Max Weber, a German political economist, legal historian, and sociologist, had an impact on the social sciences that is difficult to overestimate. According to a widely held view, he was the founder of the modern way of conceptualizing society and thus the modern social sciences. His major interest was the process of rationalization, which characterizes Western civilization---what he called the "demystification of the world." This interest led him to examine the three types of domination or authority that characterize hierarchical relationships: charismatic, traditional, and legal. It also led him to the study of bureaucracy; all of the world's major religions; and capitalism, which he viewed as a productof the Protestant ethic. With his contemporary, the French sociologist Emile Durkheim---they seem not to have known each other's work---he created modern sociology.
Talcott Parsons, an American sociologist, introduced Max Weber to American sociology and became himself the leading theorist of American sociology after World War II. His Structure of Social Action (1937) is a detailed comparison of Alfred Marshall, Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, and Vilfredo Pareto. Parsons concluded that these four scholars, coming from contrasting backgrounds and from four different countries, converged, without their knowing of the others, on a common theoretical and methodological position that he called "the voluntaristic theory of action." Subsequently, Parsons worked closely with the anthropologists Clyde Kluckhohn, Elton Mayo, and W. Lloyd Warner, and the psychologists Gordon W. Allport and Henry A. Murray, to define social, cultural, and personality systems as the three main interpenetrative types of action organization. He is widely known for his use of four pattern variables for characterizing social relationships:affectivity versus neutrality, diffuseness versus specificity, particularism versus universalism, and ascription versus achievement.