On Max Weber’s inaugural address of 1895: contextual, textual and intertextual perspectives

HE Rong1

(1.Institute of Sociology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences)

【Abstract】Weber’s 1895 inaugural address is regarded as a manifestation of aggressive nationalism, but it is overlooked in Weber literature to a certain degree. This study focuses on this text to locate the early Weber’s sociological concerns, namely, how the demographic trend, economic transformation and political structure in the East Elbian region challenged Germany as an integrated nation. Furthermore, this is also a case study to show why we need to understand Weber’s work via a textual, contextual and intertextual perspective. A possible way towards a multi-dimensional historiography of Weber’s work is to construct text groups, and text chains based on key texts of certain themes.

【Keywords】 early Weber; history of Weber’s writings; key texts; text chain;


Download this article


    [1]. ① In 1959, Mommsen published Max Weber und Deutsche Politik, 1890–1920, criticizing Weber’s stands, even with the belief that Weber’s thought laid the foundation for the rising of Hitler. Such assertion had a close relation with the general atmosphere of reflection in German intellectual world in the 1950s and Mommsen’s personal idea that Germany should be responsible for the war. On the conference in commemoration of Weber’s 100th birthday, Mommsen, Marcuse, and Habermas expressed strong criticism against Weber, while Parsons, Aron and others defended him. Mommsen’s criticism became less intense in the second edition of the book published in 1974, and the English version (1984) of the book was translated from the 1974 edition of the German version. Mommsen explained the change in his stand in the preface he wrote for all editions (German 1st, 2nd editions, and English edition). [^Back]

    [2]. ① In this period, Weber’s works were mainly investigation reports, newspaper articles, and conference papers. After the 1890s, German domestic situation changed, but Weber did not continue his research on farm laborers, exchanges, and other problems, and thus when Mrs. Weber compiled collected works in the 1920s, she did not include these works due to the outdated subject and limit on length. Since the late 1970s, the new Max Weber Gesamtausgabe have begun compiling all his reports, lectures, teaching materials for courses, letters, and other forms of literature, such as the investigation report on farm laborers in eastern Germany written in 1892, in which the original script of Weber was over 900 pages, compiled as Book III (i and ii) published in 1894. In addition, by 2003, only four articles among the more than 1700 pages of Weber’s works had been translated into English (Sica, 2003). Until 2003 and 2008 when Weber’s doctoral dissertation and professor qualification paper were finally published in English, Weber’s early works that non-German scholars can access were enriched. [^Back]

    [3]. ① The German word used here is Kolonization, normally translated into Chinese as “殖民 (colonization)” (Ringer, 2011) and “拓殖 (colonization)” (Weber, 1997). Since the Chinese word “殖民 (colonizing)” or “殖民化 (colonization)” often imply the meaning of capitalist aggression, national oppression and deprivation, this article, according to the policy measures Weber proposed, translated the term into “屯垦 (settlement and cultivation),” which means immigration and exploitation measures implemented by the state in regions with huge population outflow and poor land. [^Back]

    [4]. ① “Altruism” normally indicates the quality of caring others’ wellbeing and being pleased to serve others. However, Weber used the word here to indicate behaviors that sacrificed immediate utility and had long-term expectations, which, against the political economic context in Germany at the time, had a meaning of going beyond group interests and making national interests the major consideration. [^Back]

    [5]. ① Scaff (1984) indicated that Weber’s arguments should be understood based on the atmosphere of the intellectual world of his time, which mainly featured: the end of German liberalism, rising of socialism, economic perspective in social sciences, and pessimism in social culture. Weber’s criticism about the bourgeoisie here was related to several important phenomena in German liberalism after 1878, namely the alignment of industrial capital and semi-feudal agricultural interest group, the inaction of old-school middle-class liberal parties, and the “top-to-bottom” revolution of authoritarianism in social policies. [^Back]

    [6]. ① The German script of the address has been lost; the English translation was published in 1906, entitled “The Relations of the Rural Community to Other Branches of Social Sciences,” and then included in the title “Capitalism and Rural Community to Other Branches of Social Science” with some revisions in From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology by Hans and Mills. The Chinese version translated by Bu Yongjian was compiled in the Chinese edition of The National State and Economic Policy (Weber, 1997). [^Back]


    Aron, R. Les étapes de la pensée sociologique. Ge, Z., Hu, B., Wang, H. (trans.) Beijing: Huaxia Publishing House, (2000).

    Beetham, D. Max Weber and the Theory of Modern Politics. Xu, H., Xu, J., & Liao, L. (trans.) Xiao, X. (ed.) Taipei: Jiuda, Guiguan Joint Publishing House, (1990).

    Bendix, R. Max Weber: An Intellectual Portrait. Liu, B., Liu, Y., Wu, B. et al. (trans.) Shanghai: Shanghai People’s Publishing House, (2002).

    He, R. Journal of China Agricultural University (Social Science Edition) (中国农业大学学报(社会科学版)), (1) (2011).

    Ringer, F. Max Weber: An Intellectual Biography. Ma, L. (trans.) Beijing: Beijing University Press, (2011).

    Swedberg, R. Max Weber and the Idea of Economic Sociology (马克思·韦伯与经济社会学思想). He, R. (trans.) Beijing: Commercial Press, (2007).

    Weber, M. The National State and Economic Policy. Gan, Y., Li, Q., Wen, Y. et al. (trans.) Beijing: Joint Publishing Company, (1997).

    Weber, M. The Protestant Ethic and Spirit of Capitalism. Su, G., Tan, F., Zhao, L. et al. (trans.) Beijing: Social Sciences Academic Press, (2010).

