A Note on Max Weber's Unfinished Theory of Economy and Society

Economic Sociology: The European Electronic Newsletter, Vol. 8, No. 2 (March 2007), pp. 27-30

4 Pages Posted: 15 Jan 2013

Date Written: Winter 2006

Abstract

Max Weber's two most important contributions to economic sociology appeared only posthumously. Both contributions, the Fundamental Concepts of Economic Action, which appeared in Economy and Society (Weber 1990), and his General Economic History (Weber 1991), featured a definition of Wirtschaften, of economic action, which went almost unnoticed, even though Weber had given it a good deal of attention in his comments in Economy and Society. He had also started to rewrite his Herrschaftssoziologie, his political sociology, due to certain consequences stemming from that definition. As far as I can see only Talcott Parsons discussed this definition of Wirtschaften in his book on The Structure of Social Action, noting that Weber made it difficult for others to see its scope by taking it up in separate chapters on the economic and the political sociology. Wolfgang Schluchter reexamines carefully the problematic division of Economy and Society into two parts, a newer one (1918), as the first part, and an older one (1914), as the second part, which is the way the book was divided by Marianne Weber after the death of her husband Max. Schluchter notes that it is the Wirtschaftssoziologie (economic sociology) which motivates a new Herrschaftssoziologie (sociology of domination), which has to be formulated before any Rechtssoziologie (sociology of law) and Staatssoziologie (sociology of the state) make sense. Indeed, for Weber, no economic sociology should ignore the way any economic calculus is dependent on the rules securing that present sacrifices are not only being taken but are also rewarded by the keeping of promises made to justify the sacrifice. That means that a whole edifice of a present calculus of future rewards embedded within systems and institutions attempting to guarantee both the present calculus and the future cashing-in emerges, which may be called the "society" which is mentioned twice in the title of Max Weber's book: in the society being called as such explicitly, and in the innocuous word "and" separating and linking that society from, and with, the economy.

Keywords: economy, Max Weber, peacefulness, power, society, violence

Suggested Citation

Baecker, Dirk, A Note on Max Weber's Unfinished Theory of Economy and Society (Winter 2006). Economic Sociology: The European Electronic Newsletter, Vol. 8, No. 2 (March 2007), pp. 27-30, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2201018

Dirk Baecker (Contact Author)

Witten/Herdecke University ( email )

Germany

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