‘Max Weber’s “Grand Sociology”: The Origins and Composition of Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft. Soziologie’, History and Theory, 39, pp. 364—83
Max Weber is best known to Anglophone readers through The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism,1 but it is his Economy and Society: Sociology (Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft. Soziologie) which was recently selected by the International Sociological Association as the most important sociological work of the twentieth century. Yet the controversies about Economy and Society con tinue, beginning with Friedrich Tenbruck’s 1977 review of the fourth edition by Johannes F. Winckelmann.2 More recently, Wolfgang Schluchter has argued that
the work ought to have the title “Die Wirtschaft und die geseilschaftlichen Ordnungen und Machte” rather than Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft? Furthermore, he advanced cogent arguments for a more plausible arrangement of the texts. Hiroshi Orihara has published a welter of detailed philological observations about the composition of Economy and Society, with particular attention to inter nal references within the texts.4 Earlier studies on the origins and composition of Economy and Society were mainly directed against attempts, first by the original editors Marianne Weber and Melchior Palyi and later by the elaborate new edi tions published by Johannes F. Winckelmann, to present Max Weber’s magnum opus essentially as one single work. They saw it as a torso consisting of segments of two and a half unfinished books.5 Actually the two current German editions by Marianne Weber (WuGl) and by Winckelmann (WuG5),6 as well as the English edition by Guenther Roth (which in a way is the best of them), have to be read like a Chinese book in order to be understood properly. The first four chapters, comprising the so-called Basic Sociological Categories (“Kategorienlehre”), were written in 1919-1920 and brought to publication by Weber himself imme diately before his premature death. The other segments, written for the most part
between 1909 and 1914, were published posthumously by Marianne Weber on the basis of the manuscripts she found in his desk.