Max Weber, by Wikipedia

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Max Weber, by Wikipedia

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Max Weber
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 6/9/18



Max Weber
Weber in 1894
Born Maximilian Karl Emil Weber
21 April 1864
Erfurt, Province of Saxony, Prussia
Died 14 June 1920 (aged 56)
Munich, Bavaria, Germany
Nationality Prussia (1864–1871)
German Empire (1871–1918)
Weimar Republic (1918–1920)
Alma mater University of Berlin
University of Heidelberg
Known for
Weberian bureaucracy
Disenchantment · Ideal type
Iron cage · Life chances
Methodological individualism
Monopoly on violence
Protestant work ethic
Rationalisation · Social action
Three-component stratification
Tripartite classification of authority
Scientific career
Economics sociology history law politics philosophy
Universities of Berlin Freiburg Heidelberg Vienna Munich
Doctoral advisor Levin Goldschmidt
Hermann Baumgarten[1]
Immanuel Kant · Friedrich Nietzsche
· Wilhelm Dilthey
Heinrich Rickert · Georg Simmel
Werner Sombart[2]
Karl Jaspers · Georg Simmel
Talcott Parsons · Ludwig von Mises
György Lukács · Theodor W. Adorno
Carl Schmitt · Jürgen Habermas
Joseph Schumpeter · C. Wright Mills
Cornelius Castoriadis · Ludwig Lachmann · Karl Polanyi

Maximilian Karl Emil "Max" Weber (/ˈveɪbər/;[4] German: [ˈveːbɐ]; 21 April 1864 – 14 June 1920) was a German sociologist, philosopher, jurist, and political economist. His ideas profoundly influenced social theory and social research.[5] Weber is often cited, with Émile Durkheim and Karl Marx, as among the three founders of sociology.[6][7][8][9][10] Weber was a key proponent of methodological antipositivism, arguing 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. Unlike Durkheim, he did not believe in monocausality and rather proposed that for any outcome there can be multiple causes.[11]

Weber's main intellectual concern was understanding the processes of rationalisation, secularisation, and "disenchantment" that he associated with the rise of capitalism and modernity.[12] He saw these as the result of a new way of thinking about the world.[13] Weber is best known for his thesis combining economic sociology and the sociology of religion, elaborated in his book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, in which he proposed that ascetic Protestantism was one of the major "elective affinities" associated with the rise in the Western world of market-driven capitalism and the rational-legal nation-state. He argued that it was in the basic tenets of Protestantism to boost capitalism. Thus, it can be said that the spirit of capitalism is inherent to Protestant religious values.

Against Marx's historical materialism, Weber emphasised the importance of cultural influences embedded in religion as a means for understanding the genesis of capitalism.[14] The Protestant Ethic formed the earliest part in Weber's broader investigations into world religion; he went on to examine the religions of China, the religions of India and ancient Judaism, with particular regard to their differing economic consequences and conditions of social stratification.
[a] In another major work, "Politics as a Vocation", Weber defined the state as an entity that successfully claims a "monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory". He was also the first to categorise social authority into distinct forms, which he labelled as charismatic, traditional, and rational-legal. His analysis of bureaucracy emphasised that modern state institutions are increasingly based on rational-legal authority.

What I intend is first of all this: to use a single example to make clear the role played by racial differences of a physical and psychological nature, as between nationalities, in the economic struggle for existence....

[W]ithin this population which is subject to a twofold social stratification, there exists a third contrast; it is between the nationalities. And the national composition of the population of the individual communities also varies from region to region. It is this kind of variation which is of interest to us today...

[W]e cannot directly extract the national composition of each parish from these figures, but we can do this indirectly, provided we are content to achieve only approximate accuracy. The intermediate step is the figure for religious affiliation, which, for the nationally mixed district we are concerned with, coincides to within a few per cent with nationality....

[T]he Protestants, i.e. the Germans ...

[T]he manorial estate (Rittergut) was the repository of civilization and hence of Germanism ...

[T]he lack of a German-educated clergy means that the German Catholics are lost to the cultural community of the nation ...

And why is it the Polish peasants who are gaining the land? Is it their superior economic intelligence, or their greater supply of capital? It is rather the opposite of both these factors. Under a climate, and on a soil, which favour the growing of cereals and potatoes above all, alongside extensive cattle-raising, the person who is least threatened by an unfavourable market is the one who brings his products to the place where they are least devalued by a collapse in prices: his own stomach. This is the person who produces for his own requirements. And once again, the person who can set his own requirements at the lowest level, the person who makes the smallest physical and mental demands for the maintenance of his life, is the one with the advantage. The small Polish peasant in East Germany is a type far removed from the bustling peasant owner of a dwarf property, whom one may see here in the well-favoured valley of the Rhine as he forges links with the towns via greenhouse cultivation and market-gardening. The small Polish peasant gains more land, because he as it were eats the very grass from off of it, he gains not despite but on account of the low level of his physical and intellectual habits of life....

[T]hat victory went to the nationality which possessed the greater ability to adapt itself to the given economic and social conditions of existence....

The free play of the forces of selection does not always work out, as the optimists among us think, in favour of the nationality which is more highly developed or more gifted economically. We have just seen this. Human history does not lack examples of the victory of less developed types of humanity and the extinction of fine flowers of intellectual and emotional life, when the human community which was their repository lost its ability to adapt to the conditions of existence, either by reason of its social organization or its racial characteristics. In our case it is the transformation of the forms of agricultural enterprise and the tremendous crisis in agriculture which is bringing to victory the less economically developed nationality....

With this we now arrive at a final series of reflections belonging more to the realm of practical politics. There is only one political standard of value which is supreme for us economic nationalists, and it is by this standard that we also measure the classes which either have the leadership of the nation in their hands or are striving for it. What we are concerned with is their political maturity, i.e. their understanding of the lasting economic and political interests of the nation’s power and their ability to place these interests above all other considerations if the occasion demands. A nation is favoured by destiny if the naïve identification of the interests of one’s own class with the general interest also corresponds to the interests of national power.

-- The National State and Economic Policy (Freiburg Address), by Max Weber

Weber also made a variety of other contributions in economic history, as well as economic theory and methodology. Weber's analysis of modernity and rationalisation significantly influenced the critical theory associated with the Frankfurt School. 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. After contracting Spanish flu, he died of pneumonia in 1920, aged 56.[6]


Early life and family background

Karl Emil Maximilian Weber was born in 1864, in Erfurt, Province of Saxony, Prussia.[6] He was the oldest of the seven children of Max Weber Sr., a wealthy and prominent civil servant and member of the National Liberal Party, and his wife Helene (Fallenstein), who partly descended from French Huguenot immigrants and held strong moral absolutist ideas.[6]

Weber Sr.'s involvement in public life immersed his home in both politics and academia, as his salon welcomed many prominent scholars and public figures.[6] The young Weber and his brother Alfred, who also became a sociologist and economist, thrived in this intellectual atmosphere. Weber's 1876 Christmas presents to his parents, when he was thirteen years old, were two historical essays entitled "About the course of German history, with special reference to the positions of the Emperor and the Pope", and "About the Roman Imperial period from Constantine to the migration of nations".
[15] In class, bored and unimpressed with the teachers—who in turn resented what they perceived as a disrespectful attitude—he secretly read all forty volumes of Goethe,[16][17] and it has been recently argued that this was an important influence on his thought and methodology.[18] Before entering the university, he would read many other classical works.[17] Over time, Weber would also be significantly affected by the marital tension between his father, "a man who enjoyed earthly pleasures", and his mother, a devout Calvinist "who sought to lead an ascetic life".[19][20]

Max Weber and his brothers, Alfred and Karl, in 1879


In 1882 Weber enrolled in the University of Heidelberg as a law student.[21] After a year of military service, he transferred to the University of Berlin.[16] After his first few years as a student, during which he spent much time "drinking beer and fencing", Weber would increasingly take his mother's side in family arguments and grew estranged from his father.[19][20][22] Simultaneously with his studies, he worked as a junior lawyer.[16] In 1886 Weber passed the examination for Referendar, comparable to the bar association examination in the British and American legal systems. Throughout the late 1880s, Weber continued his study of law and history.[16] He earned his law doctorate in 1889 by writing a dissertation on legal history titled The history of commercial partnerships in the Middle Ages. This work was used as part of a longer work On the History of Trading Companies in the Middle Ages, based on South-European Sources, published in the same year.[23] Two years later, Weber completed his Habilitationsschrift, Roman Agrarian History and its Significance for Public and Private Law, working with August Meitzen.[24][25] Having thus become a Privatdozent, Weber joined the University of Berlin's faculty, lecturing and consulting for the government.[26]

Early work

In the years between the completion of his dissertation and habilitation, Weber took an interest in contemporary social policy. In 1888 he joined the Verein für Socialpolitik,[27] 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 also involved himself in politics, joining the left-leaning Evangelical Social Congress.[28] In 1890 the Verein established a research program to examine "the Polish question" or Ostflucht: the influx of Polish farm workers into eastern Germany as local labourers migrated to Germany's rapidly industrialising cities.[6] Weber was put in charge of the study and wrote a large part of the final report,[6][27] which generated considerable attention and controversy and marked the beginning of Weber's renown as a social scientist.[6] From 1893 to 1899 Weber was a member of the Alldeutscher Verband (Pan-German League), an organization that campaigned against the influx of the Polish workers; the degree of Weber's support for the Germanisation of Poles and similar nationalist policies is still debated by modern scholars.[29][30] In some of his work, in particular his provocative lecture on "The Nation State and Economic Policy" delivered in 1895, Weber criticises the immigration of Poles and blames the Junker class for perpetuating Slavic immigration to serve their selfish interests.[31]

Max Weber and his wife Marianne in 1894

Also in 1893 he married his distant cousin Marianne Schnitger, later a feminist activist and author in her own right,[6][32] who was instrumental in collecting and publishing Weber's journal articles as books after his death, while her biography of him is an important source for understanding Weber's life.[33][34] They would have no children and it is usually acknowledged that their marriage was never consummated.[22] The marriage granted long-awaited financial independence to Weber, allowing him to finally leave his parents' household.[20] The couple moved to Freiburg in 1894, where Weber was appointed professor of economics at the university,[25][26] before accepting the same position at the University of Heidelberg in 1896.[25][26] There Weber became a central figure in the so-called "Weber Circle", composed of other intellectuals such as his wife Marianne, Georg Jellinek, Ernst Troeltsch, Werner Sombart and Robert Michels.[6] Weber also remained active in the Verein and the Evangelical Social Congress.[6] His research in that period was focused on economics and legal history.[35]

In 1897 Max Weber Sr. died two months after a severe quarrel with his son that was never resolved.[6][36] After this, Weber became increasingly prone to depression, nervousness and insomnia, making it difficult for him to fulfill his duties as a professor.[16][25] His condition forced him to reduce his teaching and eventually leave his course unfinished in the autumn of 1899. After spending months in a sanatorium during the summer and autumn of 1900, Weber and his wife travelled to Italy at the end of the year and did not return to Heidelberg until April 1902. He would again withdraw from teaching in 1903 and not return to it till 1919. Weber's ordeal with mental illness was carefully described in a personal chronology that was destroyed by his wife. This chronicle was supposedly destroyed because Marianne Weber feared that Max Weber's work would be discredited by the Nazis if his experience with mental illness were widely known.[6][37]

Later work

After Weber's immense productivity in the early 1890s, he did not publish any papers between early 1898 and late 1902, finally resigning his professorship in late 1903. Freed from those obligations, in that year he accepted a position as associate editor of the Archives for Social Science and Social Welfare,[38] where he worked with his colleagues Edgar Jaffé (de) and Werner Sombart.[6][39] His new interests would lie in more fundamental issues of social sciences; his works from this latter period are of primary interest to modern scholars.[35] In 1904, Weber began to publish some of his most seminal papers in this journal, notably his essay The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, which became his most famous work[40] and laid the foundations for his later research on the impact of cultures and religions on the development of economic systems.[41] This essay was the only one of his works from that period that was published as a book during his lifetime. Some other of his works written in the first one and a half decades of the 20th century—published posthumously and dedicated primarily from the fields of sociology of religion, economic and legal sociology—are also recognised as among his most important intellectual contributions.[6]

Also in 1904, he visited the United States and participated in the Congress of Arts and Sciences held in connection with the World's Fair (Louisiana Purchase Exposition) in St. Louis. A monument to his visit was placed at the home of relatives whom Weber visited in Mt. Airy, North Carolina.[42]

Despite his partial recovery evident in America, Weber felt that he was unable to resume regular teaching at that time and continued on as a private scholar, helped by an inheritance in 1907.[26][38] In 1909, disappointed with the Verein, he co-founded the German Sociological Association (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Soziologie, or DGS) and served as its first treasurer.[6] He would, however, resign from the DGS in 1912.[6] In 1912, Weber tried to organise a left-wing political party to combine social-democrats and liberals. This attempt was unsuccessful, in part because many liberals feared social-democratic revolutionary ideals.[43]

Political involvements

Max Weber (foreground) in 1917 with Ernst Toller (facing)

At the outbreak of World War I, Weber, aged 50, volunteered for service and was appointed as a reserve officer and put in charge of organizing the army hospitals in Heidelberg, a role he fulfilled until the end of 1915.[38][44] Weber's views on the war and the expansion of the German empire changed during the course of the conflict.[43][44][45] Early on he supported the nationalist rhetoric and the war effort, though with some hesitation as he viewed the war as a necessity to fulfill German duty as a leading state power. In time, however, Weber became one of the most prominent critics of German expansionism and of the Kaiser's war policies.[6] He publicly attacked the Belgian annexation policy and unrestricted submarine warfare and later supported calls for constitutional reform, democratisation and universal suffrage.[6]

Weber joined the worker and soldier council of Heidelberg in 1918. He then served in the German delegation to the Paris Peace Conference and as advisor to the Confidential Committee for Constitutional Reform, which drafted the Weimar Constitution.[38] Motivated by his understanding of the American model, he advocated a strong, popularly elected presidency as a constitutional counterbalance to the power of the professional bureaucracy.[6] More controversially, he also defended the provisions for emergency presidential powers that became Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution. These provisions were later used by Adolf Hitler to subvert the rest of the constitution and institute rule by decree, allowing his regime to suppress opposition and gain dictatorial powers.[46]

Weber also ran, unsuccessfully, for a parliamentary seat, as a member of the liberal German Democratic Party, which he had co-founded.[6][47] He opposed both the leftist German Revolution of 1918–1919 and the ratification of the Treaty of Versailles, principled positions that defied the political alignments in Germany at that time,[6] and which may have prevented Friedrich Ebert, the new social-democratic President of Germany, from appointing Weber as minister or ambassador.[44] Weber commanded widespread respect but relatively little influence.[6] Weber's role in German politics remains controversial to this day.

