Max Weber and German Social Democracy
Max Weber was undoubtedly one of the seminal political thinkers of the early twentieth century. His views on the character and role of the German Social Democratic Party in Wilhelmine Germany are of interest in many respects. He considered the Social Democratic Party to be one of the most advanced examples of the bureaucratic mass party which in his opinion was about to become dominant in modern parliamentary government. More importantly, he was interested in the Social Democrats as a socialist movement which had tied its political fortunes to a considerable degree to the Marxist theory of historical materialism. But paramount in his views about Social Democracy were considerations concerning the concrete role which the Social Democrats played within Wilhelmine politics. Above all he concentrated on one issue, namely whether their policies were likely to promote or retard the political system's democratisation. In his opinion an alliance of the middle and the working classes ought to end aristocratic dominance of the state. Weber believed this to be necessary on liberal grounds, but also for national reasons; only an Imperial Germany whose policies enjoyed the full support of all the nation's classes would be able to play a major role in the world politics of the future. 1 It is this viewpoint which was all important in Weber's assessment of German Social Democracy.