In explaining capitalism, which is one of humanity’s significant social changes, Weber suggested that certain social structures led to the change. He pointed at religion and suggested that certain religions played an important role in the advent of capitalism. For instance, Weber suggested that capitalism developed from aspects of Calvinism that encouraged people to have savings or be successful. Additionally, the religious teachings suggested that those with successful businesses were the ‘chosen’ because God would not help the 'damned' succeed. The concept established the quest for economic gains to affirm an individual’s position.
He also added that social change is as a result of four specific actions that people take. He categorized the four actions as:
Under the traditional social action, Weber suggested that individual social action may be instigated by traditional beliefs and customs. The individual basing their decision on tradition would perform an action because it is expected by his culture.
Under the affective social action, Weber suggested that social change would occur because a group of people engages in a particular action as driven by their emotions. They may engage in the action because they like it.
On value-rational action, Weber suggested that social change may be driven by people engaging in actions that they deem right or wrong. Religion may dictate certain actions, forcing the individual to comply because they believe the action to be the right thing to do.
Under the instrumental rational action, Weber suggests that social change may be driven by people engaging in actions that they deem beneficial to them. Thus, they participate in these actions with a goal in mind and because the action would lead to an expected result.
However, Weber was critical of impersonal rational thinking that only emphasized on efficiency and made no consideration on whether the action was the right thing to do. Thus, issues of ethics and traditions were pushed out of focus, leading to a variety of social ills.