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[MWS 12.

1 (2012) 59-94]
ISSN 1470-8078
Max Weber Studies 2012, Clifton House, 17 Malvern Road, London, E8 3LP.
The Genesis of the Max Weber-Gesamtausgabe
and the Contribution of Wolfgang J. Mommsen
Edith Hanke, Gangolf Hbinger and Wolfgang Schwentker
The start of the MWG lies in the early 1970s. The idea of founding the MWG should
be seen in the context of the socio-critical debates and those on academic policies,
which took place in West Germany when the 68-movement was on the ebb. The
MWG was opposed to western Marxism and was not a counter-edition to the
Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabeas is often suggested. The instituting of MWG was
furthered politically by the liberal-conservative camp. The cooperation between the
Bavarian Academy of Sciences, the publisher Mohr Siebeck in Tbingen and the
editors responsible has been, and remains, of decisive importance.
This article focusses on the merits of Wolfgang J. Mommsen, who died in August
2004 and who would have celebrated his 80th birthday in November 2010. The
origins of the MWG is presented up to the publishing of the frst volume in 1984.
During this phase, the editorial principles were laid down, which made the MWG
an internationally respected classic edition.
Keywords: Max Weber-Gesamtausgabe, modern social sciences classic, historical-
critical principles, western Marxism, Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe, MWG editorial
board, Wolfgang J. Mommsen, Bavarian Academy of Sciences, Mohr Siebeck.
In 1972, with the sounds of the 68 movement and its intellectual
controversies still ringing in our ears, the planning of a Max Weber-
Gesamtausgabe (MWG) got underway. The frst volumes appeared
in 1984. Wolfgang J. Mommsen, who had just completed the second
and substantially enlarged edition of his study Max Weber and Ger-
man Politics,
was involved from the beginningleading and exe-
cuting, criticizing and coordinating.
He edited, up to his death,
1. Wolfgang J. Mommsen, Max Weber und die deutsche Politik (Tbingen: Mohr
Siebeck, 2nd edn, 1974), foreword signed 23 September 1973 (translated as Max Weber
and German Politics [Chicago, London: The University of Chicago Press], 1984).
2. M. Rainer Lepsius, Wolfgang J. Mommsen und die Max Weber-Gesamtaus-
gabe, in Karl-Ludwig Ay and Knut Borchardt (eds.), Das Faszinosum Max Weber. Die
Geschichte seiner Geltung (Constance: UVK, 2006), p. 12.
60 Max Weber Studies
Max Weber Studies 2012.
ten volumes either as sole editor or joint editor. One volumefar
advanced in manuscriptwas published posthumously.
Over the
course of 30 years Mommsen dedicated easily the greatest part of
his academic energy and working time to the successful progress
of MWG.
Our article deals with the place MWG holds in the history of sci-
ence, relating it to the diffcult early stages between 1972 and 1984.
It concentrates, in six steps, on: (1) the exaggerated polarization of
Marx or Weber in the crisis of the social and historical sciences after
1968; (2) the initial impetus given by the sociologist, Horst Baier; (3)
the formation of an initiating group, the interests of the editors and
the institutional anchor-point; (4) the thumb print of Wolfgang J.
Mommsen as an editor and Weber interpreter; (5) the selection of the
type of edition on historical-critical principles; 6) conclusions about
Weber and MWG in the wider academic discourse.
1. The crisis of the social and historical sciences after 1968
Anyone researching on Weber in the late 1960s and early 70s did so
very much on their own and met with considerable hostility. Even the
high-profle sociology conference of 1964 in Heidelberg, on the occa-
sion of the centenary of Webers birth, failed to recognize that in the
close intertwining of science and the cultural self-ascertainment of
modern society a return to Max Weber was of central importance.
3. Listed by date of appearance, Mommsen edited: MWG I/15 Zur Politik
im Weltkrieg, in collaboration with Gangolf Hbinger, 1984; I/16 Zur Neuordnung
Deutschlands, in collaboration with Wolfgang Schwentker, 1988; I/10 Zur Russis-
chen Revolution von 1905, in collaboration with Dittmar Dahlmann, 1989; II/5 Briefe
19061908, with M. Rainer Lepsius and in collaboration with Birgit Rudhard and
Manfred Schn, 1990 (this edition of the letters received the Amalf Prize); I/17
Wissenschaft als Beruf 1917/1919Politik als Beruf 1919, with Wolfgang Schluchter
in collaboration with Birgitt Morgenbrod, 1992; I/4 Landarbeiterfrage, Nationalstaat
und Volkswirtschaftspolitik, in collaboration with Rita Aldenhoff, 1993; II/6 Briefe
19091910, with M. Rainer Lepsius in collaboration with Birgit Rudhard and
Manfred Schn, 1994; II/7 Briefe 19111912, with M. Rainer Lepsius in collaboration
with Birgit Rudhard and Manfred Schn, 1998; I/22-1 Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft
separate volumeGemeinschaften, in collaboration with Michael Meyer, 2001; II/8
Briefe 19131914, with M. Rainer Lepsius in collaboration with Birgit Rudhard and
Manfred Schn, 2003; postum: III/1 Allgemeine (theoretische) Nationalkonomie,
in collaboration with Cristof Judenau, Heino H. Nau, Klaus Scharfen and Marcus
Tiefel, 2009.
