Skip to content

The Crux of Authenticity Comparing Some Translations of Max Weber’s Works into English An Essay in Intellectual History

DOI https://doi.org/10.15543/MWS/2016/1/3

Uta Gerhardt



Major works of Weber are analyzed in comparative perspective, asking the question: Do their translations into English do justice to the German original(s)? The three themes are the essay on Protestantism and the Spirit of Capitalism, Weber’s methodological writings, and Economy and Society, the masterpiece that he left unfinished. My main point is their adequacy, that is authenticity whose considerable variations among the various translations is noteworthy. Whereas the study on the Protestant Ethic etc. has a long history of mostly excellent work, Weber’s Collected Methodological Writings have been made available only recently in an outstanding translation, but the troublemaker seems to be Economy and Society, the monumental work published posthumously whose translation needs revision, if not complete redoing urgently. I discuss these matters from the perspective of the intellectual history of Weber’s sociology where my criterion is whether or not the translations convey Weber’s social thought to a non-German audience without major flaws.

1 Abel, Theodore. 1929. Systematic Sociology in Germany: A Critical Analysis of Some Attempts to Establish Sociology as an Independent Science. New York: Columbia University Press.

2 Alexander, Jeffrey. 1983. Theoretical Logic in Sociology. III. The Classical Attempt at Synthesis: Max Weber. Berkeley: University of California Press.

3 —2006. The Civic Sphere. New York Oxford University Press.

4 Baehr, Peter, and Gordon C. Wells. 2002. ‘The Protestant Ethic and the “Spirit” of Capitalism. Editors’ Introduction’. In Max Weber—The Protestant Ethic and the “Spirit” of Capitalism and Other Writings, ix-lxiii. New York and London: Penguin.

5 Bendix, Reinhard. 1960. Max Weber—An Intellectual Portrait. London: Methuen.

6 Bendix, Reinhard, and Guenther Roth, eds. 1971. Scholarship and Partisanship: Essays on Max Weber. Berkeley: University of California Press.

7 Bruun, Hans Henrik. 1972. Science, Values and Politics in Max Weber’s Methodology. Copenhagen: Munksgaard.

8 —2001. ‘Weber on Rickert: From Value Relation to Ideal Type’. Max Weber Studies 1: 138-60.

9 —2007. Science, Values and Politics in Max Weber’s Methodology: New Expanded Edition. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate.

10 Burger, Thomas. 1987 [1976]. Max Weber’s Theory of Concept Formation: History, Laws, and Ideal Types (new expanded edition, with Postscriptum). Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

11 Chalcraft, David, and Austin Harrington, eds. 2001. The Protestant Ethic Debate: Max Weber’s Replies to his Critics, 1907–1910, trans. Austin Harrington and Mary Shields. Liverpool: University of Liverpool Press. [Crossref]

12 Collins English Dictionary. 1998. A Dictionary of the English Language. Glasgow: Harper-Collins (originally 1979, 4th edn).

13 Fox, Renée, Victor M. Lidz and Harold J. Bershady, eds. 2005. After Parsons: A Theory of Social Action for the Twenty-First Century. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

14 Gerhardt, Uta. 2001. Idealtypus: Zur methodologischen Begründung der modernen Soziologie. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.

15 —2003a. ’Die Rolle der Remigranten auf dem Heidelberger Soziologentag 1964 und die Interpretation des Werkes Webers’. In Zwischen den Stühlen? Remigranten und Remigration in der deutschen Medienöffentlichkeit der Nachkriegszeit, ed. Claus-Dieter Krohn and Axel Schildt, 216-43. Hamburg: Christians.

16 —2003b. ’Der Heidelberger Soziologentag als Wendepunkt der Rezeptionsgeschichte Max Webers’. In Zeitperspektiven. Studien zu Kultur und Gesellschaft. Beiträge aus der Geschichte, Soziologie, Philosophie und Literaturwissenschaft, ed. Uta Gerhardt, 232-66. Stuttgart: Steiner.

