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Public Theology: Max Weber and National Socialism
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Max Weber and National Socialism
The role of the sociologist, Max Weber, in the Evangelical-Social Congress in Germany is discussed here.

The following was written by Leslie Carr [] on the Progessive Sociologists Network mailing list. It provides very interesting personal political background on the famous German sociologist, Max Weber, whose writings, including The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, continue to be important.


In 1890 Weber and his mother attended the founding of a political group known as the Evangelical-Social Congress. The congress was organized by Adolf Stoecker, a pastor, Berlin court chaplain, connected with the royal court, and a long-time friend of the Weber family ( Marianne Weber ,1988: 117) Stoecker was a dedicated anti-Semitic activist. For example, he had said at a rally seven years earlier : "We offer battle to the Jews until final victory...Carsten: 24). The original purpose of the Congress was to wean workers away from the Social Democratic Party with Christian charity and welfare. The group expressed a collective guilt in regards to the condition of the working class and it also expressed a fear of revolution if something was not done. Max Weber and his mother joined the Congress and his mother contributed money to it.

In 1895 Weber persuaded the group that the appeal of nationalism would be more effective than Christian charity. It was specifically Weber's Freiberg address that convinced Friedrich Naumann, one of the key leaders, to change the basic orientation of the organization.

Naumann read Weber's speech and applied it to the Evangelical-Social Congress. He wrote:

Anyone who wants to conduct domestic policy must first secure the people, the fatherland, and its boundaries; he must provide for national power. Here is the weakest point of Social Democracy. We need a socialism that is capable of governing, capable of carrying out a better all-round policy than previously. Such a socialism has not existed until now. Such a socialism must be nationalistic (deutschnational). ( Marianne Weber: 1988: 220)

A member commented: "And from that hour on began the evolution of national socialism from Christian socialism" (Marianne Weber: 1988: 220). In 1896 the group, decided against becoming a party but instead adopted a new name, The National Socialist Association. Some writers have said that the name was the National Social Association.

Some twenty-five years later Hitler's Nazi party was called the National Socialist Party. The similarity between the names is really not a coincidence. The fact is that Max Weber's tactic of proposing to divert class antagonism into nationalism (of which anti-Semitism may be seen as an internal variant) is precisely the same tactic employed by those who created Hitler. In other words, an association or party financed by capitalist money and directed by elite activists proposed to tell workers that their enemy is not really the capitalist class or the capitalist system, the real enemy consists of people who are not German or not really German. In practice, of course, national socialism was a vicious German nationalism and a pseudo-socialism.3

It should not be surprising to find that twenty-five years before the rise of the Nazi Party, the forerunners of fascism were present in Germany. It will surprise many to discover, however, that Max Weber, the "liberal" sociologist was, in fact, a proto-fascist.

(Note: Weber did not speak against Jews the way Stoecker did but there are only a few accounts of Weber speaking out against anti-Semitism. Weber was generally very accommodating and solicitous towards the anti-Semites and racists that he worked with politically. Both Weber and Stoecker advocated assimilation of Jews--(as a way to make them disappear).

Friends, if you have never read Max Weber's Freiberg Address, you really, really should. It is called "Economic Policy and the National Interest in Imperial Germany" in Richard Swedberg's Max Weber: Essays in Economic Sociology. It said to be in Economy and Society (1980) Vol 9, No. 4 pp. 428--440. (it may be truncated).

It has been argued that one can make a judgement about the usefulness any particular set of writings independently of the politics of the writer. I think that that is true but only if you know the writer's politics so well that you can ferret out what is hidden. In the case of Weber, things are not what they seem.

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Date Added: 5/28/2003 Date Revised: 5/28/2003 11:03:06 PM

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