4. Paul Nolte, Soziologie als kulturelle Selbstvergewisserung. Die Demokrat-
isierung der deutschen Gesellschaft nach 1945, in Steffen Sigmund et al. (ed.), Soziale
Hanke et al. The Genesis of the Max Weber-Gesamtausgabe 61
Max Weber Studies 2012.
Weber did not rank highly in the political philosophy of the con-
servative intellectual milieu; he suffered for his contentious separa-
tion of ethics and politics. Little was to be expected from reading
Webers writings in respect to the most pressing problems: a sci-
entifc legitimation of the democratic order and a solution to the
ungovernability of the state.
In a lecture Max Weber and German
political science, on Webers centenary, Hans Maier laid down clear
guidelines and declared Weber a monument to an outworn aca-
demic tradition; though, he later went on to support an edition of his
work from a political viewpoint.
And in the Historische Wrterbuch
der Philosophie, founded by the Mnster philosopher, Joachim Ritter,
Weber is listed as someone who only transferred a style of thinking
conditioned by its time to highly refected upon theoretical mod-
Also Wilhelm Hennis, who so vigorously engaged with Weber
interpreters after his New Yorker discovery of Weber, previously
assumed an attitude close to that of disinterest.
In the theories of society of the leftwing milieu the engagement
with Weber was much more intensive and the hostility decidedly
more radical. Weber served as the opposite pole in the then prevail-
ing disputes over critical social theory or affrmative social technol-
ogy. Prominent representatives of critical theory honed their profle
with an explicit rejection of Weberian positivism. Herbert Marcuse,
the great authority of the sixty-eighters, saw in Webers universal-
historical concept of western rationalism, and in the demand of
a value free science of reality with formal concept construction, a
bourgeois class position that had to be critically overcome.
In a more
precisely argued exposition, Jrgen Habermas stated that Webers
Konstellation und historische Perspektive. Festschrift fr M. Rainer Lepsius (Wiesbaden:
VS Verlag fr Sozialwissenschaften, 2008), pp. 18-40 (19).
5. See Jens Hacke, Der Staat in Gefahr. Die Bundesrepublik der 1970er Jahre
zwischen Legitimationskrise und Unregierbarkeit, in J. Hacke and D. Geppert (eds.),
Streit um den Staat. Intellektuelle Debatten in der Bundesrepublik 19601980 (Gttingen:
Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2008), pp. 188-206.
6. Hans Maier, Max Weber und die deutsche politische Wissenschaft, in
K. Engisch, B. Pfster and J. Winckelmann (eds.), Max Weber. Gedchtnisschrift der
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitt Mnchen zur 100. Wiederkehr seines Geburtstages (Berlin:
Duncker & Humblot, 1966), pp. 163-83.
7. Ernst Vollrath, Politik, article in Historisches Wrterbuch der Philosophie, vol.
7 (Basel: Schwabe, 1989), p. 1063.
8. See Stephan Schlak, Wilhelm Hennis. Szenen einer Ideengeschichte der Bundesre-
publik (Munich: Beck, 2008).
9. For more detail see Johannes Weiss, Max Weber und die Kritik der Kritischen
Theorie, in Ay and Borchardt (eds.), Faszinosum Max Weber, pp. 301-12.
62 Max Weber Studies
Max Weber Studies 2012.
scientistically bisected rationalism was, in important respects, insuf-
fcient to master the legitimation problems of late capitalist social
orders and to enable practical action through insights into the social
process. Webers basic sociology was incapable of providing the
means whereby it would be possible to orientate the legitimation of
the social and political order on basic norms of reasoned discourse
derived from a universal-moral.