17 —2005. ‘The Weberian Talcott Parsons: Sociological Theory in Three Decades of American History’. In After Parsons: A Theory of Social Action for the Twenty-First Century, ed. Renée Fox, Victor M. Lidz and Harold J. Bershady, 208-239. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

18 —2007. ‘Much More Than a Mere Translation—Talcott Parsons’s Translation into English of Max Weber’s Die protestantische Ethik und der Geist des Kapitalismus: An Essay in Intellectual History’. Canadian Journal of Sociology/Cahiers canadiennes de sociologie 32.1: 41-62.

19 —2009. Soziologie im zwanzigsten Jahrhundert: Studien zu ihrer Geschichte in Deutschland. Stuttgart: Steiner.

20 —2011. The Social Thought of Talcott Parsons: Methodology and American Ethos. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate.

21 Gerth, Hans. 1998 [1940]. ‘The Nazi Party: Its Leadership and Composition (revised by Edward Shils)’. In German Sociology: T.W. Adorno, M. Horkheimer, G. Simmel, M. Weber, and Others, ed. Uta Gerhardt, 49-66. The German Library, vol. 61; New York: Continuum.

22 Gerth, Hans, and C. Wright Mills, eds. 1946. From Max Weber. New York: Oxford University Press.

23 —1954. Character and Social Structure. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

24 Ghosh, Peter. 1994. ‘Some Problems with Talcott Parsons’ Version of “The Protestant Ethic”’. Archives européennes de sociologie 35: 104-123. [Crossref]

25 Hanke, Edith. 2013. ‘Max Weber weltweit. Zur Bedeutung eines Klassikers in Zeiten des Umbruchs’. In Europäische Wissenschaftskulturen und politischen Ordnungen in der Moderne (1890–1970), ed. Gangolf Hübinger, 285-305. Munich: Oldenbourg.

26 Kalberg, Stephen. 2002. ‘Introduction to the Translation’. In The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism—Max Weber (Weber 2002b; Los Angeles: Roxbury): iii-v.

27 Lehmann, Hartmut, and Guenther Roth, eds. 1993. Weber’s Protestant Ethic: Origins, Evidence, Contexts. New York: Cambridge University Press. [Crossref]

28 Liebersohn, Harry. 1993. ‘Weber’s Historical Concept of National Identity’. In Weber’s Protestant Ethic: Origins, Evidence, Contexts, ed. Hartmut Lehmann and Guenther Roth, 123-32. New York: Cambridge University Press. [Crossref]

29 Mills, C. Wright. 1956. The Power Elite. New York: Oxford University Press.

30 —1959. Sociological Imagination. New York: Oxford University Press.

31 Park, Ezra, and Ernest Burgess, eds. 1921. The Science of Sociology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

32 Parsons, Talcott. 1926. Der Kapitalismus bei Sombart und Max Weber. Inaugural-Dissertation zur Erlangung der Doktorwürde einer hohen philosophischen Fakultät der Ruperto-Carola Universität zu Heidelberg vorgelegt von Talcott Parsons aus Cambridge. Harvard University Archives, Parsons papers, HUG(FP)—42.8.2, box 1.

33 —1928. ‘“Capitalism” in Recent German Literature: Sombart and Weber’. The Journal of Political Economy 36: 641-61.

34 —1929. ‘“Capitalism” in Recent German Literature: Sombart and Weber—Concluded’. The Journal of Political Economy 37: 31-51.

35 — 1968 [1937]. The Structure of Social Action: A Study in Social Theory with Special Reference to a Group of Recent European Writers. New York: McGraw Hill, 3rd edn (New York: Free Press).

36 —1964 [1951]. The Social System. New York: The Free Press, 2nd edn (Glencoe, IL: The Free Press of Glencoe).

37 —1980. ‘The Circumstances of My Encounter with Max Weber’. In Sociological Traditions from Generation to Generation, ed. Robert K. Merton and Mathilda Riley, 37-43. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

38 —1981. ‘Revisiting the Classics Throughout a Long Career’. In The Future of Sociological Classics, ed. Buford Rhea, 183-94. London: Allen and Unwin.

39 Rickert, Heinrich. 1898. Kulturwissenschaft und Naturwissenschaft. Freiburg and Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr.

40 —1902. Die Grenzen der naturwissenschaftlichen Begriffsbildung. Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck) (revised and enlarged 4th edn, 1921; 5th edn, 1929).