In Weber's critique of the left, he complained of the leaders of the leftist Spartacus League—which was led by Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg and controlled the city government of Berlin while Weber was campaigning for his party—"We have this [German] revolution to thank for the fact that we cannot send a single division against the Poles. All we see is dirt, muck, dung, and horse-play—nothing else. Liebknecht belongs in the madhouse and Rosa Luxemburg in the zoological gardens.” [48] Weber was at the same time critical of the Versailles Treaty, which he believed unjustly assigned "war guilt" to Germany when it came to World War I. Weber believed that many countries were guilty of starting World War I, not just Germany. In making this case, Weber argued that “In the case of this war there is one, and only one power that desired it under all circumstances through its own will and, according to their political goals required: Russia. …It never crossed [my] mind that a German invasion of Belgium [in 1914] was nothing but an innocent act on the part of the Germans."[49]

Later that same month, in January 1919, after Weber and Weber's party were defeated for election, Weber delivered one of his greatest academic lectures, Politics as a Vocation, which reflected on the inherent violence and dishonesty he saw among politicians—a profession in which only recently Weber was so personally active. About the nature of politicians, he concluded that, "In nine out of ten cases they are windbags puffed up with hot air about themselves. They are not in touch with reality, and they do not feel the burden they need to shoulder; they just intoxicate themselves with romantic sensations."[50]

Last years

Weber's grave in Heidelberg

Frustrated with politics, Weber resumed teaching during this time, first at the University of Vienna, then, after 1919, at the University of Munich.[6][26][38] His lectures from that period were collected into major works, such as the General Economic History, Science as a Vocation and Politics as a Vocation.[6] In Munich, he headed the first German university institute of sociology, but never held a professorial position in sociology. Many colleagues and students in Munich attacked his response to the German Revolution and some right-wing students held protests in front of his home.[43] Max Weber contracted the Spanish flu and died of pneumonia in Munich on 14 June 1920.[6] At the time of his death, Weber had not finished writing his magnum opus on sociological theory: Economy and Society. His widow Marianne helped prepare it for its publication in 1921–22.

Max Weber's thought

Max Weber's bureaucratic theory or model is sometimes also known as the "rational-legal" model. The model tries to explain bureaucracy from a rational point of view via nine main characteristics or principles; these are as follows:[51]

Max Weber's bureaucratic model (rational-legal model)

Weber wrote that the modern bureaucracy in both the public and private sector relies on the following principles.

"First, it is based on the general principle of precisely defined and organized across-the-board competencies of the various offices. These competencies are underpinned by rules, laws, or administrative regulations."[52] For Weber, this means[53]

1. A rigid division of labor is established that clearly identifies regular tasks and duties of the particular bureaucratic system.

2. Regulations describe firmly established chains of command and the duties and capacity to coerce others to comply.

3. Hiring people with particular, certified qualifications supports regular and continuous execution of the assigned duties.

Weber notes that these three aspects "...constitute the essence of bureaucratic the public sector. In the private sector, these three aspects constitute the essence of a bureaucratic management of a private company."[54]

Main principles (characteristics):

1. Specialized roles
2. Recruitment based on merit (e.g., tested through open competition)
3. Uniform principles of placement, promotion, and transfer in an administrative system
4. Careerism with systematic salary structure
5. Hierarchy, responsibility and accountability
6. Subjection of official conduct to strict rules of discipline and control
7. Supremacy of abstract rules
8. Impersonal authority (e.g., office bearer does not bring the office with him)
9. Political neutrality

Merits: As Weber noted, real bureaucracy is less optimal and effective than his ideal-type model. Each of Weber's principles can degenerate—and more so, when they are used to analyze the individual level in an organization. But, when implemented in a group setting in an organization, some form of efficiency and effectiveness can be achieved, especially with regard to better output. This is especially true when the Bureaucratic model emphasizes qualification (merits), specialization of job-scope (labour), hierarchy of power, rules and discipline.[55]

Demerits: However, competencies, efficiency and effectiveness can be unclear and contradictory, especially when dealing with oversimplified matters. In a dehumanized bureaucracy, inflexible in distributing the job-scope, with every worker having to specialize from day one without rotating tasks for fear of decreasing output, tasks are often routine and can contribute to boredom. Thus, employees can sometimes feel that they are not part of the organization's work vision and missions. Consequently, they do not have any sense of belonging in the long term. Furthermore, this type of organization tends to invite exploitation and underestimate the potential of the employees, as creativity of the workers is brushed aside in favour of strict adherence to rules, regulations and procedures.[51]


Weber's thinking was strongly influenced by German idealism, and particularly by neo-Kantianism, which he had been exposed to through Heinrich Rickert, his professorial colleague at the University of Freiburg.[6] Especially important to Weber's work is the neo-Kantian belief that reality is essentially chaotic and incomprehensible, with all rational order deriving from the way the human mind focuses attention on certain aspects of reality and organises the resulting perceptions.[6] Weber's opinions regarding the methodology of the social sciences show parallels with the work of contemporary neo-Kantian philosopher and pioneering sociologist Georg Simmel.[56]

Weber was also influenced by Kantian ethics, which he nonetheless came to think of as obsolete in a modern age lacking in religious certainties. In this last respect, the influence of Friedrich Nietzsche's philosophy is evident.[6] According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the "deep tension between the Kantian moral imperatives and a Nietzschean diagnosis of the modern cultural world is apparently what gives such a darkly tragic and agnostic shade to Weber's ethical worldview".[6] Another major influence in Weber's life was the writings of Karl Marx and the workings of socialist thought in academia and active politics. While Weber shares some of Marx's consternation with bureaucratic systems and maligns them as being capable of advancing their own logic to the detriment of human freedom and autonomy, Weber views conflict as perpetual and inevitable and does not host the spirit of a materially available utopia.[57] Though the influence of his mother's Calvinist religiosity is evident throughout Weber's life and work, and though he maintained a deep, lifelong interest in the study of religions, Weber was open about the fact that he was personally irreligious.[58][59]

As a political economist and economic historian, Weber belonged to the "youngest" German historical school of economics, represented by academics such as Gustav von Schmoller and his student Werner Sombart. But, even though Weber's research interests were very much in line with that school, his views on methodology and the theory of value diverged significantly from those of other German historicists and were closer, in fact, to those of Carl Menger and the Austrian School, the traditional rivals of the historical school.[60][61] (See section on Economics.)


A page from the typescript of the sociology of law within Economy and Society

Unlike some other classical figures (Comte, Durkheim) Weber did not attempt, consciously, to create any specific set of rules governing social sciences in general, or sociology in particular.[6] In comparison with Durkheim and Marx, Weber was more focused on individuals and culture and this is clear in his methodology.[16] Whereas Durkheim focused on the society, Weber concentrated on the individuals and their actions (see structure and action discussion) and whereas Marx argued for the primacy of the material world over the world of ideas, Weber valued ideas as motivating actions of individuals, at least in the big picture.[16][62][63]

Sociology, for Max Weber, is:

... a science which attempts the interpretive understanding of social action in order thereby to arrive at a causal explanation of its course and effects.

— Max Weber[64]

Weber was concerned with the question of objectivity and subjectivity.[6] Weber distinguished social action from social behavior, noting that social action must be understood through how individuals subjectively relate to one another.[6][65] Study of social action through interpretive means (Verstehen) must be based upon understanding the subjective meaning and purpose that individuals attach to their actions.[6][35] Social actions may have easily identifiable and objective means, but much more subjective ends and the understanding of those ends by a scientist is subject to yet another layer of subjective understanding (that of the scientist).[6] Weber noted that the importance of subjectivity in social sciences makes creation of fool-proof, universal laws much more difficult than in natural sciences and that the amount of objective knowledge that social sciences may achieve is precariously limited.[6] Overall, Weber supported the goal of objective science, but he noted that it is an unreachable goal—although one definitely worth striving for.[6]

There is no absolutely "objective" scientific analysis of culture.... All knowledge of cultural reality ... is always knowledge from particular points of view.... an "objective" analysis of cultural events, which proceeds according to the thesis that the ideal of science is the reduction of empirical reality to "laws", is meaningless ... [because] ... the knowledge of social laws is not knowledge of social reality but is rather one of the various aids used by our minds for attaining this end.

— Max Weber, "Objectivity" in Social Science, 1904[66]

The principle of methodological individualism, which holds that social scientists should seek to understand collectivities (such as nations, cultures, governments, churches, corporations, etc.) solely as the result and the context of the actions of individual persons, can be traced to Weber, particularly to the first chapter of Economy and Society, in which he argues that only individuals "can be treated as agents in a course of subjectively understandable action".[61][65] In other words, Weber argued that social phenomena can be understood scientifically only to the extent that they are captured by models of the behaviour of purposeful individuals—models that Weber called "ideal types"—from which actual historical events necessarily deviate due to accidental and irrational factors.[61] The analytical constructs of an ideal type never exist in reality, but provide objective benchmarks against which real-life constructs can be measured.[67]

We know of no scientifically ascertainable ideals. To be sure, that makes our efforts more arduous than in the past, since we are expected to create our ideals from within our breast in the very age of subjectivist culture.

— Max Weber, 1909[68]

Weber's methodology was developed in the context of a wider debate about methodology of social sciences, the Methodenstreit.[35] Weber's position was close to historicism, as he understood social actions as being heavily tied to particular historical contexts and its analysis required the understanding of subjective motivations of individuals (social actors).[35] Thus Weber's methodology emphasises the use of comparative historical analysis.[69] Therefore, Weber was more interested in explaining how a certain outcome was the result of various historical processes rather than predicting an outcome of those processes in the future.[63]


Many scholars have described rationalisation and the question of individual freedom in an increasingly rational society, as the main theme of Weber's work.[6][70][71][72] This theme was situated in the larger context of the relationship between psychological motivations, cultural values and beliefs (primarily, religion) and the structure of the society (usually determined by the economy).[63]

By rationalisation, Weber understood first, the individual cost-benefit calculation, second, the wider bureaucratic organisation of the organisations and finally, in the more general sense as the opposite of understanding the reality through mystery and magic (disenchantment).[72]

The fate of our times is characterised by rationalisation and intellectualisation and, above all, by the "disenchantment of the world"

— Max Weber[73]

Weber began his studies of the subject in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, in which he argued that the redefinition of the connection between work and piety in Protestantism and especially in ascetic Protestant denominations, particularly Calvinism, shifted human effort towards rational efforts aimed at achieving economic gain.[74][75] In Protestant religion, Christian piety towards God was expressed through one's secular vocation (secularisation of calling).[75] The rational roots of this doctrine, he argued, soon grew incompatible with and larger than the religious and so the latter were eventually discarded.[76]

Weber continued his investigation into this matter in later works, notably in his studies on bureaucracy and on the classification of legitimate authority into three types—rational-legal, traditional and charismatic—of which the rational-legal (through bureaucracy) is the dominant one in the modern world.[6] In these works Weber described what he saw as society's movement towards rationalisation.[6] Similarly, rationalisation could be seen in the economy, with the development of highly rational and calculating capitalism.[6] Weber also saw rationalisation as one of the main factors setting the European West apart from the rest of the world.[6] Rationalisation relied on deep changes in ethics, religion, psychology and culture; changes that first took place in the Western civilisation.[6]

What Weber depicted was not only the secularisation of Western culture, but also and especially the development of modern societies from the viewpoint of rationalisation. The new structures of society were marked by the differentiation of the two functionally intermeshing systems that had taken shape around the organisational cores of the capitalist enterprise and the bureaucratic state apparatus. Weber understood this process as the institutionalisation of purposive-rational economic and administrative action. To the degree that everyday life was affected by this cultural and societal rationalisation, traditional forms of life—which in the early modern period were differentiated primarily according to one's trade—were dissolved.

— Jürgen Habermas, Modernity's Consciousness of Time, 1990 [1985][12]

Features of rationalisation include increasing knowledge, growing impersonality and enhanced control of social and material life.[6] Weber was ambivalent towards rationalisation; while admitting it was responsible for many advances, in particular, freeing humans from traditional, restrictive and illogical social guidelines, he also criticised it for dehumanising individuals as "cogs in the machine" and curtailing their freedom, trapping them in the bureaucratic iron cage of rationality and bureaucracy.[6][70][77][78] Related to rationalisation is the process of disenchantment, in which the world is becoming more explained and less mystical, moving from polytheistic religions to monotheistic ones and finally to the Godless science of modernity.[6] Those processes affect all of society, removing "sublime values... from public life" and making art less creative.[79]

In a dystopian critique of rationalisation, Weber notes that modern society is a product of an individualistic drive of the Reformation, yet at the same time, the society created in this process is less and less welcoming of individualism.[6]

How is it at all possible to salvage any remnants of "individual" freedom of movement in any sense given this all-powerful trend?