The key concept legitimation problems in late capitalism ap-
peared with the publisher, Suhrkamp, which developed it into
a distribution centre of Weber controversies. Authors assem-
bled here in order to refne or to enlarge Weber critique. Sev-
eral debates were merely reduced to the alternative Marx versus
Suhrkamp, however, also published a reply in the form
of Wolfgang J. Mommsens collection of essays, Max Weber. Gesell-
schaft, Politik und Geschichte. It contained the chapter, Capitalism
and Socialism. The Debate with Karl Marx. This was based on the
lecture Max Weber as a critic of Marxism in which Mommsen en-
tered the controversy, proposing Weber be an antipode to Marx as
far as the conception of the dynamic and nature of capitalist soci-
ety is concerned.
Wolfgang Schluchters Aspekte brokratischer Herrschaft had
already appeared with the publisher, List, in 1972, at frst relatively
little noticed, but offering a systematic critic of Marcuse. Opposing
Marcuses one-dimensional interpretation of Weber, it was possible
to demonstrate more pithily in Webers own work how the absolu-
tization of formal bureaucratic rationality led to the dominance of
technological ideals of life, resulting in the end of cultural human-
ity. In the debate with neo-marxist currents, this was a justifable
plea to understand Weberian issues as contributing to the analysis
of advanced industrial societies and once again to ascertain their
historical pre-conditions.
10. Jrgen Habermas, Legitimationsprobleme im Sptkapitalismus (Frankfurt a. M.:
Suhrkamp, 1973), pp. 131, 137.
11. Wolfgang Lefvre, Zum historischen Charakter und zur historischen Funktion
der Methode brgerlicher Soziologie (Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp, 1971).
12. Wolfgang J. Mommsen, Kapitalismus und Sozialismus, in Mommsen,
Max Weber. Gesellschaft, Politik und Geschichte (Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp, 1974), pp.
144-81 (160, 181). This was frst published under the title Max Weber als Kritiker
des Marxismus, Zeitschrift fr Soziologie 3 (1974): 256-78. The lecture was reported in
the Mnchner Merkur under the heading Der Kapitalismus ist eine revolutionre
Macht. Prof. Wolfgang Mommsen ber Max Weber als Kritiker der Moderne.
13. Wolfgang Schluchter, Aspekte brokratischer Herrschaft. Studien zur Interpretation
Hanke et al. The Genesis of the Max Weber-Gesamtausgabe 63
Max Weber Studies 2012.
This spotlight on the culture of intellectual argument of the early
1970s outlines the characteristic feature of the generation of 1945 to
which Wolfgang J. Mommsen as well as M. Rainer Lepsius, Wilhelm
Hennis and Jrgen Habermas belonged. The common experience of
National Socialism by the cultural elites born in the period 1926
1931 promoted a committed engagement in public issues by means
of academic argument and ideals as far as correct democratic social
order is concerned. The confict over ideas is an informative example
of how a common generational experience can lead to very different
reactions and intellectual positions.
Bearing this in mind, that the Max Weber-Gesamtausgabe, in its
genesis, is not primarily a political response to the major enterprise
of the Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe (MEGA) and so the continua-
tion of the cold war by editorial means.
Dirk Kaesler has recently
coupled the two editions in this way:
At the beginning of the 1970s a small number of West German intellec-
tuals [] took the initiative to plan an enterprise, in which it was not
diffcult to see a parallel undertaking to the developments on the other
side of the internal German border. The ideological tanker of the East
Berlin MEGA should be given, also in the political sense, an answer of
the western powers in the form of a proud training sailing ship.
There is no question that the philological expenditure of a historical-
critical type of edition, as pursued by MEGA and also by the Nietz-
sche-Gesamtausgabe since 1972, has infuenced the MWG. But the
circumstances in 1973, in which the frst plans for a complete edition
were developed, bore the imprint of a more comprehensive western
discussion about the past and present situation, and future, of modern
der fortschreitenden Industriegesellschaft (Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp, 1984 [1st edn, 1972]),
p. 266.
14. On the application of generation as a category for the investigation of aca-
demic and political elites and their value orientations see M. Rainer Lepsius, Gen-
erationen, in Martin Greiffenhagen and Sylvia Greiffenhagen (eds.), Handwrterbuch
zur politischen Kultur der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag,
2nd edn, 2002), pp. 162-65; Lepsius, Kritische Anmerkungen zur Generationen-
forschung, in Ulrike Jureit and Martin Wildt (eds.), Generationen. Zur Relevanz eines
wissenschaftlichen Grundbegriffs (Hamburg: HIS Verlag, 2005), pp. 45-52.
15. It was a deliberate decision to use the abbreviation MWG so as to avoid any
mirroring of MEGA. See the protocol of the 14th meeting of the editorial board of the
historical-critical Max Weber-Gesamtausgabe (MWG) of 15-16 May 1981 in the Werner
Reimers Foundation Bad Homburg, Max Weber- Arbeitsstelle, BAdW Munich.
