The Life-Style of Max Weber
LIFESTYLE is a concept that has been used since the inception of time to describe human behavior. The word was first introduced by Austrian psychiatrist Alfred Adler in his renowned publication, The Case of Miss R. with the intention of describing a person’s “general character as established at early childhood”. In this way we can see that it is an approach to psychology that regards human behavior as a process and not a single outcome, which could be said to be the sum total of all possible outcomes. Adler saw his task as one of helping psychologists to discover the general characteristics that were shared by all people in a society, which in turn enabled them to provide assistance in helping a person to lead a happy and successful life.
In his later years, after studying the cultural dimensions of everyday life, he came to regard human behavior as having three separate components, namely, instinct, attitude, and motivation. This is the same view that was adopted by Jean Piaget, who in turn was influenced by the work of Sigmund Freud. Looking towards the past, we can see that many of the conflicts and social problems of our time are rooted in these three aspects. What is important, therefore, is for a psychologist to be able to help people adjust their attitudes and lifestyle-and LIFESTYLE is the key to doing this.
When we use the word lifestyle, the word naturally brings in the image of some kind of code or ritual. In fact, LIFESTYLE is nothing more than a description of various kinds of social organization, including but not limited to the business careers, political careers, the military and law enforcement careers, and religious lifestyles. We can even find LIFESTYLE in the family, which is most often described as the way in which members of a family cope with life. The book by Dr. Evan Mladenoff called “How To Be You: A Guide to Making Your Own Healthy Lifestyle” sums up much of what we know about the meanings of life-styles in the family and within ourselves.
The book goes on to say that the lifestyle should not be seen as a set of ideas or as a set of rituals. Rather, it should be seen as a vision of your personal identity, combined with your attitudes, desires, and ways of coping with life. It must be seen as your relationship to life. And this is where Max Weber gets it right. He wants you to see yourself as a unique individual with an open mind, ready to embrace your personal identity as well as to create your own personal vision of how you want to live and be.
The problem with current ideas about the meaning of LIFESTYLE is that they tend to focus on the consumption of the material world. And Weber shows us that material consumption is just one part of life style. True LIFESTYLE comes from a strong sense of personal identification with a higher power, a belief in the sanctity of life, a commitment to living out your principles in the manner that best reflects who you are, and an awareness that your activities have a significant good to do with advancing human values and the quality of life. Individual psychology and the study of culture are closely intertwined with these things.
So, we should stop looking at LIFESTYLE as some kind of narrow path or icon of a certain type of brand of consumer culture. We should instead start seeing it as the framework for understanding who we are, what we want to be, what kind of lifestyle we want to lead, and how we’re going to get there. Max Weber is a great teacher. If you are interested in how he has helped people develop their personal style or their life-style, I highly recommend that you look into “Max Weber: The Man Who Invented the Word Lifestyle.”