— Max Weber[6]

Sociology of religion

Weber's work in the field of sociology of religion started with the essay The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism and continued with the analysis of The Religion of China: Confucianism and Taoism, The Religion of India: The Sociology of Hinduism and Buddhism and Ancient Judaism. His work on other religions was interrupted by his sudden death in 1920, which prevented him from following Ancient Judaism with studies of early Christianity and Islam.[80] His three main themes in the essays were the effect of religious ideas on economic activities, the relation between social stratification and religious ideas and the distinguishable characteristics of Western civilisation.[81]

Weber saw religion as one of the core forces in society.[69] His goal was to find reasons for the different development paths of the cultures of the Occident and the Orient, although without judging or valuing them, like some of the contemporary thinkers who followed the social Darwinist paradigm; Weber wanted primarily to explain the distinctive elements of the Western civilisation.[81] In the analysis of his findings, Weber maintained that Calvinist (and more widely, Protestant) religious ideas had had a major impact on the social innovation and development of the economic system of the West, but noted that they were not the only factors in this development. Other notable factors mentioned by Weber included the rationalism of scientific pursuit, merging observation with mathematics, science of scholarship and jurisprudence, rational systematisation and bureaucratisation of government administration and economic enterprise.[81] In the end, the study of the sociology of religion, according to Weber, focused on one distinguishing part of the Western culture, the decline of beliefs in magic, or what he referred to as "disenchantment of the world".[81]

Weber also proposed a socioevolutionary model of religious change, showing that in general, societies have moved from magic to polytheism, then to pantheism, monotheism and finally, ethical monotheism.[82] According to Weber, this evolution occurred as the growing economic stability allowed professionalisation and the evolution of ever more sophisticated priesthood.[83] As societies grew more complex and encompassed different groups, a hierarchy of gods developed and as power in the society became more centralised, the concept of a single, universal God became more popular and desirable.[84]

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

Cover of a German edition of The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

Weber's essay The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism is his most famous work.[40] It is argued[by whom?] that this work should not be viewed as a detailed study of Protestantism, but rather as an introduction into Weber's later works, especially his studies of interaction between various religious ideas and economic behaviour as part of the rationalisation of the economic system.[85] In The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Weber put forward the thesis that Calvinist ethic and ideas influenced the development of capitalism.[85] He noted the post-Reformation shift of Europe's economic centre away from Catholic countries such as France, Spain and Italy, and toward Protestant countries such as the Netherlands, England, Scotland and Germany. Weber also noted that societies having more Protestants were those with a more highly developed capitalist economy.[86] Similarly, in societies with different religions, most successful business leaders were Protestant.[85] Weber thus argued that Roman Catholicism impeded the development of the capitalist economy in the West, as did other religions such as Confucianism and Buddhism elsewhere in the world.[85]

The development of the concept of the calling quickly gave to the modern entrepreneur a fabulously clear conscience—and also industrious workers; he gave to his employees as the wages of their ascetic devotion to the calling and of co-operation in his ruthless exploitation of them through capitalism the prospect of eternal salvation.

— Max Weber[75]

Christian religious devotion had historically been accompanied by rejection of mundane affairs, including economic pursuit.[87] Weber showed that certain types of Protestantism—notably Calvinism—were supportive of rational pursuit of economic gain and worldly activities dedicated to it, seeing them as endowed with moral and spiritual significance.[74] Weber argued that there were many reasons to look for the origins of modern capitalism in the religious ideas of the Reformation.[88] In particular, the Protestant ethic (or more specifically, Calvinist ethic) motivated the believers to work hard, be successful in business and reinvest their profits in further development rather than frivolous pleasures.[85] The notion of calling meant that each individual had to take action as an indication of their salvation; just being a member of the Church was not enough.[75] Predestination also reduced agonising over economic inequality and further, it meant that a material wealth could be taken as a sign of salvation in the afterlife.[85][89] The believers thus justified pursuit of profit with religion, as instead of being fuelled by morally suspect greed or ambition, their actions were motivated by a highly moral and respected philosophy.[85] This Weber called the "spirit of capitalism": it was the Protestant religious ideology that was behind—and inevitably led to—the capitalist economic system.[85] This theory is often viewed as a reversal of Marx's thesis that the economic "base" of society determines all other aspects of it.[74]

Weber abandoned research into Protestantism because his colleague Ernst Troeltsch, a professional theologian, had begun work on the book The Social Teachings of the Christian Churches and Sects. Another reason for Weber's decision was that Troeltsch's work already achieved what he desired in that area: laying the groundwork for a comparative analysis of religion and society.[90]

The phrase "work ethic" used in modern commentary is a derivative of the "Protestant ethic" discussed by Weber. It was adopted when the idea of the Protestant ethic was generalised to apply to the Japanese people, Jews and other non-Christians and thus lost its religious connotations.[91]

The Religion of China: Confucianism and Taoism

The Religion of China: Confucianism and Taoism was Weber's second major work on the sociology of religion. Hans H. Gerth edited and translated this text into English, with an introduction by C. K. Wang.[92] Weber focused on those aspects of Chinese society that were different from those of Western Europe, especially those aspects that contrasted with Puritanism. His work also questioned why capitalism did not develop in China.[93] He focused on the issues of Chinese urban development, Chinese patrimonialism and officialdom and Chinese religion and philosophy (primarily, Confucianism and Taoism), as the areas in which Chinese development differed most distinctively from the European route.[93]

According to Weber, Confucianism and Puritanism are mutually exclusive types of rational thought, each attempting to prescribe a way of life based on religious dogma.[94] Notably, they both valued self-control and restraint and did not oppose accumulation of wealth.[94] However, to both those qualities were just means to the final goal and here they were divided by a key difference.[89] Confucianism's goal was "a cultured status position", while Puritanism's goal was to create individuals who are "tools of God".[94] The intensity of belief and enthusiasm for action were rare in Confucianism, but common in Protestantism.[94] Actively working for wealth was unbecoming a proper Confucian.[89] Therefore, Weber states that it was this difference in social attitudes and mentality, shaped by the respective, dominant religions, that contributed to the development of capitalism in the West and the absence of it in China.[94]

The Religion of India: The Sociology of Hinduism and Buddhism

The Religion of India: The Sociology of Hinduism and Buddhism was Weber's third major work on the sociology of religion. In this work he deals with the structure of Indian society, with the orthodox doctrines of Hinduism and the heterodox doctrines of Buddhism, with modifications brought by the influence of popular religiosity and finally with the impact of religious beliefs on the secular ethic of Indian society.[95] In Weber's view, Hinduism in India, like Confucianism in China, was a barrier for capitalism.[89] The Indian caste system made it very difficult for individuals to advance in the society beyond their caste.[89] Activity, including economic activity, was seen as unimportant in the context of the advancement of the soul.[89]

Weber ended his research of society and religion in India by bringing in insights from his previous work on China to discuss similarities of the Asian belief systems.[96] He notes that the beliefs saw the meaning of life as otherworldly mystical experience.[96] The social world is fundamentally divided between the educated elite, following the guidance of a prophet or wise man and the uneducated masses whose beliefs are centered on magic.[96] In Asia, there was no Messianic prophecy to give plan and meaning to the everyday life of educated and uneducated alike.[96] Weber juxtaposed such Messianic prophecies (also called ethical prophecies), notably from the Near East region to the exemplary prophecies found on the Asiatic mainland, focused more on reaching to the educated elites and enlightening them on the proper ways to live one's life, usually with little emphasis on hard work and the material world.[96][97] It was those differences that prevented the countries of the Occident from following the paths of the earlier Chinese and Indian civilisations. His next work, Ancient Judaism was an attempt to prove this theory.[96]

Ancient Judaism

In Ancient Judaism, his fourth major work on the sociology of religion, Weber attempted to explain the factors that resulted in the early differences between Oriental and Occidental religiosity.[98] He contrasted the innerworldly asceticism developed by Western Christianity with mystical contemplation of the kind developed in India.[98] Weber noted that some aspects of Christianity sought to conquer and change the world, rather than withdraw from its imperfections.[98] This fundamental characteristic of Christianity (when compared to Far Eastern religions) stems originally from ancient Jewish prophecy.[99]

Weber claimed that Judaism not only fathered Christianity and Islam, but was crucial to the rise of the modern Occidental state; Judaism's influence was as important as Hellenistic and Roman cultures.

Weber's premature death in 1920 prevented him from following his planned analysis of Psalms, the Book of Job, Talmudic Jewry, early Christianity and Islam.

Economy and Society

Weber's magnum opus Economy and Society is a collection of his essays that he was working on at the time of his death in 1920. After his death, the final organization and editing of the book fell to his widow Marianne Weber. The final German form published in 1921 reflected very much Marianne Weber's work and intellectual commitment. Beginning in 1956, the German jurist Johannes Wincklemann began editing and organizing the German edition of Economy and Society based on his study of the papers that Weber left at his death.

English versions of Economy and Society were published as a collected volume in 1968 as edited by Gunther Roth and Claus Wittich. As a result of the various editions in German and English, there are differences between the organization of the different volumes.

Economy and Society includes a wide range of essays dealing with Weber's views regarding Sociology, Social Philosophy, Politics, Social Stratification, World Religion, Diplomacy, and other subjects. The book is typically published in a two volume set in both German and English, and is more than 1000 pages long.
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Re: Max Weber, by Wikipedia

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Part 2 of 2

Theodicy of fortune and misfortune

The theodicy of fortune and misfortune within sociology is the theory, as Weber suggested, of how "members of different social classes adopt different belief systems, or theodices, to explain their social situation".[100]

The concept of theodicy was expanded mainly with the thought of Weber and his addition of ethical considerations to the subject of religion. There is this ethical part of religion, including, "...(1) soteriology and (2) theodicy. These mean, respectively, how people understand themselves to be capable of a correct relationship with supernatural powers, and how to explain evil—or why bad things seem to happen to those who seem to be good people."[101] There is a separation of different theodicies with regard to class. "Theodicies of misfortune tend to the belief that wealth and other manifestations of privilege are indications or signs of evil.... In contrast, theodicies of fortune emphasise the notion that privileges are a blessing and are deserved."[101] Weber also writes that, "The affluent embrace good fortune theodicies, which emphasise that prosperity is a blessing of God...[while] theodices of misfortune emphasise that affluence is a sign of evil and that suffering in this world will be rewarded in the next."[100] Thus these two distinctions can be applied not only to class structure within society but denomination and racial segregation within religion.

Weber defines the importance of societal class within religion by examining the difference between the two theodicies and to what class structures they apply. The concept of "work ethic" is attached to the theodicy of fortune; thus, because of the Protestant "work ethic", there was a contribution of higher class outcomes and more education among Protestants.[102] Those without the work ethic clung to the theodicy of misfortune, believing wealth and happiness were granted in the afterlife. Another example of how this belief of religious theodicy influences class, is that those of lower status, the poor, cling to deep religiousness and faith as a way to comfort themselves and provide hope for a more prosperous future, while those of higher status cling to the sacraments or actions that prove their right of possessing greater wealth.[100]

These two theodicies can be found in the denominational segregation within the religious community. The main division can be seen between the mainline Protestant and evangelical denominations and their relation to the class into which their particular theodicy pertains. For example, mainline churches, with their upper class congregations, "...promote[d] order, stability, and conservatism, and in so doing proved to be a powerful source of legitimation of the status quo and of existing disparities in the distribution of wealth and power," because much of the wealth of the church comes from the congregation.[103] In contrast, Pentecostal churches adopted the theodicy of misfortune. They instead "advocated change intended to advance the cause of justice and fairness".[103] Thus the learned and upper class religious churches who preach the theodicy of fortune, ultimately support capitalism and corporation, while the churches who adopted the theodicy of misfortune, instead preached equality and fairness.

Politics and government

In political sociology, one of Weber's most influential contributions is his "Politics as a Vocation" (Politik als Beruf) essay. Therein, Weber unveils the definition of the state as that entity that possesses a monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force.[104][105][106] Weber wrote that politics is the sharing of state's power between various groups, and political leaders are those who wield this power.[105] A politician must not be a man of the "true Christian ethic", understood by Weber as being the ethic of the Sermon on the Mount, that is to say, the injunction to turn the other cheek.[107] An adherent of such an ethic ought rather to be understood as a saint, for it is only saints, according to Weber, that can appropriately follow it.[107] The political realm is no realm for saints; a politician ought to marry the ethic of attitude and the ethic of responsibility ("Verantwortungsethik vs Gesinnungsethik"[108]) and must possess both a passion for his vocation and the capacity to distance himself from the subject of his exertions (the governed).[107]

Weber distinguished three ideal types of political leadership (alternatively referred to as three types of domination, legitimisation or authority):[51][109]

1. charismatic domination (familial and religious),

2. traditional domination (patriarchs, patrimonialism, feudalism) and

3. legal domination (modern law and state, bureaucracy).[110]

In his view, every historical relation between rulers and ruled contained such elements and they can be analysed on the basis of this tripartite distinction.[111] He notes that the instability of charismatic authority forces it to "routinise" into a more structured form of authority.[77] In a pure type of traditional rule, sufficient resistance to a ruler can lead to a "traditional revolution". The move towards a rational-legal structure of authority, utilising a bureaucratic structure, is inevitable in the end.[112] Thus this theory can be sometimes viewed as part of the social evolutionism theory. This ties to his broader concept of rationalisation by suggesting the inevitability of a move in this direction.[77]

Bureaucratic administration means fundamentally domination through knowledge.

— Max Weber[113]

Weber described many ideal types of public administration and government in his masterpiece Economy and Society (1922). His critical study of the bureaucratisation of society became one of the most enduring parts of his work.[77][113] It was Weber who began the studies of bureaucracy and whose works led to the popularisation of this term.[114] Many aspects of modern public administration go back to him and a classic, hierarchically organised civil service of the Continental type is called "Weberian civil service".[115] As the most efficient and rational way of organising, bureaucratisation for Weber was the key part of the rational-legal authority and furthermore, he saw it as the key process in the ongoing rationalisation of the Western society.[77][113]

Weber listed several preconditions for the emergence of the bureaucracy:[116] The growth in space and population being administered, the growth in complexity of the administrative tasks being carried out and the existence of a monetary economy—these resulted in a need for a more efficient administrative system.[116] Development of communication and transportation technologies made more efficient administration possible (and popularly requested) and democratisation and rationalisation of culture resulted in demands that the new system treat everybody equally.[116]

Weber's ideal bureaucracy is characterised by hierarchical organisation, by delineated lines of authority in a fixed area of activity, by action taken (and recorded) on the basis of written rules, by bureaucratic officials needing expert training, by rules being implemented neutrally and by career advancement depending on technical qualifications judged by organisations, not by individuals.[113][116]

The decisive reason for the advance of the bureaucratic organisation has always been its purely technical superiority over any other form of organisation.