16. Dirk Kaesler, Zwei Denker aus Deutschland. Eine deutsche-deutsche Edi-
tionsgeschichte, Leviathan 36 (2008): 590-96 (592).
64 Max Weber Studies
Max Weber Studies 2012.
industrial societies. The waning of Marxism in West Germany as well
as its frst signs in the East, was accompanied by the observation
that Marxists, who had lost their faith, would now become Weberi-
The movement in search of new criteria of social self-refection
beyond an enclosed philosophy of history was combined in Germany
with a conservative impulse, and went under the label of a reversal
of the trend (Tendenzwende) in public discussion. In an academic-
political sense, this benefts without doubt the amalgamation of a
varying spectrum of interest in a new reading and understanding of
Weber. When in 1979 the 1000th edition of Suhrkamp was published
and it collected Key concepts of the present intellectual situation in
two volumes, Jrgen Habermas, as editor, devoted some polemical
paragraphs in his introduction to this change of direction. Lbbe,
Scheuch, Schelsky, H. Maier, Sontheimer and other followers of an
association for academic freedom would have overcome the ideas
of 1968 in the manner of a paramilitary platoon in the front line of a
semantic civil war.
As the second section of our article will show,
Lbbe, Schelsky, as well as Hans Maier, played a certain role in the
very frst planning phase of MWG. But as little as MWG can be por-
trayed as the opposite pole to East German Marxism, it can just as
little be assumed that it was associated with the altered perspective
of the Federal German Republic when the latter saw itself confronted
with economic stagnation and political violence. That also would be
an ideological blackout. It is only today that it becomes possible to
see which global problems made the early 1970s a period of transi-
tion from unlimited expectations of affuence to the major crisis of
industrial societies of a wholly new order.
The description of the situation by M. Rainer Lepsiusas chair-
man of the opening session of the German Sociological Society in
1974 in Kasselis pertinent here. He confrmed the suppression of
general world-views through a new sense of academic self-refection
and openness:
17. Zdzislaw Krasnodebski noted in his examination of the various phases of the
Weber reception in Poland the thesis of a Marx to Weber conversion of Alasdair
MacIntyre (After Virtue. A Study in Moral Theory [London: Gerald Duckworth, 1981],
p. 103): Die Max Weber-Rezeption in Polen, in J. Weiss (ed.), Max Weber heute
(Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp, 1989), pp. 187-99 (196).
18. Jrgen Habermas (ed.), Einleitung to Stichworte zur Geistigen Situation der
Zeit (2 vols.; Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp, 1979), pp. 7-35 (21).
19. Tony Judt, Die Geschichte Europas seit dem Zweiten Weltkrieg (Munich: Carl
Hanser, 2006), pp. 572ff.
Hanke et al. The Genesis of the Max Weber-Gesamtausgabe 65
Max Weber Studies 2012.
A suffcient liberality in interpersonal relations between sociologists
held together more by generational community than by ideological
preferencehas maintained communicative context; a basic empirical
orientation in research assures suffcient methodological consistency
between projects of different theoretical orientation, and the establish-
ing of Marxist theories within the framework of sociology meant by no
means a complete change in sociological questioning.
Also historical science considered it necessary to re-consider its the-
oretical and methodological standards. The forum for this was the
Werner Reimers Foundation in Bad Homburg where participants,
with Wolfgang J. Mommsen at the forefront, founded a study group
on the theory of history which, between 1975 and 1988, convened
six conferences and published their results.
In this newly established process of selfunderstanding of basic
questions and the furthering of methodological ideas in the histori-
cal social science, Max Weber played a more important role than in
the debates of the late 1960s. With the new turn to Weber there was
an increasing number of voices who perceived the scholarship and
incomplete editions of Marianne Weber and Johannes Winckelmann
as an inadequate textual basis.
2. Initial impetus
The initiative for preparing a Max Weber-Gesamtausgabe came in
1972 from the sociologist Horst Baier.
He had turned to sociology
and social philosophy after completing his medical studies and had
become a member of staff at the social research centre, led by Helmut
Schelsky, in Dortmund. Baier himself habilitated in 1969 at Mnster
with a Study on Max Webers Foundation of Sociology which, as
its programmatic title indicatedFrom Epistemology to the Science
20. M. Rainer Lepsius, Ansprache zur Erffnung der 17. Deutschen Soziolo-
gentages: Zwischenbilanz der Soziologie, in Verhandlungen des 17. Deutschen Soziolo-
gentages. Zwischenbilanz der Soziologie (Stuttgart: Ferdinand Enke, 1976), pp. 1-13 (9).
