Sociologist Max Weber’s new biography


This video from the USA says about itself:

The North Carolina Sociological Society is proud to announce the long-awaited video of Max Weber’s trip to North Carolina as retold by two of his cousins. Max Weber made a trip to visit relatives in Mount Airy, North Carolina, in 1904. This 2004 narrative by Larry Keeter and Stephen Hall is the story of locating and interviewing two living eyewitnesses (1976) to Max Weber’s trip. The video includes information about Weber’s contributions to modern sociology. The video should appeal to students and professors interested in Max Weber. It can be included in courses ranging from introductory sociology to theory.

From British daily The Morning Star:

World-wide Weber

(Sunday 18 January 2009)

Max Weber by Joachim Radkau
(Polity Press, £25)

GORDON PARSONS gets to grips with a volume on one of the most influential and wide-ranging thinkers of modern history.

IN the preface to his monumental biography of one of the founding figures of sociology, the author admits having cut the thousand-plus pages of the original German edition to its present 665 pages. Even so, he later finds that “it is not easy to say, and still harder to theorise, why Weber became as famous as he did.”

Certainly this is not the book for anyone looking for an accessible way into Weber and his place in modern history.

The difficulties not only relate to the language packed with the “isms” of sociological jargon and the problems of translating Radkau’s self-confessed “very German style” but also his attempt to psychoanalyse his subject’s hugely complex personality.

The man who emerges from this exhaustively detailed and personal examination of his subject’s life is hard to like.

Weber appears as a man tortured by a long nervous illness and sexual problems (apparently impotent within his marriage and yet beset by “night-time emissions”), both dominated and dominant in his relations with women, periodically a heavy drinker and glutton, arrogant, aggressive and irritable and finally with a self-image as a Wagnerian Trystan-like tragic figure.

Radkau sets about unravelling and relating the man and his work, but here arises a problem for the lay reader. Weber’s personal life, his intellectual marriage, his family relationships, his inner battles between asceticism and eroticism, are easily assimilated. When we come to the descriptive analyses of his works, however, much greater demands are made on the reader.

Chameleon-like in his interests, ranging from agrarian culture, through the relationship of religion to capitalism to the development and nature of music, science and politics, difficulties relate to Weber’s own specialised vocabulary.

Terms like “nature,” “rationalisation,” the “ideal type,” “salvation” and “charisma” in the book do not quite hold the accepted definitions, giving plenty of academic scope for later Weberian commentators.

Although he is reputed to have claimed that “the world in which we live in intellectually is one that bears the stamp of Marx and Nietzsche,” Weber’s belief that sociological truth lies essentially in the nature of the individual not in class struggle has resulted in his theories being used to challenge the Marxist analysis.

Contemporary experience, however, might explain the rise of capitalism rather as “the godless greed for money than by the pursuit of godly favour.”

His own persona or, we might say, charisma must have been considerable to have created so many disciples and adversaries. Weber died in 1920 and subsequent world history has shadowed his ideas.

On charisma and politics, for example, his view of democracy was that the people should elect a strong leader then “shut their mouths” allowing him to get on with the job. Unfortunately, we have all been there.

C. Wright Mills Would Have Loved Occupy Wall Street; here.

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