    Weber, M. Max Weber on the Methodology of the Social Sciences. Zhang, W. (trans.) Taipei: Linking Publishing, (2013).

    Alexander, C. Jeffrey, Theoretical Logic in Sociology Vol. III (社会学的理论逻辑(第三卷)). He, R. (trans.) Beijing: Commercial Press, (2012).

    Barblet, J. M. 2001, “Max Weber’s Inaugural Lecture and Its Place in His Sociology.” Journal of Classical Sociology 1(2).

    Borchardt, Knut 2002, “Max Weber’s Writings on the Bourse: Puzzling Out a Forgotten Corpus.” Max Weber Studies 2(2).

    Dibble, Vernon K. 1968, “Social Science and Political Commitments in the Young Max Weber.” Archives Européennes de Sociologie 9.

    Hennis, Wilhelm 1983, “Max Weber’s ‘Central Questions’.” Economy and Society 12.

    Hennis, Wilhelm 1987a, “Max Weber’s Theme: Personality and Life Orders.” In S. Lash & Sam Whimster (eds.), Max Weber: Rationality and Modernity. London: Allen & Unwin.

    Hennis, Wilhelm 1987b, “A Science of Man: Max Weber and the Political Economy of the German Historical School.” In Wolfgang J. Mommsen & Jürgen Osterhammel (eds.), Max Weber and His Contemporaries. German Historical Institute, London: Allen & Unwin.

    Honigsheim Paul 1949, “Max Weber as Historian of Agriculture and Rural Life.” Agricultural History 23(3).

    Honigsheim Paul 2003, The Unknown Max Weber. Edited and introduced by Alan Sica. New Brunswick & London: Transaction Publishers.

    Kaelber, Lutz 2003, “Max Weber’s Dissertation.” History of the Human Sciences 16(2).

    Käsler, Dirk 1988, Max Weber: An Introduction to His Life and Work. Translated by Philippa Hurd. London: Polity Press.

    Mayer, J. P. 1944, Max Weber and German Politics: A Study in Political Sociology. London: Faber & Faber Ltd.

    Mitzman, Arthur 1984, The Iron Cage: A Historical Interpretation of Max Weber. New Brunswick & London: Transaction Publishers.

    Mommsen, Wolfgang J. 1980, Theories of Imperialism. Translated by P. S. Falla. New York: Random House.

    Mommsen, Wolfgang J. 1984, Max Weber and German Politics (1890-1920). Translated by Michael S. Steinberg. Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press.

    Munters, Q. J. 1972, “Max Weber as Rural Sociologist.” Sociologia Ruralis 12(1).

    Norkus, Zenonas 2004, “Max Weber on Nations and Nationalism: Political Economy before Political Sociology.” The Canadian Journal of Sociology 29(3).

    Palonen, Kari 2001, “Was Max Weber a ‘Nationalist’? A Study in the Rhetoric of Conceptual Change.” Max Weber Studies 1(2).

    Riesebrodt, Martin 1986, “From Patriarchalism to Capitalism: The Theoretical Context of Max Weber’s Agrarian Studies (1892-93).” Economy and Society 15(4).

    Radkau, Joachim 2011, Max Weber: A Biography. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

    Roth, Guenther 1965, “Political Critiques of Max Weber: Some Implications for Political Sociology.” American Sociological Review 30(2).

    Roth, Guenther 2002, “Max Weber: Family History, Economic Policy, Exchange Reform.” International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society 15(3).

    Roth, Guenther 2006, “Max Weber’s Articles on German Agriculture and Industry in the Encyclopedia Americana (1906/1907) and Their Political Context.” Max Weber Studies 6(2).

    Scaff, Laurence A. 1984, “Weber before Weberian Sociology.” British Journal of Sociology 35.

    Scaff, Laurence A. 2004, “Young Man Weber.” International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society 17.

    Scaff, Laurence A. 2011, Max Weber in America. Princeton & Oxford: Princeton University Press.

    Schluchter, Wolfgang 1989, Rationalism, Religion and Domination: A Weberian Perspective. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    Sica, Alan 2003, “Paul Honigsheim and Max Weber’s Lost Decade.” Introduction to Paul Honigsheim, The Unknown Max Weber. New Brunswick & London: Transaction Publishers.

    Tenbruck, F. H. 1980, “The Problem of Thematic Unity in the Works of Max Weber.” British Journal of Sociology 31.

    Theiner, Peter 1987, “Friedrich Naumann and Max Weber: Aspects of a Political Partnership.” In Wolfgang J. Mommsen & Jürgen Osterhammel (eds.), Max Weber and His Contemporaries. German Historical Institute, London: Allen & Unwin.

    Tribe, Keith 1983, “Prussian Agriculture-German Politics: Max Weber 1892–1897.” Economy and Society 12(2).

    Weber, Marianne 1988, Max Weber: A Biography. Translated and edited by Harry Zohn. New Brunswick & Oxford: Transaction Books.

    Weber, Max 1961, General Economic History. Translated by Frank H. Knight. New York: Collier-Macmillan.

    Weber, Max 1994, Weber: Political Writings. Edited by Peter Lassman & Ronald Speires. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

This Article


CN: 11-1100/C

Vol 31, No. 06, Pages 214-236+245-246

November 2016


Article Outline



  • 1 Debate on the 1895 address: agriculture and farmers as political issues
  • 2 Sociological subjects of the 1895 address: social changes, population flow, and national construction
  • 3 Building a text chain centered on key texts: early Weber’s map of thought
  • 4 Conclusion: meanings of establishing textual connections between Weber’s works for research on the history of his writings
  • Footnote