Skip to main content

Max Weber

An Intellectual Biography

Max Weber was one of the most influential and creative intellectual forces of the twentieth century. In his methodology of the social sciences, he both exposed the flaws and solidified the foundations of the German historical tradition. Throughout his life, he saw bureaucracy as a serious obstacle to cultural vitality but as an inescapable part of organizational rationality. And in his most famous essay, on the Protestant ethic, he uncovered the psychological underpinnings of capitalism and modern occupational life.

This searching work offers the first comprehensive introduction to Weber’s thought for students and newcomers. Fritz Ringer locates Weber in his historical context, relating his ideas to the controversies and politics of his day. Ringer also considers the importance of Weber to contemporary life, discussing his insights into the limits of scholarly research and the future of Western capitalist societies. Weber, Ringer reminds us, believed in democracy, liberalism, and fundamental human rights; his ethic of responsibility remains as vital to our historical moment as it was to his own.

A concise and incisive look at the man and personality behind the thought, Max Weber is a masterful outing in intellectual biography and social theory.

264 pages | 1 line drawing | 6 x 9 | © 2004

History: European History, History of Ideas

Political Science: Political and Social Theory

Sociology: History of Sociology


"Max Weber is a masterful book, the timely culmination of a remarkable scholarly career. It convinces me, as only Fritz Ringer could, that Weber was the most capaciously original and most rigorously critical mind of the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century West. We witness here the paradoxical effect that intellectual history can achieve at its very best. It is by placing Weber back in his own time with richly informed readings of his thought within its multiple historical contexts that Ringer succeeds in making Weber present for us, as a thinker for our time, and a clarifying voice urgently needed as we confront our own apparent impasses on questions of knowledge, culture, social change, and politics."

Anthony LaVopa, North Carolina State University

"There is an honoured place waiting for this book in the continually growing secondary literature on Max Weber. The book is substantial, covering as it does the whole of Weber’s life and work. . . . Ringer does something very straightforward using skills as a historian acquired over a lifetime; he presents Weber’s works as faithfully as possible. . . . The book is noteworthy for its crystal-like clarity and the self-discipline that Ringer has practised. . . . This book deserves rich praise."

Ian Varcoe | British Journal of Sociology

"[The book] is a ’Weberian reading of Weber,’ an interpretation that attempts to restate what Weber wrote as clearly as possible. The work is a capstone of Ringer’s accomplished career, and an excellent summary of Weber’s most important arguments."

Philip J. Harold | Journal of Markets and Morality

"Our founded expectation is happily fully satisfied that this scholar will prove himself master of the very complex and polydimensional subject like almost no other and will have wise, enlightening, and inspiring things to say about his subject. This book can ideed be studied with great profit and intellectual joy. . . . The author has an extraordinary gift of being able to lucidly clarify . . . both the decisive motives and problems of Weber’s thought and his answers and solutions, which still inspire us. . . . I know of no work in which Weber’s intellectual spirit is better or more accurately portrayed, and that in its entirety, characteristic spirit, and in its tensions and forward-driving unrest. It is much more than an introductory book to academic studies."

Johannes Weiss | American Journal of Sociology

"While Ringer’s work is intended as a general introducion to Weber’s work and operates very well as such, there are some aspects of his book that also constitute independent contribtuitons to the current knowledge of Weber. . . . An excellent work on Max Weber that is highly recommended."

Richard Swedburg | The Historian

Table of Contents

1. A Man in His Time
2. Weber’s Politics
3. Weber’s Methodology
4. The Protestant Ethic
5. Weber’s Comparative Sociology of Religion
6. From History to Sociology
7. The City, Capitalism, Socialism, and Bureaucracy
8. Education, Knowledge, and Vocation
Conclusion: A Man for Our Time

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press