41 Ringer, Fritz. 1997. Max Weber’s Methodology: The Unification of the Cultural and the Social Sciences. Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press.

42 Rollmann, Hans. 1993. ‘“Meet Me in America”: Troeltsch and Weber in America’. In Weber’s Protestant Ethic: Origins, Evidence, Contexts, eds. Hartmut Lehmann and Guenther Roth, 357-83. New York: Cambridge University Press. [Crossref]

43 Roth, Guenther. 1959. ‘Max Webers Einfluss auf die amerikanische Soziologie’. Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie 11: 38-53.

44 Salomon, Albert. 1934. ‘Max Weber’s Methodology’. Social Research 1: 147-68.

45 Scaff, Lawrence A. 2006. ‘Max Weber’s Reception in the United States, 1920–1960’. In Das Faszinosum Max Weber: Die Geschichte seiner Geltung, ed. Karl-Ludwig Ay and Knut Borchardt, 55-90. Konstanz: UVK Universitätsverlag.

46 —2011. Max Weber in America. Princeton, NJ and Oxford: Princeton University Press.

47 Schmidt-Glintzer, Helwig. 1993. ‘The Economic Ethics of World Religions’. In Weber’s Protestant Ethic: Origins, Evidence, Contexts, ed. Hartmut Lehmann and Guenther Roth, 347-56. New York: Cambridge University Press. [Crossref]

48 Shils, Edward. 1949. ‘Foreword’. In The Methodology of the Social Sciences—Max Weber (Weber 1949a): iii-x.

49 Sorokin, Piritim A. 1928. Contemporary Sociological Theories. New York: Harper and Brothers.

50 Stammer, Otto, ed. 1965. Max Weber und die Soziologie heute. Verhandlungen des sechzehnten Deutschen Soziologentages in Heidelberg, 28. bis 30. April 1964. Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck).

51 Tawney, Richard H. 1926. Religion and the Rise of Capitalism: A Historical Study. Harmondsworth: Penguin 1938. [Crossref]

52 von Eichborn, Reinhart. 1990. Die Sprache unserer Zeit: Wörterbuch in vier Bänden. I. Englisch-Deutsch A–L. Burscheid: Siebenpunkt-Verlag.

53 von Schelting, Alexander. 1922. ‘Die logische Theorie der historischen Kulturwissenschaft von Max Weber und im besonderen sein Begriff des Idealtypus’. Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik 31: 623-752.

54 Weber, Max. 1904. ’Die “Objektivität” sozialwissenschaftlicher und sozialpolitischer Erkenntnis’. Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik 19: 22-87 (reprinted: Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Wissenschaftslehre, 3rd edn [Weber 1922a]: 146-210).

55 —1905. ’Die protestantische Ethik und der “Geist” des Kapitalismus’. Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik 20: 1-54, and 21: 1-110.

56 —1910. ‘Antikritisches Schlusswort zum “Geist des Kapitalismus”‘. Reprinted in Die protestantische Ethik II. Kritiken und Antikritiken, ed. Johannes Winckelmann, 283-345. Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus (Gerd Mohn, 5th edn, 1987).

57 —1917. ‘Der Sinn der “Wertfreiheit” der soziologischen und ökonomischen Wissenschaften’. Reprinted in Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Wissenschaftslehre, ed. Johannes Winckelmann, 489-540, 3rd edition [Weber 1922a].

58 —1918. Parlament und Regierung im neugeordneten Deutschland: Zur politischen Kritik des Beamtentums und des Parteiwesens. Munich: Duncker & Humblot.

59 —1920. ‘Die protestantische Ethik und der Geist des Kapitalismus’. Rreprinted in Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Religionssoziologie, vol. I, 4th edition. Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 1947): 17-206.

60 —1922a. Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Wissenschaftslehre, ed. Johannes Winckelmann. Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck) (3rd edn, 1968).

61 —1922b. Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft: Grundriss der Sozialökonomik, ed. Marianne Weber. Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck).

62 —1930. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Talcott Parsons with an introductory essay by Richard Tawney. London: Allen and Unwin (New York: Scribner and Sons; 4th edn, 1958; New York: The Free Press; reprinted until today: London: Allen and Unwin, 1976).