21. The frst volume was published as Objektivitt und Parteilichkeit in der Geschich-
tswissenschaft. Beitrge zur Historik, vol. 1 (ed. R. Koselleck, W.J. Mommsen and J. Rsen;
Munich: dtv, 1977).
22. The editions and publications of Weber, including scattered texts, were com-
piled by Dirk Kaesler, Einfhrung in das Studium Max Webers (Munich: Beck, 1979),
pp. 267-71.
23. On Horst Baiers academic works and career, see W. Bernsdorff and
H. Knospe, Internationales Soziologenlexikon, vol. 2 (Stuttgart: Ferdinand Enke), pp.
39-41; also see Freiheit und Solidaritt im Sozialstaat. Festschrift fr Horst Baier (ed.
J. Bauch and R. Adler; Constance: Hartung-Gorre, 1984).
66 Max Weber Studies
Max Weber Studies 2012.
of Realitywas really about confronting those sociologists who
had brought neo-Marxism into the social sciences from the student
As the successor, in 1970, to Adorno at the University
of Frankfurt, Baier had made contact with the leading Max Weber
researchers in Germany and abroad in order to explore the possibili-
ties of an edition of Max Webers writings, lectures and letters. As part
of this, a preliminary conversation took place with Wolfgang J. Mom-
msen on 18 October 1972 in a Dsseldorf restaurant, the Schiffchen.

Through Niklas Luhmann an invitation was arranged in February
1973 to meet with Konrad Mller, previously Secretary of State in
the Home Offce of Lower Saxony and at that time Director of the
Werner Reimers Foundation. In a visit to the Foundation in March,
Baier outlined his plans for a Max Weber-Gesamtausgabe with the
result two months later, after advice from its committee on which
M. Rainer Lepsius served, that preparatory meetings of the editors
but not the editorial work itselfwould be fnancially supported.
Simultaneously the editorial plans for the edition were progress-
ing. In September 1973 Horst Baier worked on a comprehensive
Report in which he laid out the conclusions of his advisory conver-
sations with a large circle of potential editors, but above all his own
ideas for the Gesamtausgabe. In Baiers view the reprint of the texts
collected by Marianne after 1920 or the editions of Webers writings
revised by Johannes Winckelmann served only a more experimen-
tal and provisional character that was neither specialist sociology
nor didactic.
He continued that there were further reasons to
proceed with a new Max Weber edition: the primary sources stored
in the Central State Archive of the German Democratic Republic in
Merseburg whose contents were yet to be comprehended and the
widely scattered letters and lectures as well as the fact that at that
time there was no reliable bibliography of the published works of
Max Weber. The state of knowledge of German and international
research of the published texts and the unpublished materials were,
as a result, defcient.
24. Mnster 1969.
25. Following a conversation with Wolfgang Schwentker (19 January 2010),
Horst Baier drew up a memorandum of several pages (11 February) that included
letters and other materials. See Horst Baier, Wolfgang J. Mommsens Beitrag zur
Entstehung der Max Weber-Gesamtausgabe (typewritten, Constance, 2010).
26. Horst Baier, Gesamtausgabe der Werke und Briefe Max Webers, 20 Septem-
ber 1973, p. 2 (copy in Nl. Winckelmann, Nr. 321, BAdW Munichhenceforth Baier,
Hanke et al. The Genesis of the Max Weber-Gesamtausgabe 67
Max Weber Studies 2012.
For Horst Baier it was not just the applicability of these arguments
to the work of Max Weber that made a new edition a matter of urgent
necessity but also on academic-political grounds, which arose from
the crisis of sociology as an empirical, value-free science. He stated
from his direct experience at Frankfurt that there was a legitima-
tion crisis in the discipline as a result of aggressive politicizing and
the advance of a socialist worldview into social science faculties
and disciplines.
A new historical-critical edition of the works and
letters of Max Weber presented an opportunity to strengthen the
sort of sociology as a strictly value-free science of empirical social action
of people in the historical course of cultures in opposition to the
forces in the discipline critical of a liberal society and hostile to the
capitalist system. Max Webers new actuality derived from his sci-
entifcally theoretical and fundamental refections combined with
detailed social-empirical and social-historical research. With a new
edition of his writings, it would therefore also be possible, according
to Baier, to envisage innovative impulses in the neighbouring dis-
ciplines to sociology. In this regard he named scientifc theory and
empirical related methodology, research into comparative cultures
and development, the analysis of systems of domination and legiti-
macy, research into elites, the sociology of law and the comparative
academic study of religions. Not least, Weber in his analyses of the
contemporary political situation as well as being a key fgure of his
time, and so the study of contemporary history and the history of
ideas, was a source of the frst order.
