Max Weber's Contribution to the Economic Sociology of Law

by Richard Swedberg
Sociology The Journal Of The British Sociological Association ()


During recent years a few scholars have advocated that more attention be paid to the intersection of law, economics and sociology – what may be called the economic sociology of law. This article suggests that a theoretical foundation for such a field of study, or parts of such a foundation, may be found in the work of Max Weber. It also provides an introduction to those parts of Weber’s work that are relevant in this context. Weber especially emphasizes the role that law plays in raising the probability for actions taking place, in the economy and elsewhere; and that this probability has to be established while taking the motives of the actors into account. The main contribution of the legal system to modern capitalism, Weber also argues, is to make economic life more calculable. What factors account for the increasing rationalization of law, including economic factors, is also discussed.

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