Maximilian Karl Emil Weber (; German: [ˈveːbɐ]; 21 April 1864 – 14 June 1920) was a German sociologist, historian, jurist, and political economist, who is regarded as among the most important theorists of the development of modern Western society. His ideas profoundly influence social theory and research. Despite being recognized as one of the fathers of sociology along with Auguste Comte, Karl Marx, and Émile Durkheim, Weber saw himself not as a sociologist but as a historian.Unlike Émile Durkheim, Weber did not believe in monocausal explanations, proposing instead that for any outcome there can be multiple causes. He was a key proponent of methodological anti-positivism, arguing for the study of social action through interpretive (rather than purely empiricist) methods, based on understanding the purpose and meanings that individuals attach to their own actions. Weber's main intellectual concern was in understanding the processes of rationalisation, secularisation, and "disenchantment". He argued that such processes result from a new way of thinking about the world and are associated with the rise of capitalism and modernity.Weber is best known for his other thesis combining economic sociology and the sociology of religion, emphasising the importance of cultural influences embedded in religion as a means for understanding the genesis of capitalism (in contrast to Marx's historical materialism). Weber would first elaborate his theory in his seminal work, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1905), where he attributed ascetic Protestantism as one of the major "elective affinities" involved in the rise of market-driven capitalism and the rational-legal nation-state in the Western world. Arguing the boosting of capitalism as a basic tenet of Protestantism, Weber suggested that the spirit of capitalism is inherent in Protestant religious values. Protestant Ethic would form the earliest part in Weber's broader investigations into world religion, as he later examined the religions of China and India, as well as ancient Judaism, with particular regard to their differing economic consequences and conditions of social stratification. In another major work, "Politics as a Vocation", Weber defined "the state" as an entity that successfully claims a "monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory". He would also be the first to categorise social authority into distinct forms: charismatic, traditional, and rational-legal. Among these categories, Weber's analysis of bureaucracy emphasized that modern state institutions are increasingly based on the latter (rational-legal authority).
Weber also made a variety of other contributions in economic history, theory, and methodology. His analysis of modernity and rationalisation would significantly influence the critical theory associated with the Frankfurt School. After the First World War, he was among the founders of the liberal German Democratic Party. He also ran unsuccessfully for a seat in parliament and served as advisor to the committee that drafted the ill-fated democratic Weimar Constitution of 1919. After contracting Spanish flu, he died of pneumonia in 1920, aged 56.