— Max Weber[115]

While recognising bureaucracy as the most efficient form of organisation and even indispensable for the modern state, Weber also saw it as a threat to individual freedoms and the ongoing bureaucratisation as leading to a "polar night of icy darkness", in which increasing rationalisation of human life traps individuals in the aforementioned "iron cage" of bureaucratic, rule-based, rational control.[113][117] To counteract bureaucrats, the system needs entrepreneurs and politicians.[113]

Social stratification

Weber also formulated a three-component theory of stratification, with social class, social status and political party as conceptually distinct elements.[118] The three-component theory of stratification is in contrast to Karl Marx simpler theory of social class that ties all social stratification to what people own. In Weber's theory, issues of honour and prestige are important. This distinction is most clearly described in Weber's essay Classes, Staende, Parties, which was first published in his book Economy and Society.[119] The three components of Weber's theory are:

• Social Class based on economically determined relationship to the market (owner, renter, employee, etc.)
• Status (or in German Stand), which is based on non-economic qualities like honour, prestige and religion
• Party, which refers to affiliations in the political domain

All three dimensions have consequences for what Weber called "life chances" (opportunities to improve one's life).[118]

Weber scholars maintain a sharp distinction between the terms status and class, even though, in casual use, people tend to use them interchangeably.[120]

Study of the city

As part of his overarching effort to understand the unique development of the Western world, Weber produced a detailed general study of the city as the characteristic locus of the social and economic relations, political arrangements, and ideas that eventually came to define the West. This resulted in a monograph, The City, which he probably compiled from research he conducted in 1911–13. It was published posthumously in 1921, and 1924, was incorporated into the second part of his Economy and Society, as chapter XVI, "The City (Non-legitimate Domination)".

According to Weber, the city as a politically autonomous organisation of people living in close proximity, employed in a variety of specialised trades, and physically separated from the surrounding countryside, only fully developed in the West and to a great extent shaped its cultural evolution:

The origin of a rational and inner-worldly ethic is associated in the Occident with the appearance of thinkers and prophets [...] who developed in a social context that was alien to the Asiatic cultures. This context consisted of the political problems engendered by the bourgeois status-group of the city, without which neither Judaism, nor Christianity, nor the development of Hellenistic thinking are conceivable.

— Max Weber[121]

Weber argued that Judaism, early Christianity, theology, and later the political party and modern science, were only possible in the urban context that reached a full development in the West alone.[122] He also saw in the history of medieval European cities the rise of a unique form of "non-legitimate domination" that successfully challenged the existing forms of legitimate domination (traditional, charismatic, and rational-legal) that had prevailed until then in the Medieval world.[123] This new domination was based on the great economic and military power wielded by the organised community of city-dwellers ("citizens").


Weber regarded himself primarily as a "political economist",[124][125][126] and all of his professorial appointments were in economics, though today his contributions in that field are largely overshadowed by his role as a founder of modern sociology. As an economist, Weber belonged to the "youngest" German historical school of economics.[127] The great differences between that school's interests and methods on the one hand and those of the neoclassical school (from which modern mainstream economics largely derives) on the other, explain why Weber's influence on economics today is hard to discern.[128]

Methodological individualism

Though his research interests were always in line with those of the German historicists, with a strong emphasis on interpreting economic history, Weber's defence of "methodological individualism" in the social sciences represented an important break with that school and an embracing of many of the arguments that had been made against the historicists by Carl Menger, the founder of the Austrian School of economics, in the context of the academic Methodenstreit ("debate over methods") of the late 19th century.[61] The phrase methodological individualism, which has come into common usage in modern debates about the connection between microeconomics and macroeconomics, was coined by the Austrian-American economist Joseph Schumpeter in 1908 as a way of referring to the views of Weber.[61] According to Weber's theses, social research cannot be fully inductive or descriptive, because understanding some phenomenon implies that the researcher must go beyond mere description and interpret it; interpretation requires classification according to abstract "ideal (pure) types".[127] This, together with his antipositivistic argumentation (see Verstehen), can be taken as a methodological justification for the model of the "rational economic man" (homo economicus), which is at the heart of modern mainstream economics.[61][127]

Marginalism and psychophysics

Unlike other historicists, Weber also accepted the marginal theory of value (also called "marginalism") and taught it to his students.[60][129] In 1908, Weber published an article in which he drew a sharp methodological distinction between psychology and economics and attacked the claims that the marginal theory of value in economics reflected the form of the psychological response to stimuli as described by the Weber-Fechner law. Max Weber's article has been cited as a definitive refutation of the dependence of the economic theory of value on the laws of psychophysics by Lionel Robbins, George Stigler,[130] and Friedrich Hayek, though the broader issue of the relation between economics and psychology has come back into the academic debate with the development of "behavioral economics".[131]

Economic history

Weber's best known work in economics concerned the preconditions for capitalist development, particularly the relations between religion and capitalism, which he explored in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism as well as in his other works on the sociology of religion.[127] He argued that bureaucratic political and economic systems emerging in the Middle Ages were essential in the rise of modern capitalism (including rational book-keeping and organisation of formally free labour), while they were a hindrance in the case of ancient capitalism, which had a different social and political structure based on conquest, slavery, and the coastal city-state.[132] Other contributions include his early work on the economic history of Roman agrarian society (1891) and on the labour relations in Eastern Germany (1892), his analysis of the history of commercial partnerships in the Middle Ages (1889), his critique of Marxism, the discussion of the roles of idealism and materialism in the history of capitalism in his Economy and Society (1922) and his General Economic History (1923), a notable example of the kind of empirical work associated with the German Historical School.[127]

Although today Weber is primarily read by sociologists and social philosophers, Weber's work did have a significant influence on Frank Knight, one of the founders of the neoclassical Chicago school of economics, who translated Weber's General Economic History into English in 1927.[133] Knight also wrote in 1956 that Max Weber was the only economist who dealt with the problem of understanding the emergence of modern capitalism "...from the angle which alone can yield an answer to such questions, that is, the angle of comparative history in the broad sense."[129]

Economic calculation

Weber, like his colleague Werner Sombart, regarded economic calculation and especially the double-entry bookkeeping method of business accounting, as one of the most important forms of rationalisation associated with the development of modern capitalism.[134] Weber's preoccupation with the importance of economic calculation led him to critique socialism as a system that lacked a mechanism for allocating resources efficiently to satisfy human needs.[135] Socialist intellectuals like Otto Neurath had realised that in a completely socialised economy, prices would not exist and central planners would have to resort to in-kind (rather than monetary) economic calculation.[135][136] According to Weber, this type of coordination would be inefficient, especially because it would be incapable of solving the problem of imputation (i.e. of accurately determining the relative values of capital goods).[135][136] Weber wrote that, under full socialism,

In order to make possible a rational utilisation of the means of production, a system of in-kind accounting would have to determine "value"—indicators of some kind for the individual capital goods which could take over the role of the "prices" used in book valuation in modern business accounting. But it is not at all clear how such indicators could be established and in particular, verified; whether, for instance, they should vary from one production unit to the next (on the basis of economic location), or whether they should be uniform for the entire economy, on the basis of "social utility", that is, of (present and future) consumption requirements [...] Nothing is gained by assuming that, if only the problem of a non-monetary economy were seriously enough attacked, a suitable accounting method would be discovered or invented. The problem is fundamental to any kind of complete socialisation. We cannot speak of a rational "planned economy" so long as in this decisive respect we have no instrument for elaborating a rational "plan".

— Max Weber[137]

This argument against socialism was made independently, at about the same time, by Ludwig von Mises.[135][138] Weber himself had a significant influence on Mises, whom he had befriended when they were both at the University of Vienna in the spring of 1918,[139] and, through Mises, on several other economists associated with the Austrian School in the 20th century.[140] Friedrich Hayek in particular elaborated the arguments of Weber and Mises about economic calculation into a central part of free market economics's intellectual assault on socialism, as well as into a model for the spontaneous coordination of "dispersed knowledge" in markets.[141][142][143]


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 and C. Wright Mills, From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, 1946/1991[7]

Weber's most influential work was on economic sociology, political sociology, and the sociology of religion. Along with Karl Marx and Émile Durkheim,[125] he is commonly regarded as one of the founders of modern sociology. But whereas Durkheim, following Comte, worked in the positivist tradition, Weber was instrumental in developing an antipositivist, hermeneutic, tradition in the social sciences.[144] In this regard he belongs to a similar tradition as his German colleagues Werner Sombart, Georg Simmel, and Wilhelm Dilthey, who stressed the differences between the methodologies appropriate to the social and the natural sciences.[144]

Weber presented sociology as the science of human social action; action that he separated into traditional, affectional, value-rational and instrumental.[145][146]

[Sociology is] the science whose object is to interpret the meaning of social action and thereby give a causal explanation of the way in which the action proceeds and the effects which it produces. By "action" in this definition is meant the human behaviour when and to the extent that the agent or agents see it as subjectively meaningful [...] the meaning to which we refer may be either (a) the meaning actually intended either by an individual agent on a particular historical occasion or by a number of agents on an approximate average in a given set of cases, or (b) the meaning attributed to the agent or agents, as types, in a pure type constructed in the abstract. In neither case is the "meaning" to be thought of as somehow objectively "correct" or "true" by some metaphysical criterion. This is the difference between the empirical sciences of action, such as sociology and history and any kind of a priori discipline, such as jurisprudence, logic, ethics, or aesthetics whose aim is to extract from their subject-matter "correct" or "valid" meaning.[147]

— Max Weber, The Nature of Social Action, 1922

In his own time, however, Weber was viewed primarily as a historian and an economist.[125][126] The breadth of Weber's topical interests is apparent in the depth of his social theory:

The affinity between capitalism and Protestantism, the religious origins of the Western world, the force of charisma in religion as well as in politics, the all-embracing process of rationalisation and the bureaucratic price of progress, the role of legitimacy and of violence as the offspring of leadership, the "disenchantment" of the modern world together with the never-ending power of religion, the antagonistic relation between intellectualism and eroticism: all these are key concepts which attest to the enduring fascination of Weber's thinking.

— Joachim Radkau, Max Weber: A Biography, 2005[148]

Many of Weber's works famous today were collected, revised and published posthumously. Significant interpretations of his writings were produced by such sociological luminaries as Talcott Parsons and C. Wright Mills. Parsons in particular imparted to Weber's works a functionalist, teleological perspective; this personal interpretation has been criticised for a latent conservatism.[149]

Weber has influenced many later social theorists, such as Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, György Lukács and Jürgen Habermas.[6] Different elements of his thought were emphasised by Carl Schmitt, Joseph Schumpeter, Ludwig Lachmann, Leo Strauss, Hans Morgenthau, and Raymond Aron.[6] According to Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises, who had met Weber during his time at the University of Vienna,

The early death of this genius was a great disaster for Germany. Had Weber lived longer, the German people of today would be able to look to this example of an "Aryan" who would not be broken by National Socialism.

— Ludwig von Mises, 1940[150]

Weber's friend, the psychiatrist and existentialist philosopher 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".[151] Paul Tillich, University Professor at Harvard, observed about Weber that he was "perhaps the greatest scholar in Germany of the nineteenth century". (Paul Tillich, "A History of Christian Thought", 1968, p. 233)

Critical responses to Weber

Weber's explanations are highly specific to the historical periods he analysed.[152] Some academics disagree, pointing out that, despite the fact that Weber did write in the early twentieth century, his ideas remain alive and relevant for understanding issues like politics, bureaucracy, and social stratification today.[153]

Many scholars, however, disagree with specific claims in Weber's historical analysis. For example, the economist Joseph Schumpeter argued that capitalism did not begin with the Industrial Revolution but in 14th century Italy.[154] In Milan, Venice and Florence, the small city-state governments led to the development of the earliest forms of capitalism.[155] In the 16th century, Antwerp was a commercial centre of Europe. Also, the predominantly Calvinist country of Scotland did not enjoy the same economic growth as the Netherlands, England and New England. It has been pointed out that the Netherlands, which had a Calvinist majority, industrialised much later in the 19th century than predominantly Catholic Belgium, which was one of the centres of the Industrial Revolution on the European mainland.[156] Emil Kauder expanded Schumpeter's argument by arguing the hypothesis that Calvinism hurt the development of capitalism by leading to the development of the labour theory of value.[157]


For an extensive list of Max Weber's works, see Max Weber bibliography.

Weber wrote in German. Original titles printed after his death (1920) are most likely compilations of his unfinished works (of the Collected Essays… form). Many translations are made of parts or sections of various German originals and the names of the translations often do not reveal what part of German work they contain. Weber's work is generally quoted according to the critical Max Weber-Gesamtausgabe (Collected Works edition), which is published by Mohr Siebeck in Tübingen.

