Published posthumously in the early 1920's, Max Weber's Economy and Society has since become recognized as one of the greatest sociological treatises of the 20th century, as well as a foundational text of the modern sociological imagination.
The first strictly empirical comparison of social structures and normative orders conducted in world-historical depth, this two volume set of Economy and Society—now with new introductory material contextualizing Weber’s work for 21st century audiences—looks at social action, religion, law, bureaucracy, charisma, the city, and the political community.
Meant as a broad introduction for an educated general public, in its own way Economy and Society is the most demanding textbook yet written by a sociologist. The precision of its definitions, the complexity of its typologies, and the wealth of its historical content make the work an important challenge to our sociological thought: for the advanced undergraduate who gropes for her sense of society, for the graduate student who must develop his own analytical skills, and for the scholar who must match wits with Weber.
Starting out as a professor of law and economics at a young age in Imperial Germany, Max Weber (1864-1920) had a brilliant career interrupted by illness, which ultimately freed him from academic constraints to create the great interdisciplinary body of work for which he is famous today. Transcending the German contemporary context, his writings have become, through a series of transatlantic transmissions, one of the foundation stones of American and international social science and indispensible reading in several disciplines. Central aspects of his oeuvre, foremost Economy and Society, remain of continued importance in the age of globalization and its counter-movements.
Guenther Roth, born in Germany in 1931, began his American career in 1953, dealing extensively with Max Weber’s scholarly and political writings in their contemporary context and their impact on American social science. Since his retirement from Columbia University in 1997, he has written about Weber’s cosmopolitan family history and the tensions in his life between scholarship, politics and personal relations.
Claus Wittich, born in Germany in 1932, was for many years a specialist for eastern European economies at US universities, then the United Nations in New York and Geneva. His recent work focuses on academic links between Germany and Russia from the 18th to the 20th century.
Ever since it was made known to Englishspeaking readers by R. H. Tawney and Tolcott Parsons, the thought of Max Weber has attracted increasing attention among students of sociology, history, economics, jurisprudence, political science, and political philosophy. His far-flung ideas were systematically brought together in his last book, Economy and Society, the major part of which was not published until after his death in 1921. Of this most comprehensive and significant of all of Weber’s writings, only the Introductory Part has so far been available in English.
The present book contains an English translation of those parts of Economy and Society in which Weber investigates the relationship between the social phenomenon “law” and the other spheres of social life, especially the economic and the political. The translation, by Edward A. Shils and Max Rheinstein, is accompanied by an extensive introduction and explanatory and bibliographical notes by Max Rheinstein. The Introduction will acquaint the reader with the problems of sociology of law in general and with Weber’s approach and methods in particular. The notes are meant to help the reader understand Weber’s wide-ranging references to institutions of Western and Oriental systems of law of both past and present; they also contain references to the sources used by Weber and to later literature which will help the reader evaluate Weber’s statements and conclusions.
Max Weber’s main problem was to discover the causes of the rise of modern capitalism. In his discussions of the law he is primarily concerned with finding what features of Western law, if any, were favorable to the development of the capitalistic economy and in what ways this economy has reacted upon methods of legal thought. Is logical rationality, peculiar to certain parts of the Western world, connected with that rational method of economic thought which is characteristic of Western capitalism? His concern with methods of legal thought renders Weber’s ideas specially significant for present American and English jurisprudence.
Among the other problems he discusses are those of freedom of contract, its origins, its rise and its place among the institutions of capitalist and non-capitalist societies; the development of rational processes of law making; the connections between kinds of legal thought and the types of social functionaries by whom law is shaped in a given society; the social factors favoring or counteracting codification; and the economic and political significance of ideas of natural law.