Gene Callahan is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of European Studies at Cardiff University, and the author of Economics for Real People; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. He would like to thank Roger Koppl, Laurence S. Moss, Israel Kirzner, Peter J. Boettke, and Steven Horwitz for their helpful comments on earlier drafts. This article was awarded one of three 2006 Don Lavoie Memorial Prizes by the Society for the Development of Austrian Economics.
Reconciling Weber and Mises on Understanding Human Action
Article first published online: 19 DEC 2007
American Journal of Economics and Sociology
Volume 66, Issue 5, pages 889–899, November 2007
How to Cite
Callahan, G. (2007), Reconciling Weber and Mises on Understanding Human Action. American Journal of Economics and Sociology, 66: 889–899. doi: 10.1111/j.1536-7150.2007.00545.x
- Issue published online: 19 DEC 2007
- Article first published online: 19 DEC 2007
Abstract. Max Weber and Ludwig von Mises were two of the 20th century's foremost theorists of human action. Mises held Weber, his senior by some 17 years, in great esteem and often discussed his theories, even weaving some, such as Weber's model of ideal types, deeply into the fabric of his own social thought. However, at least at first glance, there seems to be a deep rift between the two men's conceptions about the rationality of action. Weber classified “social actions” into several distinct categories, some of which he saw as exhibiting little, if any, rationality. Mises, in contrast, held that all action is rational by conceptual necessity. Various writers have taken their views to be obviously incompatible, among them, Mises himself. This article suggests that the appearance of a conflict is produced by the failure to discern that Weber and Mises were addressing different sorts of questions and constructing frameworks to support different modes of analyzing social phenomena. I contend that, if that divergence of aim is properly understood, then the apparent contradiction will be seen as illusory.