See also

• Sociology portal
• Interpretations of Weber's liberalism
• Instrumental and value-rational action
• Robert Michels
• Sociology of law
• Speeches of Max Weber
• Weber and German politics
• Werturteilsstreit


1. Bellamy, Richard (1992), Liberalism and Modern Society, Polity, p. 165.
2. Bendix, Reinhard; Roth, Guenther (1971), Scholarship and Partisanship: Essays on Max Weber, University of California Press, p. 244, ISBN 9780520041714.
3. "Deutsche Biographie" (in German). Retrieved 25 September 2014.
4. "Weber". Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.
5. "Max Weber", Encyclopædia Britannica (online ed.), 20 April 2009.
6. Kim, Sung Ho (24 August 2007). "Max Weber". Encyclopaedia of Philosophy. Stanford. Retrieved 17 February 2010.
7. Max Weber; Hans Heinrich Gerth; Bryan S. Turner (7 March 1991). From Max Weber: essays in sociology. Psychology Press. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-415-06056-1. Retrieved 22 March 2011.
8. Radkau, Joachim and Patrick Camiller (2009). Max Weber: A Biography. Trans. Patrick Camiller. Polity Press. ISBN 978-0-74564147-8.
9. Giddens, Anthony (1971). Capitalism and Modern Social Theory: an Analysis of the Writings of Marx, Durkheim and Max Weber. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-52109785-1.
10. Auguste Comte, Marx and Weber: Benton, Ted (1977). Philosophical Foundations of the Three Sociologies. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. ISBN 0-71008593-1.
11. Tiryakian, Edward A. (2009). For Durkheim: Essays in Historical and Cultural Sociology. Routledge. p. 321. ISBN 0-75467155-0.
12. Habermas, Jürgen, The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity (originally published in German in 1985), Polity Press (1990), ISBN 0-7456-0830-2, p. 2.
13. Macionis, John J. (2012). Sociology (14th ed.). Boston: Pearson. p. 88. ISBN 978-0-205-11671-3.
14. Weber, Max The Protestant Ethic and "The Spirit of Capitalism" (1905). Transl. by Stephen Kalberg (2002), Roxbury Publ. Co., pp. 19, 35; Weber's references on these pages to "Superstructure" and "base" are unambiguous references to Marxism's base/superstructure theory.
15. Sica, Alan (2004). Max Weber and the New Century. London: Transaction Publishers, p. 24. ISBN 0-7658-0190-6.
16. Craig J. Calhoun (2002). Classical sociological theory. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 165. ISBN 978-0-631-21348-2. Retrieved 19 March 2011.
17. Dirk Käsler (1988). Max Weber: an introduction to his life and work. University of Chicago Press. p. 2. ISBN 978-0-226-42560-3. Retrieved 24 March 2011.
18. McKinnon, AM (2010), "Elective affinities of the Protestant ethic: Weber and the chemistry of capitalism" (PDF), Sociological Theory, ABDN, 28 (1): 108–26, doi:10.1111/j.1467-9558.2009.01367.x.
19. George Ritzer (29 September 2009). Contemporary Sociological Theory and Its Classical Roots: The Basics. McGraw-Hill. p. 32. ISBN 978-0-07-340438-7. Retrieved 22 March 2011.
20. Lutz Kaelber Max Weber's Personal Life, 1886–1893
21. Bendix, Reinhard (1 July 1977). Max Weber: An Intellectual Portrait. University of California Press. p. 1. ISBN 0-520-03194-6.
22. Allan, Kenneth D. (2 November 2005). Explorations in Classical Sociological Theory: Seeing the Social World. Pine Forge Press. p. 146. ISBN 978-1-4129-0572-5.
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• Waters, Tony; Waters, Dagmar (2015), Weber's Rationalism and Modern Society, New York: Palgrave-Macmillan.[1]

Further reading

• Ankerl, Guy (1972). Sociologues allemands. Avec le dictionnaire de "l'Ethique protestante et l'esprit du capitalisme" de Max Weber (in French). Neuchâtel: A la Baconnière.
• Bruun, Hans Henrik (2007). Science, values, and politics in Max Weber's methodology. Rethinking classical sociology. Aldershot, Ashgate. p. 298.
• Green, Robert, ed. (1959). Problems in European Civilization, Protestantism and Capitalism: The Weber Thesis and Its Critics. Boston: Heath.
• Haidenko, Piama; trans. H. Campbell Creighton (1989). "The Sociology of Max Weber". In Kon, Igor. A History of Classical Sociology. Moscow: Progress Publishers. pp. 255–311. ISBN 5-01-001102-6. Archived from the original (DOC, DjVu) on 2011-05-14.
• Kemple, Thomas (2014). Intellectual work and the spirit of capitalism : Weber's calling. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 9781137377135.
• Kolko, Gabriel (1959). "A Critique of Max Weber's Philosophy of History". Ethics. 70 (1): 21–36. doi:10.1086/291239. JSTOR 2379612. Archived from the original on 2013-05-30.
• Korotayev, Andrey; Malkov, A.; Khaltourina, D. (2006). "Chapter 6: Reconsidering Weber: Literacy and "the Spirit of Capitalism"". Introduction to Social Macrodynamics. Moscow: URSS. ISBN 5-484-00414-4. Archived from the original (Google Books) on 30 December 2016.
• Marra, Realino (1992), Dalla comunità al diritto moderno. La formazione giuridica di Max Weber. 1882–1889, Giappichelli, Torino
• Marra, Realino (1995), La libertà degli ultimi uomini. Studi sul pensiero giuridico e politico di Max Weber, Giappichelli, Torino
• Marra, Realino (2002), Capitalismo e anticapitalismo in Max Weber. Storia di Roma e sociologia del diritto nella genesi dell'opera weberiana, il Mulino, Bologna
• Mitzman, Arthur (1985) [1970]. The Iron Cage: An Historical Interpretation of Max Weber. New Brunswick NJ: Transaction Books. ISBN 0-87855-984-1.
• Quensel, Bernhard K. (2007), Max Webers Konstruktionslogik. Sozialökonomik zwischen Geschichte und Theorie, Nomos, ISBN 978-3-8329-2517-8 [Revisiting Weber's concept of sociology against the background of his juristic and economic provenance within the framework of "social economics"]
• Radkau, Joachim (2009) [2005]. Max Weber: a Biography. trans. Camiller. Cambridge: Polity. ISBN 978-0-7456-4147-8. [The most important work on Weber's life and torments since the biography by Marianne Weber]
• Rheinstein, Max; Shils, Edward (1954). Max Weber on Law in Economy and Society. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard U.P. ISBN 978-0-674-55651-5. [Translation, with long introduction, of Weber's main writings on law]
• Ritzer, George, ed. (1996). "Sociological Theory". Max Weber (fourth ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-07-114660-1.
• Roth, Guenther (2001), Max Webers deutsch-englische Familiengeschichte, J. C. B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), ISBN 3-16-147557-7
• Lawrence A. Scaff: Max Weber in America, Princeton University Press, Princeton/Oxford, England 2011 ISBN 978-0-691-14779-6
• Stapelfeldt, Gerhard (2004). Kritik der ökonomischen Rationalität (in German).
• Swatos, William H., ed. (1990). Time, Place, and Circumstance: Neo-Weberian Studies in Comparative Religious History. New York: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-26892-4.
• Swedberg, Richard (1998). Max Weber and the Idea of Economic Sociology. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-07013-X.
• Swedberg, Richard (October 1999). "Max Weber as an Economist and as a Sociologist". American Journal of Economics and Sociology. 58 (4): 561–82. doi:10.1111/j.1536-7150.1999.tb03385.x.[dead link]
• Weber, Marianne (1988) [1926]. Max Weber: a Biography. trans. Harry Zohn. New Brunswick: Transaction Books. ISBN 0-471-92333-8.
• Weber, Marianne (1926). Max Weber. Ein Lebensbild (in German). Mohr.
• Weber, Marianne (1975). Max Weber. Wiley. ISBN 978-0-471-92333-6.

External links

• Works by or about Max Weber at Internet Archive
• Works by Max Weber at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
• Large collection of the German original texts
• A collection of English translations
• Max Weber Reference Archive
• Max Weber, On Politics (1919)
• Large collection of the German original texts
• A comprehensive collection of English translations and secondary literature
• Notes on several of Weber's works, merged into one text file

Analysis of his works

• Protestant Ethic Thesis by the Swatos' Encyclopedia of Religion and Society
• Max Weber Studies journal
• McKinnon, AM (2010). "Elective affinities of the Protestant ethic: Weber and the chemistry of capitalism" (PDF). Sociological Theory. 28 (1): 108–26. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9558.2009.01367.x.

Other encyclopedic entries

• Sung Ho Kim. "Max Weber". In Zalta, Edward N. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.Unknown parameter |1= ignored (help)
• Max Weber (1864–1920). The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. Library of Economics and Liberty (2nd ed.). Liberty Fund. 2008.
• SocioSite: Famous Sociologists – Max Weber Information resources on life, academic work and intellectual influence of Max Weber. Editor: dr. Albert Benschop (University of Amsterdam).
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Re: Max Weber, by Wikipedia

Postby admin » Sun Jun 10, 2018 7:01 am

Part 1 of 2

The National State and Economic Policy (Freiburg Address)
by Max Weber
translated by Ben Fowkes
Economy and Society Volume 9 Number 4 November 1980
Inaugural lecture, Freiburg
May 1895



The title I have chosen promises much more than I can achieve today, or wish to achieve. What I intend is first of all this: to use a single example to make clear the role played by racial differences of a physical and psychological nature, as between nationalities, in the economic struggle for existence. I should then like to add some reflections on the situation of a state which rests on a national basis -– such as our own –- within the framework of a consideration of economic policy. I am choosing for my example a set of events which although they are occurring a long way from us have repeatedly come to the notice of the public in the last ten years. Allow me, then, to conduct you to the eastern marches of the Reich, to the open country of the Prussian province of West Prussia. This setting combines the character of a national borderland with some unusually sharp variations in the conditions of economic and social existence, and this recommends it for our purpose. Unfortunately I cannot avoid calling on your forebearance initially while I recite a series of dry data.

The rural areas of the province of West Prussia contain three different types of contrast, as follows: First, extraordinary variations in the quality of agricultural land. From the sugar-beet country of the Vistula plain to the sandy uplands of Cassubia the estimates of the gross tax yield vary in a ratio of 10 or 20 to 1. Even the average values at district level fluctuate between 4-3/4 and 33-2/3 marks per hectare.

Then there are contrasts in the social stratification of the population which cultivates this land. As in general in the East, the official statistics refer alongside the ‘rural parish’ (Landgemeinde) to a second form of communal unit, unknown to the South: the ‘estate district’ (Gutsbezirk). And, correspondingly, the estates of the nobility stand out in bold relief in the landscape between the villages of the peasants. These are the places of residence of the class which gives the East its social imprint -– the Junkers. Everywhere there are manor-houses, surrounded by the single-storey cottages the lord of the manor (Gutsherr) has allotted to the day-labourers, plus a few strips of arable land and pasture; these people are obliged to work on the manor the whole year round. The area of the province of West Prussia is divided between these two categories in roughly equal proportions. But in particular districts the share of the manorial estates can vary from a few per cent to two thirds of the whole area.

Finally, within this population which is subject to a twofold social stratification, there exists a third contrast; it is between the nationalities. And the national composition of the population of the individual communities also varies from region to region. It is this kind of variation which is of interest to us today. In the first place, the proportion of Poles is naturally greater as you approach the boundary of the Reich. But this proportion of Poles also increases as the quality of the soil deteriorates. Any language-map will show that. One will at first wish to explain this historically from the form taken by the German occupation of these lands, which initially spread over the fertile plain of the Vistula. And this would not be entirely incorrect. But let us now ask the further question: what social strata are the repositories of Germanism (Deutschtum) and Polonism (Polentum) in the country districts? In answer to this question, the figures of the most recently published population census (that of 1885) [1] present us with a curious picture. Admittedly we cannot directly extract the national composition of each parish from these figures, but we can do this indirectly, provided we are content to achieve only approximate accuracy. The intermediate step is the figure for religious affiliation, which, for the nationally mixed district we are concerned with, coincides to within a few per cent with nationality. If we separate the economic categories of the peasant village and the manorial estate in each district, by identifying them with the corresponding administrative units of the rural parish and the estate district, [2] we find that their national composition is related inversely to the quality of the soil; in the fertile districts the Catholics, i.e. the Poles, are relatively most numerous on the estates, and the Protestants, i.e. the Germans, are to be found in greater proportions in the villages. In districts where the soil is inferior the situation is precisely the opposite of this. For example, if we take the districts with an average net tax yield of under 5 marks per hectare, we find only 35.5 per cent Protestants in the villages and 50.2 per cent Protestants on the estates; if on the other hand we take the group of districts which provide an average of 10 to 15 marks per hectare, we find the proportion of Protestants rising to 60.7 per cent in the villages and falling to 42.1 per cent on the estates. Why is this? Why are the estates the reservoirs of Polonism on the plain, and the villages the reservoirs of Polonism in the hills? One thing is immediately evident: the Poles have a tendency to collect together in that stratus of the population which stands lowest both economically and socially. On the good soil, like that of the Vistula plain, the peasant’s standard of living has always been higher than that of the day-labourer on an estate; on the bad soil, which could only be rationally exploited on a large scale, the manorial estate (Rittergut) was the repository of civilization and hence of Germanism; there the miserable small peasants still live below the level of the day-labourers on the estates. If we did not know that anyway, the age-structure of the population would lead us to that presumption. If we look at the villages we find that as one rises from the plain to the hilltops, and as the quality of the soil deteriorates the proportion of children under 14 years old rises from 35-36 per cent to 40-41 per cent. If we compare the estates, we find that the proportion of children is higher on the plain than in the villages, that it increases as the height above sea-level increases, though more slowly than this happens in the villages, and finally that on the hilltops the proportion is lower than the proportion in the hilltop villages. As usual, a large number of children follows hard on the heels of a low standard of living, since this tends to obliterate any calculations of future welfare. Economic advance (wirtschaftliche Kultur), a relatively high standard of living and Germanism are in West Prussia identical.

And yet the two nationalities have competed for centuries on the same soil, and with essentially the same opportunities. What then is the basis of the distinction? One is immediately tempted to believe that the two nationalities differ in their ability to adapt to different economic and social conditions of existence. And this is in fact so –- as is proved by the tendency of development revealed by shifts in the population and changes in its national composition. This also allows us to perceive how fateful that difference in the ability to adapt is for the Germanism of the East.