63 —1947. The Social and Economic Organization, trans. A.M. Henderson and Talcott Parsons, with an introduction by Talcott Parsons. Reprinted New York: The Free Press, 1964. [Crossref]

64 —1949a. The Methodology of the Social Sciences, Max Weber, trans. and ed. Edward A. Shils and Henry A. Finch. With a Foreword by Edward A. Shils. New York: The Free Press.

65 —1949b. ‘The Meaning of “Ethical Neutrality” in Sociology and Economics’. In The Methodology of the Social Sciences—Max Weber, trans. Edward A. Shils, 1-47. New York: The Free Press.

66 —1949c. ‘“Objectivity” in Social Science and Social Policy’. In The Methodology of the Social Sciences—Max Weber, trans. Edward A. Shils, 50-112. New York: The Free Press.

67 —1954. Max Weber on Law in Economy and Society, ed. and trans. Max Rheinstein with Edward Shils. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.

68 —1956. Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft: Grundriss der verstehenden Soziologie, 4th edn (newly edited by Johannes Winckelmann). Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck).

69 —1961a. ’The Household Community’ (trans. Ferdinand Kolgar). In Theories of Society: Foundations of Modern Sociological Theory, ed. Talcott Parsons, Edward Shils, Caspar Naegele and Jesse Pitts, 296-98. New York: The Free Press.

70 —1961b. ‘Ethnic Groups’ (trans. Ferdinand Kolgar). In Theories of Society: Foundations of Modern Sociological Theory, ed. Talcott Parsons, Edward Shils, Caspar Naegele and Jesse Pitts, 302-309. New York: The Press Press.

71 —1963. The Sociology of Religion, trans. Ephraim Fischoff; Boston: Beacon.

72 —1968. Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology, ed. Guenther Roth and Claus Wittich. New York: Bedminster Press. Reprinted: Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978.

73 —2000. Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft: Die Wirtschaft und die gesellschaftlichen Ordnungen und Mächte. Nachlaß. Section 5: Die Stadt, ed. Wilfried Nippel. Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck).

74 —2002a. The Protestant Ethic and the ‘Spirit’ of Capitalism and Other Writings, by Max Weber, trans. and with an Introduction by Peter Baehr and Gordon C. Wells. New York and London: Penguin.

75 —2002b. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Stephen Kalberg. Los Angeles: Roxbury (4th edn, enlarged with Other Writings on the Rise of the West. Oxford: Blackwell, 2008).

76 —2005. Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft: Die Wirtschaft und die gesellschaftlichen Ordnungen und Mächte. Nachlaß. Section 2: Religiöse Gemeinschaften, ed. Hans G. Kippenberg, Petra Schilm and Jutta Niemeier. Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck).

77 —2009a. Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft.: Die Wirtschaft und die gesellschaftlichen Mächte und Ordnungen. Nachlaß. Section 1: Gemeinschaften, ed. Wolfgang J. Mommsen and Michael Meyer. Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck).

78 —2009b. Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft: Die Wirtschaft und die gesellschaftlichen Ordnungen und Mächte. Nachlaß. Section 4: Herrschaft, ed. Edith Hanke and Thomas Kroll. Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck).

79 —2012. Collected methodological writings, ed. Hans Henrik Bruun and Sam Whimster, trans. Hans Henrik Bruun. London and New York: Routledge.

80 —2014a. Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft: Die Wirtschaft und die gesellschaftlichen Ordnungen und Mächte. Nachlaß. Section 3: Recht, ed. Werner Gephart and Siegfried Hermes. Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck).

81 —2014b. Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft: Soziologie. Unvollendet 1919–1920, ed. Knut Borchardt, Edith Hanke and Wolfgang Schluchter. Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck).

82 Winckelmann, Johannes, ed. 1978. Max Weber—Die protestantische Ethik II: Kritiken und Antikritiken. Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus Gerd Mohn.

83 Wirth, Louis. 1930. ‘Book review: Theodore Abel, Systematic Sociology in Germany’. American Journal of Sociology 36: 664.

Share


Export Citation