Weber, Max

(1864-1920)
   sociologist; the widely acknowledged father of modern sociology. He was born the first of eight children in Erfurt; his father was a lawyer who served as an Erfurt magistrate. From age five he grew up in Berlin* (his father had entered the Prussian Abgeordnetenhaus), where his home hosted academics and politicians. He began studies in law, history, and econom-ics in 1882, took a doctorate at Berlin in 1889, and wrote his Habilitation in 1891 on Roman agrarian history. After stints as Privatdozent and ausserorden-tlicher Professor, he became Professor of Economics at Freiburg in 1893. Three years later he moved to Heidelberg. In 1903, the year he began Die protestant-ische Ethik und den Geist des Kapitalismus (The Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism), Weber left the classroom due to recurring mental problems. He lived as a private scholar and teacher, became coeditor in 1904 of the Archiv fuÜr Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik (Archive for social science and social policy) and, with the proposed Kaiser Wilhelm Society* as his model, founded the German Society for Sociology in 1909 with Ferdinand Tonnies,* Georg Simmel, and Werner Sombart.* In 1918 he returned to the classroom at Vienna.
   Weber's prolific writings ranged from history to law. In 1913 he was sepa-rately researching the sociology of religion, the foundations of social economics, and the sociology of music.* His early investigations focused on agricultural life in eastern Germany, which he deemed a clash of two cultures: a residual feudal order and a new market economy. Protestantische Ethik was inspired by Ernst Troeltsch,* who was exploring the link between Calvinist theology and capitalist ethics. Weber's scholarship always endeavored to combine scientific rigor with concern for the vagaries of human nature. He is best remembered for his typology of legitimate authority and administration as outlined in Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft (Economy and society). An erstwhile admirer of Bismarck, he professed the superiority of hierarchies and argued that political power should rest in the hands of a few—an elite derived from the socially secure middle classes. Even in a democracy, he argued, the inarticulate mass never governs; rather, it is governed. While he accepted Marx s view that the privileged possess a disproportionate influence on policy formation, he rejected the notion that this was unacceptable. He believed that while political and economic leadership was exercised by a progressive elite, the success of a modern state necessitated bu-reaucratic officials selected for their technical ability. But he saw a distinction between political leaders (elite decision makers) and bureaucrats (expert advi-sors). The state must be served by its bureaucrats, not governed by them. A strong Reichstag* would hold the bureaucracy in check. Meanwhile, his ideal leader, a man of charisma, while elected by the masses, was immune to popular pressure and largely free to be an independent actor.
   Weber s politics, embedded in his scholarship, were quite complex. Both re-alist and nationalist, he was a liberal with little faith in the masses and a mon-archist who chastised the Kaiser. His wife (nee Marianne Schnitger) was involved in the women s* movement. Consistently moving leftward, he urged liberalism but never retained a party allegiance for long. He held that Germany should pursue world power; yet, believing that the country must cooperate with England, he viewed German diplomacy from 1890 as a series of blunders. He supported Friedrich Naumann s* vision of Mitteleuropa, whereby a central Eu-ropean confederation under German leadership would stand against threats from both Western and Eastern Europe.
   At the outbreak of World War I Weber was an officer with the Military Hospitals Commission. While he was enthusiastic in August 1914, he despaired after Germany s conquest of Belgium. Because of his veneration of the nation-state, Germany's defeat filled him with gloom; fearful of German dismember-ment, he proposed a popular uprising to prevent the loss of eastern territory. He was embittered by the November Revolution* and, despite sitting on Heidel-berg s Workers and Soldiers Council,* despised the council movement. Hop-ing to save the monarchy, he proposed a plebiscite to determine if Germans preferred a republic to a monarch. A Vernunftrepublikaner,* he quickly adjusted to the Republic, formed ties with the DDP, and in December 1918 became an advisor to the liberal Frankfurter Zeitung, for which he wrote on constitutional issues. As part of a preliminary constitutional committee, he recommended the popular, rather than parliamentary, election of the President. Yet he was deemed too radical by the DDP's leadership—he claimed in early 1919 to stand "close to the Independent Socialists —and his failure to get elected to the National Assembly* prevented him from advancing his ideas. In May 1919 he went to Versailles with the peace delegation. He moved to Munich in the spring of 1919 to assume Lujo Brentano s chair in economics, but died in 1920 of pneumonia.
   REFERENCES:Gerth and Mills, From Max Weber; H. Stuart Hughes, Consciousness and Society; Kasler, Max Weber; Mitzman, Iron Cage; Wolfgang Mommsen, Max Weber.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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