretative understanding of the Bible. Verstehen has been a part of Hermeneutics.

Verstehen is a German term that literally means interpretative understanding. According to Weber, the actors involved in a social action attach subjective meanings and motives to their actions. It means that the motives and meanings are more than one.

The responsibility of a sociologist is to interpret the meanings and motives associated with social action. This is possible through the Verstehen method. According to Weber, this Verstehen method. Involves two important steps-

Steps in the Verstehen method

First- of all the observer or the researcher remains a mute spectator and by remaining an outside observer he tries to interpret what exactly has happened or what exactly is happening. Since the researcher is not a part of the social action, he may only have an interpretative understanding.

Secondly, the researchers can establish an empathetic liaison with the actors. It means that through imagination the researcher will place himself in the place of the actors. And he tries to imagine that what exactly he would have done if he was in their place.

The interpretation received by the researcher in both these steps can be combined in order to have a complete interpretative understanding. Hence, the Verstehen method can be exclusively used in sociology.


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