The sociological theory of M. Weber arose on the wave of an anti-positivist reaction, whose representatives defended the social cognition specificity, which they saw as the need in case of "understanding human actions", using the ideographic method and referring to values.
According to M. Weber, sociology should take into account the subjective aspects of socio-historical phenomena, i.e. interests, needs and goals of human activity, but at the same time it cannot ignore the inherent requirements of scientific methodology such as objectivity and empirical verifiability.
Sociology should be a value-neutral science, and its main task is to understand the meaning and significance of human actions and, taking them into account, reveal the causal laws of the development of society.
Recognizing the specificity of social cognition, M. Weber was keen to develop an adequate methodology and the logic of the formation of concepts, which found expression in the method of ideal types he developed. According to M. Weber, the ideal type is the product of imagination, which is created by the idealization and mental synthesis of the most significant aspects of the phenomenon being studied, from the point of view of the scientist. The ideal type is not a reflection of reality, rather it resists it as a utopian construction. M. Weber made it possible to understand empirical reality by correlating, comparing it with the ideal type. He distinguished two varieties of ideal types: historical, used to analyze unique historical configurations (feudalism, Christianity, Confucianism, etc.) and sociological, where the types of social action he developed were included.
Adhering to the nominalistic point of view on social life, he believed that all social phenomena ultimately consist of various combinations of individual actions. He believed that any attempt to consider general concepts such as the state, socio-historical formation and others, as real historical entities is erroneous. Therefore, understanding of the meaning and significance of human actions is the basic premise of sociological research.
M. Weber distinguished four main types of social action:
1) purposeful, which has no correspondences of goals and means of action;
2) value-rational, in which the action is performed for the sake of some value;
3) affective, based on emotional reactions of people;
4) traditional, occurring in accordance with traditions and customs.
M. Weber argued that there is an intensification of rationalistic principles in the life of society in the process of the development of world civilization. The study of rationality as the leading trend of Western European capitalism was the main theme of his main work "Protestant ethics and the spirit of capitalism." In this work he showed that the emergence of capitalism in Europe had not only socio-historical preconditions, but also spiritual origins, among which the most important role belonged to Protestant religious ethics, which inspires man with the values of lean and diligent labor.
M. Weber made a great contribution to the development of political sociology, singling out three types of domination: charismatic, based on affective action and blind faith in the leader; traditional and bureaucratic, which correspond to three types of social action: affective, traditional and goal-oriented.
M. Weber laid the basis for the modern theory of social stratification, which is an attempt to overcome the limitations of the Marxist concept of economic stratification. He believed that not only the economic factor in the form of property, but also the political factor (power) and status (prestige) can be considered as criteria of social stratification, as a result of which it becomes multidimensional.