Weber Study Group

These days an interest in Max Weber is fairly broadly defined. There is a 'biographical Weber' which connects the man himself to his family and his milieu, bearing in mind that his wife Marianne was a pioneer in gender studies and his brother Alfred an important figure in civilizational analysis. There is a 'political Weber' which looks not just at his political sociology but his relation to the history of political theory as well as Wilhelmine politics. The theoretical side of Weber embraces the great methodological debates of his time: the interpretive v. positivist social science, the particularising v. the lawlike, and partisanship v. objectivity; also how Weber's own ambitions for sociology should be seen. These issues are still relevant, and for example the recent debates on realism and social research have analogues in the disputes c. 1900. The 'religious' Weber includes reform movements, disenchantment/re-enchantment, and secular negation.

There is, and always has been, a strong application side to Weber studies: organisational sociology, economic sociology, theory of the firm, the study of political elites and political parties, nationalism and ethnicity and so on.

We are also coming into an era where the terms of globalisation are being increasingly determined by southern hemisphere countries. Weber was always quizzical about occidental rationalism, which for him was the common intellectual driver across the main societal spheres in the rise of the West. OECD countries are currently rather losing the plot on the value and rationality structures of modernity, while southern hemisphere countries show increasing confidence about the sort of modernity, capitalism and values they wish to develop. Weber's writings on civilization and Kultur are being re-evaluated against this background. 

Finally, it has become clear that Weber wrote far more than previously supposed. The standard corpus in English is the two volumes of Economy and Society, the four volumes on the world religions, and slim volumes on methodology and politics. The Max Weber Gesamtausgabe is now up to a metre and a half of shelf space and will top out at two metres. Some of this is making it into English translation. For example, his methodological writings will appear in a new 700 page English translation in early 2011 as part of the Routledge 'Weber in Translation' series. His lectures are now being published for the first time by the MWG and cover finance, economics, the labour question, the agrarian question and the sociology of the state. Because these are in note form they will be very difficult to translate - but already they display the bedrock of Weber's knowledge out of which he mined his studies on capitalism and other topics. There are also around 3,500 letters written by Max Weber still in existence, most of which are now reaching the light of day.