With the respect to the later institutionalization of MWG, the
organizational outlines are already sketched out in Horst Baiers
Report of September 1973 and they remain recognizable to this day
in the edition. Preparatory meetings in the Werner Reimers Founda-
tion were to clarify the situation on copyright and the programme of
work for access to the textual materials and the state of the letters.
Final support for this research was to be sought from the German
Research Council (DFG). The planning of the edition was to be
central, the editorial work decentralized to specifc universities.
Accordingly, Baier thought, frstly, of the Max Weber Institute at
the University of Munich under the leadership of Johannes Winck-
elmann with its focus on the edition of Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft, the
history seminar at the University of Dsseldorf under the leadership
of Wolfgang J. Mommsen would work on the political writings and
27. Baier, Report, p. 5.
68 Max Weber Studies
Max Weber Studies 2012.
letters, and a research unit at the University of Frankfurt under his
own leadership would be in charge of the writings on the methodol-
ogy of the social and cultural sciencesinsofar as this was possible
under Hessian conditions.
His Report left open to discussion two important issues: (1) where,
from whom, and with what means should the central editorial work
be coordinated, and (2) who should take over central editorial respon-
sibilities? For Baier it was indispensable that Johannes Winckelmann
and Wolfgang J. Mommsen should cooperatedespite their repre-
senting completely opposing standpoints in their assessment of the
political views of Max Weber and in core-matters of editorial presen-
tation and exegesis.
Baier, in the same month, made progress on the frst issue. On 21
September 1973 he sent his Report to Helmut Schelsky and asked
him for his assessment. At that time Schelsky chaired the Policy
Commission of the CSU (Christlich-Soziale Union) and was invited
to the Party Conference, which was taking place on 27-30 September
1973 in Munich, to present the results of the deliberations and to give
a presentation.
Baier had registered as a non-member of the Party
for the conference, and Schelsky suggested that he use the occasion
to seek a meeting with the CSU party chairman (and later the Prime
Minister of Bavaria) Franz Josef Strauss, in order to get his support
for the setting up of a coordination centre in Munich, possibly at
the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. Through Armin Mohler, whom
Baier knew well and who had access to Strauss, Baier made his
attendance known. So, during a gap in the proceedings at the Party
Conference in Munich, a meeting took place with Strauss which
Schelsky attended as well as the then Bavarian Minister of Culture,
Hans Maier.
Strauss knew some of Webers writings and was very
approving of the Report. What he took from the Report was the
anti-Marxist tenor of the memorandum and Baiers critique of the
state of the social sciences following 1968. Strauss then asked Hans
Maier to further the plan. And, in a letter dated 1 October 1973, Maier
assured Baier of his support without reservationscientifcally and
28. Baier, Report, p. 9.
29. The paper, given 28 September 1973, was entitled, The independent
person in modern society. Individual or collective responsibility, reprinted in
Helmut Schelsky, Der selbstndige Mensch und der betreute Mensch (Stuttgart:
Seewald, 1976).
30. The conversation of the Baier-Schelsky-Strauss-Maier meeting is not minuted
in the Party records.
Hanke et al. The Genesis of the Max Weber-Gesamtausgabe 69
Max Weber Studies 2012.
On account of the Max Weber Institute,
he himself wanted to speak with Emerich K. Francis and Karl Martin
Bolte who held the chairs for sociology at the University of Munich.
As it turned out his frst conversation was with Hans Raupach, the
President of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences, with the intention of
setting up a research centre on their premises.
The second issue, that of the overall editorial responsibility, was
much harder to resolve because it was overlaid by substantive differ-
ences and personal resentments between possible editors. Johannes
Winckelmann, in particular, showed little enthusiasm for Horst Bai-
ers initiative and sent him a critical analysis of his Report.
mann thought that a historical-critical edition was not feasible in the
absence of handwritten original manuscripts. He wanted something
quite different:
An edition collated on the basis of textual criticism and, above all,
freed of textual errata, a reliable edition of the complete oeuvre that
was usable for both research and study, that comments on the history
of the work and its realization and is accompanied by an explanatory
Above all it should proceed so that the academic investigation
and particularity of Max Weberthe synthesis of systematic and
historical approachesis presented, and his work, after the crisis
of 18971902, be handled as a self-contained and coherent totality
in appearance, systematic in all its branches and methodologically
Winckelmann did not agree with Baiers assumption that
a new complete edition would bring to light a surprisingly new and
different picture of the work and person; and, fnally, all the relevant
texts of scientifc importance were already known. He did, however,
agree with Baier on the academic-political objective of the enterprise
in promoting sociology as a value-free empirical science of the cul-
tural and social. To this end, the Gesamtausgabe should make vis-
ible the systematic, historical and empirically investigative approach
of Max Weber as an epistemological unity.
