January, 2019

Max Weber on the Market's Impersonality and Ethic

  • Virgil Storr

    Board Member, Mercatus Center
  • Solomon Stein

    Senior Fellow, F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics
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Market exchange is often depicted as devoid of traditional feelings of community, and perhaps as being destructive of those feelings. Max Weber's ideal typification of the market is one particularly clear exposition of this perspective on market activity. In the context of Weber's broader contributions to an understanding of social life, however, this impersonal ideal type seems inconsistently applied. This paper examines this internal tension regarding how to conceptualize the market throughout Economy and Society. We argue that Weber's picture of actual market activity reflects a distinct ideal typification, one where economic relationships have both personal and impersonal orientations.