It is true that we only have at our disposal the figures of 1871 and 1885 for a comparative examination of the displacements which have occurred in the individual parishes, and these figures allow us to perceive only the indistinct beginnings of a development which has since then, according to all indications, been extraordinarily reinforced. Apart from this, the clarity of the numerical picture naturally suffers under the enforced but not entirely correct assumption of an identity between religious affiliation and nationality on one side, and administrative subdivisions and social structure on the other. Despite all this, we can still gain a clear enough view of the relevant changes. The rural population of West Prussia, like that of large parts of the whole of eastern Germany, showed a tendency to fall during the period between 1880 and 1885; this fall amounted to 12,700 people, i.e. there was a decline of 1-1/4 per cent, while the overall population of the German Reich was increasing by about 3-1/2 per cent. This phenomenon, like the phenomena we have already discussed, also occurred unevenly: in some districts there was actually an increase in the rural population. And indeed the manner in which these phenomena were distributed is highly characteristic. If we take first the different soil qualities, one would normally assume that the decline hit the worst land hardest, for there the pressure of falling prices would be first to render the margin of subsistence too narrow. If one looks at the figures, however, one sees that the reverse is the case: precisely the most well-favoured districts, such as Stuhm and Marienwerder, with an average net yield of around 15-17 marks, experienced the greatest population loss, a loss of 7-8 per cent, whereas in the hilly country the district of Konitz and Tuchel, with a net yield of 5-6 marks, experienced the biggest increase, an increase which had been going on since 1871. One looks for an explanation, and one asks first: from which social strata did the population loss originate, and which social strata gained from the increase? Let us look at the districts where the figures demonstrate a great reduction in population: Stuhm, Marienwerder, Rosenberg. These are without exception districts where large-scale landownership predominates particularly strongly, and if we take the estate districts of the whole province together, we find that although in 1880 they exhibited a total population two thirds smaller than the villages (on the same area of land) their share in the fall of the rural population between 1880 and 1885 comes to over 9,000 people, which is almost three quarters of the tital reduction over the whole province: the population of the estate districts has fallen by about 3-3/4 per cent. But this fall in population is also distributed unevenly within the category referred to: in some places the population actually increased, and when one isolates the areas where the population was sharply reduced, one find that it was precisely the estates on good soil which experienced a particularly severe loss of population.

In contrast to this, the increase of population which took place on the bad soils of the uplands worked chiefly in favour of the villages, and indeed this was most pronounced in the villages on bad soils, as opposed to the villages of the plain. The tendency which emerges from these figures is therefore towards a decrease in the numbers of day-labourers on the estates situated on the best land, and an increase in the number of peasants on land of inferior quality. What is at stake here, and how the phenomenon is to be explained, becomes clear when one finally asks how the nationalities are affected by these shifts in population.

In the first half of the century the Polish element appeared to be in retreat, slowly but continuously. However, since the 1860s, as is well known, it has just as continuously, and just as slowly, been advancing. Despite their inadequate basis, the language data for West Prussia make the latter point extremely plain. Now a shift in the boundary between two nationalities can occur in two ways, which are fundamentally distinct. It may on the one hand happen that the language and customs of the majority gradually impose themselves on national minorities in a nationally mixed region, that these minorities get ‘soaked up.’ This phenomenon can be found as well in eastern Germany: the process is statistically demonstrable in the case of Germans of the Catholic confession. Here the ecclesiastical bond is stronger than the national one, memories of the Kulturkampf also play their part, and the lack of a German-educated clergy means that the German Catholics are lost to the cultural community of the nation. But the second form of nationality-displacement is more important, and more relevant for us: economic extrusion. And this is how it is in the present case. If one examines the changes in the proportion of adherents of the two faiths in the rural parish units between 1871 and 1885, one sees this: the migration of day-labourers away from the estates is in the lowlands regularly associated with a relative decline of Protestantism, while in the hills the increase of the village population is associated with a relative increase of Catholicism. [3] It is chiefly German day-labourers who move out of the districts of progressive cultivation; it is chiefly Polish peasants who multiply in the districts where cultivation is on a low level.

But both processes –- here emigration, there increase in numbers –- lead back ultimately to one and the same reason: a lower expectation of living standards, in part physical, in part mental, which the Slav race either possesses as a gift from nature or has acquired through breeding in the course of its past history. This is what has helped it to victory.

Why do the German day-labourers move out? Not for material reasons: the movement of emigration does not draw its recruits from districts with low levels of pay or from categories of worker who are badly paid. Materially there is hardly a more secure situation than that of agricultural labourer on the East German estates. Nor is it the much-bruited longing for the diversions of the big city. This is a reason for the planless wandering off of the younger generation, but not for the emigration of long-serving families of day-labourers. Moreover, why would such a longing arise precisely among the people on the big estates? Why is it that the emigration of the day-labourers demonstrably falls off in proportion as the peasant village comes to dominate the physiognomy of the landscape? The reason is as follows: there are only masters and servants, and nothing else, on the estates of his homeland for the day-labourer, and the prospect for his family, down to the most distant of his progeny, is to slave away on someone else’s land from one chime of the estate-bell to the next. In this deep, half-conscious impulse towards the distant horizon there lies hidden an element of primitive idealism. He who cannot decipher this does not know the magic of freedom. Indeed, the spirit of freedom seldom touches us today in the stillness of the study. The naïve youthful ideas of freedom are faded, and some of us have grown prematurely old and all too wise, and believe that one of the most elemental impulses of the human breast has been borne to its grave along with the slogans of a dying conception of politics and economic policy.

We have here an occurrence of a mass-psychological character: the Germany agricultural labourers can no longer adjust themselves to the social conditions of life in their homeland. We have reports of West Prussian landowners complaining about their labourers’ ‘self-assertiveness.’ The old patriarchal relationship between lord and vassal is disappearing. But this is what attached the day-labourer directly to the interests of the agricultural producers as a small cultivator with a right to a share in the produce. Seasonal labour in the beet-growing districts requires seasonal workers and payment in money. They are faced with a purely proletarian existence, but without the possibility of that energetic advance to economic independence which gives added self-confidence to the industrial proletarians who live cheek by jowl in the cities of the West. Those who replace the Germans on the estates of the East are better able to submit to these conditions of existence: I mean the itinerant Polish workers, troops of nomads recruited by agents in Russia, who cross the frontier in tens of thousands in spring, and leave again in autumn. They first emerge in attendance upon the sugar-beet, a crop which turns agriculture into a seasonal trade, then they are everywhere, because one can save on workers’ dwellings, on poor rates, on social obligations by using them, and further became they are in a precarious position as foreigners and therefore in the hands of the landowners. These are accompanying circumstances of the economic death-struggle of Old Prussian Junkerdom. On the sugar-beet estates a stratum of industrial businessmen steps into the shoes of the patriarchally ruling lord of the manor, while in the uplands the lands of the manorial estates crumble away under the pressure of the crisis in the agrarian economy. Tenants of small parcels and colonies of small peasants arise on their outfields. The economic foundations of the power of the old landed nobility vanish, and the nobility itself becomes something other than what it was.

And why is it the Polish peasants who are gaining the land? Is it their superior economic intelligence, or their greater supply of capital? It is rather the opposite of both these factors. Under a climate, and on a soil, which favour the growing of cereals and potatoes above all, alongside extensive cattle-raising, the person who is least threatened by an unfavourable market is the one who brings his products to the place where they are least devalued by a collapse in prices: his own stomach. This is the person who produces for his own requirements. And once again, the person who can set his own requirements at the lowest level, the person who makes the smallest physical and mental demands for the maintenance of his life, is the one with the advantage. The small Polish peasant in East Germany is a type far removed from the bustling peasant owner of a dwarf property, whom one may see here in the well-favoured valley of the Rhine as he forges links with the towns via greenhouse cultivation and market-gardening. The small Polish peasant gains more land, because he as it were eats the very grass from off of it, he gains not despite but on account of the low level of his physical and intellectual habits of life.

We therefore seem to see a process of selection unfolding. Both nationalities have for a long time been embedded in the same conditions of existence. The consequence of this has not been what vulgar materialists might have imagined, that they took on the same physical and psychological qualities, but rather that one yielded the ground to the other, that victory went to the nationality which possessed the greater ability to adapt itself to the given economic and social conditions of existence.

This difference in the ability to adapt seems to be present ready-made, as a fixed magnitude. The nations’ respective abilities to adapt might perhaps undergo further shifts in the course of many generations, through the millennial process of breeding which no doubt originally produced the difference, but for any reflections on the present situation it is a factor with which we have to reckon, as given. [4]

The free play of the forces of selection does not always work out, as the optimists among us think, in favour of the nationality which is more highly developed or more gifted economically. We have just seen this. Human history does not lack examples of the victory of less developed types of humanity and the extinction of fine flowers of intellectual and emotional life, when the human community which was their repository lost its ability to adapt to the conditions of existence, either by reason of its social organization or its racial characteristics. In our case it is the transformation of the forms of agricultural enterprise and the tremendous crisis in agriculture which is bringing to victory the less economically developed nationality. The rise of sugar-beet cultivation and the unprofitability of cereal production for the market are developments running parallel and in the same direction: the first breeds the Polish seasonal worker, the second the small Polish peasant.

Man of the Future

There are days when I may find myself unduly pessimistic about the future of man. Indeed, I will confess that there have been occasions when I swore I would never again make the study of time a profession. My walls are lined with books expounding its mysteries, my hands have been split and raw with grubbing into the quicklime of its waste bins and hidden crevices. I have stared so much at death that I can recognize the lingering personalities in the faces of skulls and feel accompanying affinities and repulsions.

One such skull lies in the lockers of a great metropolitan museum. It is labeled simply: Strandlooper, South Africa. I have never looked longer into any human face than I have upon the features of that skull. I come there often, drawn in spite of myself. It is a face that would lend reality to the fantastic tales of our childhood. There is a hint of Wells's Time Machine folk in it -- those pathetic, childlike people whom Wells pictures as haunting earth's autumnal cities in the far future of the dying planet.

Yet this skull has not been spirited back to us through future eras by a time machine. It is a thing, instead, of the millennial past. It is a caricature of modern man, not by reason of its primitiveness but, startlingly, because of a modernity outreaching his own. It constitutes, in fact, a mysterious prophecy and warning. For at the very moment in which students of humanity have been sketching their concept of the man of the future, that being has already come, and lived, and passed away.

We men of today are insatiably curious about ourselves and desperately in need of reassurance. Beneath our boisterous self-confidence is fear -- a growing fear of the future we are in the process of creating. In such a mood we turn the pages of our favorite magazine and, like as not, come straight upon a description of the man of the future.

The descriptions are never pessimistic; they always, with sublime confidence, involve just one variety of mankind -- our own -- and they are always subtly flattering. In fact, a distinguished colleague of mine who was adept at this kind of prophecy once allowed a somewhat etherealized version of his own lofty brow to be used as an illustration of what the man of the future was to look like. Even the bald spot didn't matter -- all the men of the future were to be bald, anyway.

Occasionally I show this picture to students. They find it highly comforting. Somebody with a lot of brains will save humanity at the proper moment. "It's all right," they say, looking at my friend's picture labeled "Man of the Future." "It's O.K. Somebody's keeping an eye on things. Our heads are getting bigger and our teeth are getting smaller. Look!"

Their voices ring with youthful confidence, the confidence engendered by my persuasive colleagues and myself. At times I glow a little with their reflected enthusiasm. I should like to regain that confidence, that warmth. I should like to but ...

There's just one thing we haven't quite dared to mention. It's this, and you won't believe it. It's all happened already. Back there in the past, ten thousand years ago. The man of the future, with the big brain, the small teeth.

Where did it get him? Nowhere. Maybe there isn't any future. Or, if there is, maybe it's only what you can find in a little heap of bones on a certain South African beach.

Many of you who read this belong to the white race. We like to think about this man of the future as being white. It flatters our ego. But the man of the future in the past I'm talking about was not white. He lived in Africa. His brain was bigger than your brain. His face was straight and small, almost a child's face. He was the end evolutionary product in a direction quite similar to the one anthropologists tell us is the road down which we are traveling.

-- The Immense Journey, by Loren Eiseley

On looking back at the facts presented here, I am in no position, as I shall willingly concede, to develop theoretically the significance of the various general points which may be derived from them. The immensely difficult question, certainly insoluble at present, of where to place the limit of the variability of physical and psychological qualities in a population under the influence of its given conditions of existence is something I shall not even venture to touch on.

Instead of this, everyone will automatically want to ask, above all else: what can and should be done in this situation?

You will however permit me to abstain from an exhaustive discussion of this on the present occasion, and to content myself with briefly indicating the two demands which in my view should be posed from the standpoint of Germanism, and are in fact being posed with growing unanimity. The first is the demand for the closing of the Eastern frontier. This was accomplished under Prince Bismarck, and then reversed after his resignation in 1890: permanent settlement remained forbidden to the aliens, but they were permitted entry as migratory workers. A ‘class-conscious’ land-owner at the head of the Prussian government excluded them in the interests of the maintenance of our nationality, and the hated opponent of the Agrarians [Caprivil] let them in, in the interests of the big landowners, who are the only people to gain from this influx. This demonstrates that the ‘economic class-standpoint’ is not always decisive in matters of economic policy –- here it was the circumstance the the helm of the ship of state fell from a strong hand into a weaker one. The other demand is for a policy of systematic land purchase on the part of the state, i.e. the extension of crown lands on the one hand, and systematic colonization by German peasants on suitable land, particularly on suitable crown land, on the other hand. Large-scale enterprises which can only be preserved at the expense of Germanism deserve from the point of view of the nation to go down to destruction. To leave them as they are without assistance means to allow unviable Slav hunger colonies to arise by way of gradual fragmentation of the estates into small parcels. And it is not only our interest in stemming the Slav flood which requires the transfer of considerable parts of the land of eastern Germany into the hands of the state, but also the annihilating criticism the big landowners themselves have made of the continued existence of their private property by demanding the removal of the risk they run, their personal responsibility for their own property, which is its sole justification. I refer to the proposal for the introduction of a corn monopoly [the Kanitz proposal of 1894 for a state monopoly on the import of corn into Germany] and the granting of a state contribution of half a billion marks a year. [5]

But, as I said earlier, I would prefer not to discuss this practical question of Prussian agrarian policy today. I would rather start from the fact that such a question arises at all, the fact that we all consider the German character of the East to be something that should be protected, and that the economic policy of the state should also enter into the lists in its defence. Our state is a national state, and it is this circumstance which makes us feel we have a right to make this demand.