In addition to these matters, Johannes Winckelmann saw him-
self as being more closely involved with the edition of the texts on
31. Baier, Wolfgang J. Mommsens Beitrag, p. 4.
32. Johannes Winckelmann, Stellungnahme zu dem Expos Horst Baier betr.
Max Weber-Gesamtausgabe vom 20.9.1973, as copy Nl. Winckelmann.
33. Winckelmann, Stellungnahme, p. 1.
34. Winckelmann, Stellungnahme, p. 4.
70 Max Weber Studies
Max Weber Studies 2012.
the methodology of the social and cultural sciences than had been
envisioned by Horst Baier, who had allotted to Winckelmann edito-
rial responsibility solely for Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft. Furthermore,
Winckelmann attempted to discourage Baier from bringing Wolf-
gang J. Mommsen onto the editorial board. It would be best for him
to have responsibility for the political writings and letters as a col-
laborative editor; on account of fundamental differences of views
with regard to the existing editions of the work, his inclusion in the
executive team would be a source of continuous controversy.

Winckelmann expressed himself even more sharply against Momms-
ens involvement in a further letter to Horst Baier, 18 December 1973,
saying Mommsen has presented to the world in a wanton and false
manner a completely distorted Max Weber and these youthful sins
(as Weber would say) he would reduplicate in a second edition.

Since Baier did not wish to be part of this affront to Mommsen and
frmly believed in Mommsen as a main editor, Winckelmann more
or less gave up his opposition to Mommsens involvement, so that
on 29 December 1973 Baier could inform Mommsen that after some
trying toing and froing he had the agreement of Herr Winckelmann,
together with you and me, to take on the historical-critical complete
edition of the writings and letters.
Mommsen himself agreed a few
days later to work on the enterprise with the personal constellation
of those concerned and to bring about a historical-critical complete
edition of Weber.
The diffcult task of getting the two most opposed
rivals in German-speaking Weber research together in the same boat
appeared to have been solved, initially.
3. The initiating group and the institutionalization of MWG
On 24-25 May 1974 a ten member group met before the gates of
Frankfurt for preparatory deliberations for a complete edition of
the writings and letters of Max Weber.
The discussion to set up
the editorial board took place in the munifcent ambiance of the
35. Letter of Johannes Winckelmann to Horst Baier, 29 November 1973, cited in
Baier, Wolfgang J. Mommsens Beitrag, p. 3; as copy in Nl. Winckelmann.
36. Letter of Johannes Winckelmann to Horst Baier, 18 December 1973, as copy
in Nl. Winckelmann.
37. Cited by Baier, Wolfgang J. Mommsens Beitrag, p. 2.
38. Baier, Mommsens Beitrag, p. 2.
39. See the letter of invitation of Horst Baier, 28 April 1974, Nl. Winckelmann,
Nr. 322.
Hanke et al. The Genesis of the Max Weber-Gesamtausgabe 71
Max Weber Studies 2012.
Werner Reimers Foundation in Bad Homburg. In succeeding years
the Foundation became the home for the often lively sessions of the
so-called working group. According to the statutes of the Founda-
tion the initial task was to support the launch of a historical-critical
complete edition of the works of Max Weber by taking over the
travel and accommodation costs. After a total of six meetings in the
years 1974 to 1976 the setting-up phase was concluded.
It was in
this period that the guidelines for personnel and the organization
were laid down and have left their imprint on the work of MWG
over the decades. Of course, as section 5 will show, the working out
of editorial principles required further deliberations.
Those invited to the meeting of potential editors were Johannes
Winckelmannand on account of his service to the work of Max
Weber named frst in the listHermann Lbbe, Wolfgang J. Mom-
msen, Gerhard Oestreich, Guenther Roth and Horst Baier himself,
including also as guests Eduard Baumgarten, M. Rainer Lepsius,
Wolfgang Schluchter and Hans Henrik Bruun.
What marked out
this initiating group? Let us start with Johannes Winckelmann, the
passionately enthusiastic Weber editor and collector. As a self-
confessed academic outsider,
the seventy-four year old had estab-
lished a strong position in international research through his new
editions of Webers writings in the post-war years, and the founding
of a Weber Archive and then the Max Weber Institute in Munich.
Already in the run-up to the Homburg meeting, this professional
administrator and trained lawyer had made clear that he had a lead-
ing position in the new undertaking and pulled the strings in the
background. Hermann Lbbe was a selection of Baier and Winckel-
mann; as philosopher and politician he was seen as left-conservative
and in the Werner Reimers Foundation he was networked through
membership to several study groups.
