Max Weber – one of the Founders of Sociology

Max Weber (1864 - 1920)

Max Weber (1864 – 1920)

On April 21, 1864German sociologist, philosopher, jurist, and political economist Max Weber was born. Max Weber‘s ideas profoundly influenced social theory and social research. Weber is often cited, with Émile Durkheim and Karl Marx, as among the three founders of sociology.

Max Weber was born in Erfurt. He joined the University of Heidelberg to study law and later moved to the University of Berlin. Next to studying, Weber was also occupied as a junior lawyer. He continued his studies on law and history throughout the 1880s. In 1889, Weber earned his law doctorate and two years later he completed his Habilitationsschrift on Roman Agrarian History and its Significance for Public and Private Law. He then joined the University of Berlin where he gave lectures and also consulted the government.

Meanwhile, Weber became interested in social policies. As a member of the “Verein für Socialpolitik”, Weber was one of the first to emphasize the the role of economics as finding solutions to the social problems of the age. Weber further became one of the first researchers to pioneer large scale statistical studies of economic issues. For instance, he took part in the research on “the Polish question” or Ostflucht: the influx of Polish farm workers into eastern Germany as local laborers migrated to Germany’s rapidly industrializing cities. This work is believed to have Max Weber’s beginnings as a social scientist.

After Weber‘s marriage with Marianne Schnitger, he transfered to the University of Heidelberg were he became the central figure in the ‘Weber Circle’. The circle consisted of his wife, who was a feminist activist and author, Georg Jellinek, Ernst Troeltsch, Werner Sombart and Robert Michels. In 1900 the Weber’s traveled to Italy for health reasons and returned to Heidelberg in 1902. One year later he resigned his professorship and became associate editor of the Archives for Social Science and Social Welfare. Starting from 1904, Weber published some of his most influential works including “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism“. In 1909 he co-founded the German Sociological Association (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Soziologie, or DGS). After the first World War, Weber resumed teaching at the University of Vienna and later at Munich.

Max Weber died on June 14, 1920. At the time of his death, Weber had not yet finished writing his magnum opus on sociological theory: “Economy and Society“. His widow Marianne helped prepare it for its publication in 1921–22.

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