In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Max Weber

  • Introduction
  • Weber’s Works in German
  • Biographies, Handbooks, Bibliographies, Journals
  • Law
  • Stratification
  • Comparative Sociology

Sociology Max Weber
Alan Sica
  • LAST REVIEWED: 12 September 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 August 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0064


A principal founder of modern sociology, Max Weber Jr. was born 21 April 1864, to a prominent Prussian lawyer/politician and a pious mother, in Erfurt, Prussia. He was the eldest of eight children (his brother, Alfred, also became a noted sociologist and cultural analyst). Max married his cousin, Marianne Schnitger, in 1893; the couple had no children. He died unexpectedly, a victim of the global influenza pandemic, on 14 June 1920, at age fifty-six. Raised in a wealthy suburb of Berlin, he suffered childhood illnesses that left him confined to bed, where he became bookish. His father’s large home saw gatherings of the local and national political and intellectual elite, and he overheard conversations that drew him into a realm of rarefied cultural awareness. Given his protean appetite for knowledge, he wrote essays on ponderous topics while still in middle school, yet he never took formal schooling very seriously, educating himself through reading and interaction with academic relatives and houseguests. Formally, he pursued law, economics, and philosophy at Heidelberg, Straßburg, Berlin, and Göttingen (1882–1886); served in the army reserve for two years during college; and then studied law at Berlin, graduating in 1889. He then precociously won academic appointments at Berlin and Freiburg, but was forced to retire from teaching after a massive nervous breakdown that immobilized him from 1897 until 1903. He recovered enough to take an extended trip to the United States in 1904. Freed from teaching duties by an inheritance, he spent the next sixteen years or so producing a body of sociocultural, economic, and sociological analysis that is second to none in the history of modern social science. Weber’s common fame rests on his Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (Weber 1930 and Weber 2002, cited under The Protestant Ethic Debate), in which he demonstrated why northern European Protestant behavior was more conducive to the formation of early capitalism than were southern European Catholic beliefs and practices, a hypothesis that has inspired thousands of commentaries and critiques. But he also contributed fundamental works to the sociology of law (which he virtually invented), the sociology of music (also a first), the sociology of the economy, the philosophy of social science method, the comparative sociology of religion (also his creation), social stratification, the sociology of bureaucracy and of power and “charisma” (his term), and so on.

The following is a chronology of Weber’s major works: On the History of Medieval Trading Companies, 1889, age 25 (120 pages); Roman Agrarian History, 1891, age 27 (280 pages); Conditions of Agricultural Workers in East Prussia, 1892, age 28 (900 pages); The Stock Market, 1894–1895, age 30 (329 pages); Agrarian Conditions in Antiquity, 1897, age 33 (400 pages); The Protestant Ethic, 1905, age 41 (250 pages); Roscher and Knies, 1903–1906 (300 pages); Bourgeois Democracy in Russia, 1906, age 42 (250 pages); Critique of Stammler, 1907, age 43 (200 pages); Psychophysics of Industrial Labor, 1908, age 44 (120 pages); Agrarian Sociology of Ancient Civilizations, 1909, age 45 (400 pages); On the Categories of Interpretive Sociology, 1913, age 49 (200 pages); Religion of China, 1916, age 52 (450 pages); Religion of India (400 pages); Ancient Judaism, 1917, age 53 (500 pages); Parliament and Government in a Reconstructed Germany, 1918, age 54 (130 pages). Other major works include the posthumously published Collected Political Writings (1921), Economy and Society (1921), Rational and Social Foundations of Music (1921), and General Economic History (1923).

Weber’s Works in German

Weber 2001 is an online version of Max Weber: Gesammelte Werke und Schriften, an electronic source for Weber’s works in German that allows for terminological searches. This collection, originally on CD-ROM and compiled by Karsten Worm, includes “all of Weber’s published writings, lectures, and articles published in journals,” according to its bibliographical description. Economy and Society (Weber 1968a, cited under General Sociology), a massive study assembled posthumously (in 1922) from Weber’s papers by his wife (herself an important intellectual and feminist leader in Germany), and wholly translated into English in 1968 for the first time, is the most important single collection of Weber’s work. For complete details on the chronology of composition, see Riesebrodt 2002, an online bibliography of Weber’s works. Sica 2004 (cited under Biographies, Handbooks, Bibliographies, Journals), the standard bibliography of works in English concerning Weber, includes over 4,800 items. This list continues to grow, because as Marx and Freud become, for many scholars, less tenable as the major analysts of the modern world, Weber’s ideas become ever more pertinent and revealing.

  • Riesebrodt, Martin. 2002. Bibliographie zur Max Weber-Gesamtausgabe. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck.

    Offered as part of the Mohr Gesamtausgabe, provides a comprehensive chronological bibliography and publication details of all of Weber’s writings. In German.

  • Weber, Max. 2001. Max Weber: Gesammelte Werke und Schriften. Edited and compiled by Karsten Worm. Charlottesville, VA: InteLex.

    This was originally a CD-ROM but is now offered online through certain university libraries and by paid subscription. It includes “all of Weber’s published writings, lectures, and articles published in journals,” according to its bibliographical description. Also included is the first (1922) edition of Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft, Rationalen und soziologischen Grundlagen der Musik, “Drei reinen Typen der legitimen Herrschaft” from the Preussische Jahrbücher (1922), plus all seven volumes of his Gesammelte Aufsätze on social science and policy, politics, comparative religion, and economic history. Six extra articles from the Frankfurter Zeitung are also included, along with his writings about Russia, as well as important review-essays on books by Adolf Weber and A. Lewenstein.

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