However, how does the attitude assumed by economics relate to this? Does it treat such nationalist value-judgments as prejudices, of which it must carefully rid itself in order to be able to apply its own specific standard of value to the economic facts, without being influenced by emotional reflexes? And what is this standard of value peculiar to economic policy (Volkswirtschaftspolitik)? I should like to try to get closer to this question by making one or two further observations.

As we have seen, the economic struggle between the nationalities follows its course even under the semblance of ‘peace.’ The German peasants and day-labourers of the East are not being pushed off the land in an open conflict by politically superior opponents. Instead they are getting the worst of it in the silent and dreary struggle of everyday economic existence, they are abandoning their homeland to a race which stands on a lower level, and moving towards a dark future in which they will sink without trace. There can be no truce even in the economic struggle for existence; only if one takes the semblance of peace for its reality can one believe that peace and prosperity will emerge for our successors at some time in the distant future. Certainly, the vulgar conception of political economy is that it consists in working out recipes for making the world happy; the improvement of the ‘balance of pleasure’ in human existence is the sole purpose of our work that the vulgar conception can comprehend. However the deadly seriousness of the population problem prohibits eudaemonism; it prevents us from imagining that peace and happiness lie hidden in the lap of the future, it prevents us from believing that elbowroom in this earthly existence can be won in any other way than through the hard struggle of human beings with each other.
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Re: Max Weber, by Wikipedia

Postby admin » Sun Jun 10, 2018 10:36 am

Part 2 of 2

It is certain that there can be no work in political economy on any other than an altruistic basis. The overwhelming majority of the fruits of the economic, social and political endeavours of the present are garnered not by the generation now alive but by the generations of the future. If our work is to retain any meaning it can only be informed by this: concern for the future, for those who will come after us. But there can also be no real work in political economy on the basis of optimistic dreams of happiness. Abandon hope all ye who here here: these words are inscribed above the portals of the unknown future history of mankind. So much for the dream of peace and happiness.

The question which leads us beyond the grave of our own generation is not ‘how will human beings feel in the future’ but ‘how will they be.’ In fact this question underlies all work in political economy. We do not want to train up feelings of well-being in people, but rather those characteristics we think constitute the greatness and nobility of our human nature.

The doctrines of political economy have alternately placed in the forefront or naively identified as standards of value either the technical economic problem of the production of commodities or the problem of their distribution, in others words ‘social justice.’ Yet again and again a different perception, in part unconscious, but nevertheless all-dominating, has raised itself above both these standards of value: the perception that a human science, and that is what political economy is, investigates above all else the quality of the human beings who are brought up in those economic and social conditions of existence. And here we must be on our guard against a certain illusion.

As a science of explanation and analysis political economy is international, but as soon as it makes value judgments it is bound up with the distinct imprint of humanity we find in our own nature. We are often most bound to our own nature on precisely those occasions when we think we have escaped our fleshly limitations. And if – to use a somewhat fanciful image – we could arise from the grave thousands of years hence, we would seek the distant traces of our own nature in the physiognomy of the race of the future. Even our highest, our ultimate, terrestrial ideals are mutable and transitory. We cannot presume to impose them on the future. But we can hope that the future recognizes in our nature the nature of its own ancestors. We wish to make ourselves the forefathers of the race of the future with our labour and our mode of existence.

The economic policy of a German state, and the standard of value adopted by a German economic theorist, can therefore be nothing other than a German policy and a German standard.

Has this situation perhaps changed since economic development began to create an all-embracing economic community of nations, going beyond national boundaries? Is the ‘nationalistic’ standard of evaluation to be thrown on the scrapheap along with ‘national egoism’ in economic policy? Has the struggle for economic survival, for the maintenance of one’s wife and children, been surmounted now that the family has been divested of its original function as an association for production, and meshed into the network of the national economic community? We know that this is not the case: the struggle has taken on other forms, forms about which one may well raise the question of whether they should be viewed as a mitigation or indeed rather an intensification and a sharpening of the struggle. In the same way, the world-wide economic community is only another form of the struggle of the nations with each other, and it aggravates rather than mitigating the struggle for the maintenance of one’s own culture, because it calls forth in the very bosom of the nation material interests opposed to the nation’s future, and throws them into the ring in alliance with the nation’s enemies.

We do not have peace and human happiness to bequeath to our posterity, but rather the eternal struggle for the maintenance and improvement by careful cultivation of our national character. And we should not abandon ourselves to the optimistic expectation that we have done what is necessary once we have developed economic progress to the highest possible level, and that the process of selection in the freely conducted and ‘peaceful’ economic struggle will thereupon automatically bring the victory to the more highly developed human type.

Our successors will not hold us responsible before history for the kind of economic organization we hand over to them, but rather for the amount of elbow-room we conquer for them in the world and leave behind us. Processes of economic development are in the final analysis also power struggles, and the ultimate and decisive interests at whose service economic policy must place itself are the interests of national power, where these interests are in question.
The science of political economy is a political science. It is a servant of politics, not the day-to-day politics of the individuals and classes who happen to be ruling at a particular time, but the lasting power-political interests of the nation. And for us the national state is not, as some people believe, an indeterminate entity raised higher and higher into the clouds in proportion as one clothes its nature in mystical darkness, but the temporal power-organization of the nation, and in this national state the ultimate standard of value for economic policy is ‘reason of state.’ There is a strange misinterpretation of this view current to the effect that we advocate ‘state assistance’ instead of ‘self-help,’ state regulation of economic life instead of the free play of economic forces. We do not. Rather we wish under this slogan of ‘reason of state’ to raise the demand that for questions of German economic policy – including the question of whether, and how far, the state should intervene in economic life, and when it should rather untie the economic forces of the nation and tear down the barriers in the way of their free development – the ultimate and decisive voice should be that of the economic and political interests of our nation’s power, and the vehicle of that power, the German national state.

Has it been superfluous to recall things that appear to go without saying? Or was it unnecessary for precisely a younger representative or economic science to recall these matters? I do not think so, for it appears that our generation is liable very easily to lose sight of these simple bases for judgment. We have witnessed a hitherto unimaginable growth in the present generation’s interest in the burning issues of our field of science. Everywhere we find an advance in the popularity of the economic method of approach. Social policy has become the central pre-occupation instead of politics, economic relations of power instead of legal relations, cultural and economic history instead of political history. In the outstanding works of our historical colleagues we find that today instead of telling us about the warlike deeds of our ancestors they dilate at length about ‘mother-right’, that monstrous notion, and force into a subordinate clause the victory of the Huns on the Catalaunian Plain. One of the most ingenious theorists was self-confident enough to believe he could characterize jurisprudence as ‘the handmaiden of political economy.’ And one thing is certainly true: the economic form of analysis has penetrated into jurisprudence itself. Even its most intimate regions, the treatises on the Pandects, are beginning to be quietly haunted by economic ideas. And in the verdicts of the courts of law it is not rare to find so-called ‘economic grounds’ put in where legal concepts are unable to fill the bill. In short, to use the half-reproachful phrase of a legal colleague: we have ‘come into fashion.’ A method of analysis which is so confidently forging ahead is in danger of falling into certain illusions and exaggerating the significance of its own point of view. This exaggeration occurs in a quite specific direction. Just as the extension of the material of philosophical reflection – already made apparent externally through the fact that nowadays we frequently find e.g. prominent physiologists occupying the old Chairs of Philosophy – has led laymen to the opinion that the old questions of the nature of human knowledge are no longer the ultimate and central questions of philosophy, so in the field of political economy the notion has grown in the minds of the coming generation that the work of economic science has not only immensely extended our knowledge of the nature of human communities, but also provided a completely new standard by which these phenomena can ultimately be evaluated, that political economy is in a position to extract from its material its own specific ideals. The notion that there exist independent economic or ‘socio-political’ ideas is revealed as an optical illusion as soon as one seeks to establish these ‘peculiar’ canons of evaluation by using the literature produced by our science. We are confronted instead with a chaotic mass of standards of value, partly eudaemonistic, partly ethical, and often both present together in an ambiguous identification. Valuie-judgments are made everywhere in a nonchalant and spontaneous manner, and if we abandon the evaluation of economic phenomena we in fact abandon the very accomplishment which is being demanded of us. But it is not the general rule, in fact it is well-nigh exceptional, for the maker of a judgment to clarify for others and for himself the nature of the ultimate subjective core of his judgments, to make clear the ideals on the basis of which he proceeds to judge the events he is observing; there is a lack of conscious self-inspection, the internal contradictions of his judgment do not come to the writer’s notice, and where he seeks to give a general formulation of his specifically ‘economic’ principle of judgment he falls into vagueness and indeterminacy. In truth, the ideals we introduce into the substance of our science are not peculiar to it, nor have we worked them out independently: they are old-established human ideals of a general type. Only he who proceeds exclusively from the pure Platonic interest of the technologist, or, inversely, the actual interests of a particular class, whether a ruling or a subject class, can expect to derive his own standard of judgment from the material itself.

And is it so unnecessary for us, the younger representatives of the German historical school, to keep in sight these extremely simple truths? By no means, for we in particular are liable to fall victim to a special kind of illusion: the illusion that we can entirely do without conscious value-judgments of our own. The result is of course, and the evidence is quite convincing on this point, that we do not remain true to this intention but rather fall prey to uncontrolled instincts, sympathies, and antipathies. And it is still more likely to happen that the point of departure we adopt in analyzing and explaining economic events unconsciously becomes determinant in our judgment of the events. We shall perhaps have to be on our guard lest the very qualities of the dead and living masters of our school to which they and their science owed its success turn in our case into weaknesses. In practice we have essentially to consider the following two different points of departure in economic analysis.

Either we look at economic development mainly from above: we proceed from the heights of the administrative history of the larger German states, pursuing to its origins the way they have administered economic and social affairs and their attitude to these matters. In that case we involuntarily become their apologists. If – let us keep to our original example – the administration decides to close the Eastern border, we are ready and inclined to view the decision as the conclusion of a historical development, which as a result of the gigantic reverberations of the past has posed great tasks the present-day state must fulfil in the interest of the maintenance of our national culture. If on the other hand that decision is not taken it is very easy for us to believe that radical interventions of that kind are in part unnecessary and in part do not correspond any longer to present-day views.

Or, and this is the other starting-point, we may view economic development more from below, we may look at the great spectacle of the emancipator struggles of rising classes emerging from the chaos of conflicts of economic interest, we may observe the way in which the balance of economic power shifts in their favour. Then we unconsciously take sides with the rising classes, because they are the stronger, or are beginning to be so. They seem to prove, precisely because they are victorious, that they represent a type of humanity that stands on a higher level ‘economically’: it is all to easy for the historian to succumb to the idea that the victory of the more highly developed element in the struggle is a matter of course, and that defeat in the struggle for existence is a symptom of ‘backwardness.’ And every new sign of the shift of power gives satisfaction to the historian, not only because it confirms his observations, but because, half unconsciously, he senses it as a personal triumph: history is honouring the bills he has drawn on it. Without being aware of it, he observes the resistance that development finds in its path with a certain animosity; it seems to him to be not simply the natural result of the interplay of various inevitably divergent interests, but to some extent a rebellion against the ‘judgment of history’ as formulated by the historian. But criticism must also be made of processes which appear to us to be the unreflected result of tendencies of historical development; and precisely here, where there is most need of it, the critical spirit deserts us. In any case, there is a very obvious temptation on the historian to become a part of the camp-following of the victor in the economic struggle for power, and to forget that economic power and the vocation for political leadership of the nation do not always coincide.

With this we now arrive at a final series of reflections belonging more to the realm of practical politics. There is only one political standard of value which is supreme for us economic nationalists, and it is by this standard that we also measure the classes which either have the leadership of the nation in their hands or are striving for it. What we are concerned with is their political maturity, i.e. their understanding of the lasting economic and political interests of the nation’s power and their ability to place these interests above all other considerations if the occasion demands. A nation is favoured by destiny if the naïve identification of the interests of one’s own class with the general interest also corresponds to the interests of national power.
And it is one of the delusions which arise from the modern over-estimation of the ‘economic’ in the usual sense of the word when people assert that feelings of political community cannot maintain themselves in face of the full weight of divergent economic interests, indeed that very possibly these feelings are merely the reflection of the economic basis underlying those changing interests. This is approximately accurate only in times of fundamental social transformation. One thing can certainly be said: among nations like the English, who are not confronted daily with the dependence of their economic prosperity on their situation of political power, the instinct for these specifically political interests does not, at least not as a rule, dwell in the broad masses of the people, for they are occupied in the fight to secure their daily needs. It would be unfair to expect them to possess this understanding. But in great moments, in the case of war, their souls too become conscious of the significance of national power. Then it emerges that the national state rests on deep and elemental psychological foundations within the broad economically subordinate strata of the nation as well, that it is by no means a mere ‘superstructure,’ the organization of the economically dominant classes. It is just that in normal times this political instinct sinks below the level of consciousness for the masses. In that case the specific function of the economically and politically leading strata is to be the repositories of political understanding. This is in fact the sole political justification for their existence.

At all times it has been the attainment of economic power which has led to the emergence within a given class of the notion that it has a claim to political leadership. It is dangerous, and in the long term incompatible with the interests of the nation when an economically declining class is politically dominant. But it is still more dangerous when classes which are beginning to achieve economic power and thereby the expectation of political domination are not yet politically mature enough to assume the direction of the state. Germany is at present under threat from both these directions, and this is in truth the key to understanding the present dangers of our situation. The changes in the social structure of eastern Germany, with which the phenomena discussed at the outset are linked, also belong within this larger context.

