This subjective interpretation Weber called “Verstehen” or “sympathetic understanding”.
But it is in no sense a substitute for the scientific method. Wherever possible, the conclusions drawn from subjective interpretation must be verified by the scientific method. The advocates of this method have maintained that the observed facts are of little significance unless they are evaluated through discovery of their inner meaning. The intuitive understanding of social behaviour as insisted upon by this method has its own importance. Weber himself used “Verstehen” in his famous study of “the Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism”.
He used this method when he was trying to prove causal link between the beliefs of early Puritans and the development of capitalism. Weber believed that the Puritan Ethic (or the Protest Ethic) was more favourable for the development of Capitalism than the ethics of other religions such as Catholicism, Islam, Buddhism, or even Hinduism. Because of the intrinsic support given by the Puritan Ethic, the Protestants accumulated and reinvested wealth instead of immediately spending it, as others were prone to do. By this, they unintentionally created modern capitalism. This argument of Weber, seems plausible, but there is no way to prove it scientifically because we cannot know whether the Puritans really did experience the so called “salvation panic”. Weber’s method was to put himself in the place of Puritan’s shoes in order to understand their real feelings and motives. Thus, as Ian Robertson has pointed out, “By combining his subjective interpretations of Puritan psychology with a rigorous analysis of the development of capitalism, he enhanced the richness (but not necessarily the reliability) of his study”. It is clear from the above that the nature of this approach is that it can be used only by such persons who have a greater capacity of comprehensions and a high level of intelligence and education.
It may yield better results if it is used along with the scientific method.