Sometimes a sociologist writes a book that takes such a central position in his whole oeuvre, that his admirers bestow upon it the honorary title Magnum opus. In the case of Durkheim for example, there is not such an outstanding book, but with Weber, this is an easy one. The Magnum opus is Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft, Economy And Society, an enormous masterpiece in which Weber tries to summarize his whole theoretical enterprise. He passed away before he could finish the book, but what we are left with contains more than enough interesting thoughts for many generations to come. The first word of that important book is the word sociology. In fact, Weber begins this study with a definition of sociology. In this discipline, he says, we study social action. People can reflect on how they act, they can tell us why they acted in this way or in that way. They may come up with motivations for what they did. And this is why Weber didn't call it social behavior, [FOREIGN], but he calls it social action, [FOREIGN]. Now the action is social because it is directed towards other people. A man who tries to cover his head against the pouring rain is not engaged in social action. But two people on the sidewalk of a street who try not to bump into each other are involved in some kind of social action, at least they take each other into account. Weber says that social action is the basic stuff that constitutes the study object of the sociologist. The first thing you can do is to classify types of social action. You can, for example, differentiate between social action that is shrewdly calculated beforehand and social action that is driven by an explosion of emotions. Weber believed that he could discern four very general ideal types of social action, and I will return to that subject in a few minutes when I discuss Weber's theory of rationalization. The sociologist tries to interpret social action, and he or she tries to causally explain social action. On the one hand we try to understand why certain individuals or certain social groups act in a certain way under certain circumstances, and on the other hand we try to discern chains of cause and effect. Now if you agree with the idea that there are in fact two types of academic disciplines, the humanities like history, and the sciences like physics, then you can say that Weber here tries to combine elements from those two broad categories to create a new place for the social sciences. Interpretation demands the qualities of the historian. You should try to see through the eyes of the people that you study. You want to see their objects the way they see them. You fight your way into their heads because you need to understand their systems of bestowing meaning upon the world around them. When the sociologist tries to shed light on cause and effect, he is more like the physicist who is always keen on causal relations. It has often been said that Weber here tries to bridge the gap between what was called in classic German universities, the Geisteswissenschaften, the sciences of mind, and the Naturwissenschaften, the sciences of matter. Sociologists have a tendency to look up at natural scientists with their elegant models of cause and effect, but those scientists must do their job without a possibility that historians and psychologists, anthropologists and sociologists can profit from. Because they study human beings who are in many ways similar to themselves, of course, they can try to imagine what it must be like, for example, to be the brother of Napoleon Bonaparte or to be the leader of the Dutch Socialist Party between the two world wars. This intimate understanding from within, that is what the Germans called verstehen, interpretative understanding, and Weber thought that it played an important role in the human sciences. We can imagine what the famous general must have felt on the eve before an important battle, but we can also try to understand a member of a certain social group, let's say a carpenter in a medieval French small city or a proletarian factory worker in Manchester around the year 1848. Emil Durkheim, for example, tried to understand the religious feelings of an Australian aboriginal. Verstehen really helps the sociologists or the anthropologists in studying social action. Verstehen always leads to hypotheses about causal relationships, and those relationships should then be tested in a more rigorous fashion, often by using quantitative data looking for statistical correlations. Here the research strategies that proved to be so enormously successful in the natural sciences should also help the sociologist. And it is this combination of the more quantitative approach and the more quantitative approach that characterizes the style of work in sociology that Weber favors. And maybe that is also one of the reasons why all sociologists hold Max Weber in such high esteem whether they favor the hard-nosed quantitative proof or whether they feel more at home with the methodology that has been so successful in the humanities. Weber's approach, starting with the very first sentence in his Magnum opus, goes against the tendency to completely separate the quantitative from the qualitative style, a tendency that has become so common in sociology today.