Right up to the present time in Prussia the dynasty has been politically based on the social stratum of the Prussian Junkers. The dynasty created the Prussian state against them, but only with their assistance was it possible. I know full well that the word ‘Junker’ resonates harshly in South German ears. It will perhaps be thought that if I now say a word in their favour, I shall be speaking a ‘Prussian’ language. I cannot be sure. Even today in Prussia the Junkers have open to them many paths to influence and power, many ways to the ear of the monarch, which are not available to every citizen; they have not always used this power in accordance with their responsibility before history, and there is no reason for a bourgeois scholar like myself to love them. But despite all this the strength of their political instincts is one of the most tremendous resources which could have been applied to the service of the state’s power-interest. They have done their work now, and today are in the throes of an economic death-struggle, and no kind of economic policy on the part of the state could bring back their old social character. Moreover the tasks of the present are quite different from those they might be able to solve. The last and greatest of the Junkers stood at the head of Germany for a quarter of a century, and the future will very likely find the tragic element in his career as a statesman, alongside his incomparable greatness, in something which even today is hidden from view for many people: in the fact that the work of his hands, the nation to which he gave unity, gradually and irresistibly altered its economic structure even while he was in office, and became something different, a people compelled to demand other institutions than those he could grant to them, or those his autocratic nature could adapt itself to. In the final analysis it is this fate which brought about the partial failure of his life’s work. For this was intended to lead not just to the external but to the inner unification of the nation, and, as every one of us knows, that has not been achieved. With his means he could not achieve it. And when, last winter, ensnared by the graciousness of his monarch, he made his way into the splendidly decorated capital of the Reich, there were many people who felt – I can vouch for this – as if the Kyffhauser legend was about to come true, felt that the Sachsenwald had opened up and the long-lost hero was emerging from its depths. [6] But this feeling was not shared by everyone. For it seemed as if the cold breath of historical impermanence could be sensed in the January air. A strangely oppressive feeling overcame us, as if a ghost had stepped down from a great past epoch and were going about among a new generation, and through a world become alien to it.

The manors of the East were the points of support for the ruling class of Prussia, which was scattered over the countryside, they were the social point of contact for the bureaucracy. But with their decline, with the disappearance of the social character of the old landed nobility, the centre of gravity of the political intelligentsia is shifting irresistibly towards the towns. This displacement is the decisive political aspect of the agrarian development of the East.

But whose are the hands into which the political function of the Junkers is passing, and what kind of political vocation do they have?

I am a member of the bourgeois classes. I feel myself to be a bourgeois, and I have been brought up to share their views and ideals. But it is the task of precisely our science to say what people do not like to hear – to those above us, to those below us, and also to our own class – and when I ask myself whether the German bourgeoisie is at present ripe to be the leading political class of the nation, I cannot answer this question in the affirmative today. The German state was not created by the bourgeoisie with its own strength, and when it had been created, there stood at the head of the nation that Caesar-like figure hewn out of quite other than bourgeois timber. Great power-political tasks were not set a second time for the nation to accomplish: only much later on, timidly, and half unwillingly, did an overseas ‘power policy’ begin, a policy which does not deserve the name.

And after the nation’s unity had thus been achieved, and its political ‘satiation’ was an established fact, a peculiarly ‘unhistorical’ and unpolitical mood came over the growing race of German bourgeois, drunk as it was with success and thirsty for peace. German history appeared to have come to an end. The present was the complete fulfillment of past millennia. Who was inclined to question whether the future might judge otherwise? Indeed it seemed as if modesty forbade world history from going over to the order of the day, from resuming its day-to-day course after these successes of the German nation. Today we are more sober, and it is seemly to make the attempt to lift the veil of illusions which has hidden the position of our generation in the historical development of the fatherland. And it seems to me that if we do this we shall judge differently. Over our cradle stood the most frightful curse history has ever handed to any race as a birthday-gift: the hard destiny of the political epigone.

Do we not see his miserable countenance wherever we look in the fatherland? Those of us who have retained the capacity to hate pettiness have recognized, with passionate and furious sorrow, the petty manoeuvring of political epigones in the events of the last few months, for which bourgeois politicians are responsible first and foremost, in far too much of what has been said recently in the German parliament, and in a certain amount of what has been said to it. The gigantic sun which stood at its zenith in Germany and caused the German name to shine forth in the furthest corners of the earth was too strong for us, it might almost seem, and burnt out the bourgeoisie’s slowly developing sense of political judgment. For where is this to be seen at the present moment?

One section of the haute bourgeoisie longs all too shamelessly for the coming of a new Caesar, who will protect them in two directions: from beneath against the rising masses of the people, from above against the socio-political impulses they suspect the German dynasties of harbouring.

And another section has long been sunk in that political Philistinism from which broad strata of the lower middle classes have never awakened. Already when the first positive political task began to come on the nation’s horizon, after the wars of unification – I mean the idea of overseas expansion – this section of the bourgeoisie lacked the simplest economic understanding of what it means for Germany’s trade in far-off oceans when the German flag waves on the surrounding coasts.

The political immaturity of broad strata of the German bourgeoisie is not due to economic causes, nor is it due to the much-bruited ‘interest politics’, which is present in no less a degree in other nations than the German. The explanation lies in its unpolitical past, in the fact that one cannot make up in a decade for a missing century of political education, and that the domination of a great man is not always an appropriate instrument for such a process. And this is now the vital question for the political future of the German bourgeoisie: is it too late for it to catch up on its political education? No economic factor can make up for this loss.

Will other classes become the repositories of a politically greater future? The modern proletariat is self-confidently announcing itself as the heir of the ideals of the middle classes. What then of its claim to inherit the political leadership of the nation?

If anyone were to say of the German working class at present that it was politically mature, or on the road to political maturity, he would be a flatterer, a seeker after the dubious accolade of popularity.

The highest strata of the German working class are far more mature economically than the possessing classes in their egoism would like to admit, and it is with justification that the working class demand the freedom to put forward its interests in the form of the openly organized struggle for economic power. Politically the German working class is infinitely less mature than a clique of journalists, who would like to monopolise its leading positions, are trying to make the working class itself believe. In the circles of these déclassé bourgeois they like to amuse themselves with reminiscences of an epoch now one hundred years in the past. In some cases they have even succeeded in convincing other people; here and there anxious souls see in them the spiritual successors of the men of the Convention. But they are infinitely more harmless than they appear to themselves, for their lives in them not one glimmer of that Catiline energy of the deed which agitated the halls of the Convention. By the same token however they possess no trace of the Convention’s tremendous national passion. Wretched political manipulators – that is what they are. They lack the grand power instincts of a class destined for political leadership. The workers are led to believe that only the upholders of capital’s interests are at present politically opposed to giving them a share in state power. It is not so. They would find very few traces of a community of interest with capital if they investigated the study-rooms of Germany’s scholars and intellectuals.

However the workers too must be asked about their political maturity. There is nothing more destructive for a great nation than to be led by politically uneducated philistines, and the German proletariat has not yet lost this character of philistinism; that is why we are politically opposed to the proletariat. Why is the proletariat of England and France constituted differently, in part? The reason is not only the longer period of economic education accomplished by the English workers’ organized fight for their interests; we have once again what is above all a political element to bear in mind: the resonance of a position of world power. This constantly poses for the state great power-political tasks and gives the individual a political training which we might call ‘chronic’, whereas with us the training is only received when our borders are threatened, i.e. in ‘acute’ cases. The question of whether a policy on the grand scale can again place before us the significance of the great political issues of power is also decisive for our development. We must understand that the unification of Germany was a youthful prank committed by the nation at an advanced age, and should rather have been avoided on grounds of excessive cost if it was to form the conclusion instead of the point of departure for a policy of German world power.

The threatening danger in our situation is this: the bourgeois classes, as repositories of the power-instincts of the nation, seem to be withering, and there is still no sign that the workers have begun to mature so that they can take their place.

The danger does not lie with the masses, as is believed by people who stare as if hypnotized at the depths of society. The final content of the socio-political problem is not the question of the economic situation of the ruled but of the political qualifications of the ruling and rising classes. The aim of our socio-political activity is not world happiness but the social unification of the nation, which has been split apart by modern economic development, for the severe struggles of the future. At present the bourgeoisie is carrying the burden of these struggles, but it is becoming too heavy. Only if we were in fact to succeed in creating a ‘labour aristocracy,’ of the kind we now miss in the workers’ movement, which would be the repository of its political sense, only then could the burden be transferred to the broader shoulders of the workers. But that moment still seems a long way away.

For the present, however, one thing is clear: there is an immense labour of political education to be performed, and no more serious duty exists for us than that of fulfilling this task, each of us in his narrow circle of activity. The ultimate goal of our science must remain that of cooperating in the political education of our nation. The economic development of periods of transition threatens the natural political instincts with decomposition; it would be a misfortune if economic science also moved towards the same objective, by breeding a weak eudaemonism, in however intellectualized a form, behind the illusion of independent ‘socio-political’ ideals.

Of course we do have to remember, and for that very reason, that it is the opposite of political education when one seeks to formulate a vote of no confidence, paragraph by paragraph, against the nation’s future social peace, or when the secular arm reaches for the hand of the church to give support to the temporal authorities. But the opposite of political education is also proclaimed by the stereotyped yelping of the ever growing chorus of the social politicians of the woods and fields – if I may be forgiven the expression. And the same may be said of that softening of attitude which is human, amiable, and worthy of respect, but at the same time unspeakably narrowing in its effects, and leads people to think they can replace political with ‘ethical’ ideas, and to identify these in turn harmlessly with optimistic expectations of felicity.

In spite of the great misery of the masses, which burdens the sharpened social conscience of the new generation, we have to confess openly that one thing weighs on us even more heavily today: the sense of our responsibility before history. Our generation is not destined to see whether the struggle we are engaged in will bear fruit, whether posterity will recognize us as its forerunners. We shall not succeed in exorcising the curse that hangs over us: the curse of being posthumous to a great political epoch. Instead we shall have to learn how to be something different: the precursors of an even greater epoch.
Will that be our place in history? I do not know, and all I will say is this: youth has the right to stand up for itself and for its ideals. And it is not years which make a man old. He is young as long as he is able to remain sensitive to the grand passions nature has placed within us. And so – you will allow me to conclude with this – a great nation does not age beneath the burden of a thousand years of glorious history. It remains young if it has the capacity and the courage to keep faith with itself and with the grand instincts it has been given, and when its leading strata are able to raise themselves into the hard and clear atmosphere in which the sober activity of German politics flourishes, an atmosphere which is also pervaded by the solemn splendor of national sentiment.



1. Gemeindelexikon, Berlin, 1887.

2. This administrative subdivision is more characteristic evidence of social stratification than a division on the basis of the size of the enterprise. In the plains manorial enterprises of less than 100 hectares are not uncommon, nor, conversely, are peasant enterprises of more than 200 hectares in the hills.

3. For example the manorial estates of the district of Stuhm experienced a decline in population of 6.7 per cent between 1871 and 1885, and the proportion of Protestants in the Christian population fell from 33.4 per cent to 31.3 per cent. The villages of the district of Konitz and Tuchel increased in population by 8 per cent and the proportion of Catholics rose from 84.7 per cent to 86.0 per cent.

4. I need hardly point out the irrelevance for the above comments of the disputes in natural science over the significance of the principles of selection, or over the general application in natural science of the concept of ‘breeding,’ and all the discussions which have taken this their starting-point. This is in any case not my field. However, the concept of ‘selection’ is today common ground, just as much as is, e.g., the heliocentric hypothesis, and the idea of ‘breeding’ human beings is as old as the Platonic state. Both these concepts are employed e.g. by F.A. Lange in his Arbeiterfrage [Die Arbeiterfrage in ihrer Bedeutung fur Gegenwart und Zukunft, (Duisburg, 1865)] and they have long been so familiar to us that a misunderstanding of their meaning is impossible for anyone who knows our literature. More difficult to answer is the question of how much lasting value should be attached to the latest attempts of anthropologists to extend Darwin’s and Weismann’s selection concept to the field of economic investigation. They are ingenious, but arouse considerable reservations as to method and factual results, and are not doubt mistaken in a number of exaggerated versions. Nevertheless the writings of e.g. Otto Ammon (‘Natural selection in man,’ ‘The social order and its natural basis’) deserve more attention than they have been given, irrespective of all the reservations that have to be made. One weakness of most of the contributions made from natural scientific quarters to the illumination of the problems of our science consists in their mistaken ambition to provide above all a ‘refutation’ of socialism. Their eagerness to attain this goal leads to the involuntary conversion of what was intended to be a ‘natural-scientific theory’ of the social order into an apology for it.

5. The same train of thought as mine led Professor Schmoller too to pose the demand for state purchase of land in his journal (Schmollers Jahrbuch, 19, 1895, pp. 625 ff.). In fact that part of the stratum of big landowners whose retention as agricultural managers is desirable from the state’s point of view cannot in most cases be allowed to keep their land in full ownership but only as tenants of the crown demesne. I am certainly of the opinion that the purchase of land only has long-term validity if organically combined with the colonization of suitable crown lands, with the result that a part of the land in the East passes through the hands of the state and while it is in this position undergoes an energetic course of improvement with the assistance of state credits. The Settlement Commission [set up in 1886 to buy Polish estates and settle German farmers on them. Trans.] has to contend with two difficulties in this connection. One is that it is burdened with the ‘after-effects of the cure,’ in the shape of the colonists who have been planted and who ought preferably to be handed over after a while, along with their requests to postpone repayment to the ordinary state treasury, which is somewhat more hard-hearted than the Commission. The other difficulty derives from the fact that the estates which have been purchases have been for the most part in the hands of crown tenants for over a decade. Now the improvement must be carried out at breakneck speed and with great losses by the administration itself, although certainly a large number of crown lands would be suitable for immediate colonization. The consequent dilatoriness of the procedure does not by any means justify the judgment of Hans Delbruck on the national-political impact, delivered in his many well-known articles in the Preussische Jahrbucher. A merely mechanical calculation, comparing the number of peasant farms founded with the number of Poles, is not conclusive proof for anyone who has observed the civilizing effect of colonization on the spot: a few villages with a dozen German farms each will eventually Germanise many square miles, naturally with the pre-condition that the flood of proletarian reinforcements from the East is dammed up, and that we do not cut the ground from under the feet of those who are bringing progress, by leaving the big estates to the free play of the forces which are leading to their fragmentation and ruin, and are acting with even less restraint now thanks to the laws on renting land in perpetuity.

6. This is a reference by Weber to the old German legend that the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa was not dead but waiting in the heart of the Kyffhauser mountains in Thuringia to come forth and lead the German people against their enemies. Bismarck’s own estate was located in the Sachsenwald [Trans.].
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