In 1882 Weber enrolled in the University of Heidelberg as a law student. After a year of military service, he transferred to the University of Berlin.
After studies Weber took an interest in contemporary social policy. In 1888 he joined the Verein für Socialpolitik, a new professional association of German economists affiliated with the historical school, who saw the role of economics primarily as finding solutions to the social problems of the age and who pioneered large scale statistical studies of economic issues.
He got a job teaching economics at Freiburg University in 1893, moved to Heidelberg in 1896 as a professor. After his father died in 1897, Weber suffered a mental breakdown. He spent the next five years in and out of sanatoriums. When Weber was finally able to resume working in 1903, he became an editor at a prominent social science journal.
In 1904, he was invited to deliver a lecture at the Congress of Arts and Sciences in St. Louis, Missouri. In the same year Weber began to publish some of his most seminal papers, notably his essay The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, which became his most famous work and laid the foundations for his later research on the impact of cultures and religions on the development of economic systems. This essay was the only one of his works from that period that was published as a book during his lifetime.
After a stint volunteering in the medical service during World War I, Weber published three more books on religion in a sociological context. These works, The Religion of China (1916), The Religion of India (1916) and Ancient Judaism (1917-1918), contrasted their respective religions and cultures with that of the Western world by weighing the importance of economic and religious factors, among others, on historical outcomes. Weber resumed teaching in 1918.
After the First World War, Max Weber was among the founders of the liberal German Democratic Party. He also ran unsuccessfully for a seat in parliament and served as advisor to the committee that drafted the ill-fated democratic Weimar Constitution of 1919.
He intended to publish additional volumes on Christianity and Islam, but he contracted the Spanish flu and died in Munich on June 14, 1920. His manuscript of Economy and Society was left unfinished; it was edited by his wife and published in 1922.
He defined magic as a pre-religious activity. Weber saw religion as one of the core forces in the society. In the analysis of his findings, Weber maintained that Protestant religious ideas had had a major impact on the social innovation and development of the economic system of the West.
Weber thought that the state is that entity which possesses a monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force, which it may nonetheless elect to delegate as it sees fit. Politics, for him, is to be understood as any activity in which the state might engage itself in order to influence the relative distribution of force.
After the First World War, Max Weber supported the liberal German Democratic Party.
He argued for the study of social action through interpretive (rather than purely empiricist) means, based on understanding the purpose and meaning that individuals attach to their own actions. Weber's main intellectual concern was understanding the processes of rationalisation, secularization, and "disenchantment" that he associated with the rise of capitalism and modernity and which he saw as the result of a new way of thinking about the world.
Quotes from others about the person
“"The prestige of Max Weber among European social scientists would be difficult to over-estimate. He is widely considered the greatest of German sociologists and ... has become a leading influence in European and American thought." - Hans Heinrich Gerth.
Karl Jaspers, described him as "the greatest German of our era". Weber's untimely death felt to Jaspers "as if the German world had lost its heart".”
In 1893 he married his distant cousin Marianne Schnitger, later a feminist activist and author in her own right. They would have no children and it is usually acknowledged that their marriage was never consummated.