As a one-time Secretary of
40. See the Report of Werner Reimers Foundation, Ttigkeitsbericht 19721976,
Bad Homburg v.d.H., 1977, p. 52. The MWG editors went to Bad Homburg 34 times
until the conclusion of the Foundation in 2001.
41. See the letter of invitation from Horst Baier, 28 April 1974, Nl. Winckelmann.
42. M. Rainer Lepsius, In memoriam Johannes Winckelmann (29 March 1900
21 November 1985), Klner Zeitschrift fr Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie (KZfSS) 38
(1986): 414-16 (414).
43. See Jens Hacke, Philosophie der Brgerlichkeit. Die liberalkonsevative Begrnd-
ung der Bundesrepublik (Gttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2006), especially p. 14.
Lbbe belonged to the study group Poetik und Hermeneutik and, with Mommsen,
to the study group Theorie der Geschichte and, together with Lepsius, to the
Arbeitskreis fr moderne Sozialgeschichte which was supported by the Reimers
72 Max Weber Studies
Max Weber Studies 2012.
State of the North Rhine-Westfalian Prime Minister, Heinz Khn,
the idea was that he (along with Wolfgang J. Mommsen) would
open the doors to the Rhenish-Westfalian Academy of Sciences in
Dsseldorf. Gerhard Oestreich, known for combining of administra-
tive, legal and social history and identifed through the editing of
the Collected Works of Otto Hintze, was a selection of Winckelmann
who was unwilling to leave the historical feld to Mommsen. The
German-American sociologist Guenther Roth had come in contact
with the work of Max Weber through Reinhard Bendix and already
had established a reputation as an exact and extremely knowl-
edgeable Weber editor through his edition, with Claus Wittich, of
Economy and Society.
His attendance made a parallel English edi-
tion a consideration. M. Rainer Lepsius sat at the conference table
less in his function as President of the German Sociological Society
nor as academic adviser to the Reimers Foundation but rather as
chair of the Max Weber Gesellschaft, which had been founded to
support Winckelmanns Max Weber Institute in Munich, founded in
1965. Winckelmann had in mind that the Gesellschaft could provide
the umbrella leadership of the Gesamtausgabe, so the presence of
its chair was for him imperative. Wolfgang Schluchter, who since
1973 was professor of sociology at the University of Dsseldorf, was
invited to the editorial meeting on the recommendation of Baier
and Mommsen. Also Winckelmann welcomed him since Schluchter
was particularly highly esteemed of the younger generation, both
academically and as a person.
Baier intended that he would have
responsibility for the editions of Webers hardcore sociology.

Foundation since 1975. Lbbe only took part in the frst two advisory meetings in
44. Guenther Roth and Claus Wittich (eds.), Max Weber. Economy and Society.
An Outline of Interpretive Sociology (3 vols.; New York: Bedminster, 1968); M. Rainer
Lepsius, Guenther Roth zum 75. Geburtstag (12. January 2006), KZfSS 58 (2006):
189f. Roth took part in the frst three meetings, and then sporadically. Roth was also
a member of the Max Weber Gesellschaft. He has remained an advisor and supporter
of the MWG.
45. See the letter of Winckelmann to Baier, 20 February 1974, Nl. Winckelmann.
Schluchter had already published the infuential study Wertfreiheit und Verantwor-
tungsethik. Zum Verhltnis von Wissenschaft und Politik bei Max Weber (Tbingen:
Siebeck, 1971). Parallel to the edition at the end of 1970s and beginning of 1980s, at
the Reimers Foundation he led high-class international conferences on the compara-
tive analysis of culture-religions in relation to Weber whose publication appeared in
fve volumes with Suhrkamp, 19811987.
46. Letter of Baier to Winckelmann, 8 February 1974, Nl. Winckelmann.
Hanke et al. The Genesis of the Max Weber-Gesamtausgabe 73
Max Weber Studies 2012.
The Danish political scientist, Hans Henrik Bruun, had come in con-
tact with Winckelmann through working on his dissertation on Max
Webers methodology and he had gained access to Max Webers cor-
respondence in the Central State Archive of the German Democratic
Republic in Merseburg; he was therefore seen as working on the aca-
demic letters.
The fnal person in the round to be mentioned was
the nephew of Weber, Eduard Baumgarten, who as philosopher and
sociologist and despite some differences and career diversions
remained bound to the life and work of his uncle. As a partial inheri-
tor, he possessed weberiana in his so-called Ebnet Archive.
With so many different interests and temperaments present, an
underlying tension could not be avoided in the meeting. Baumgar-
ten, with some irony, reported to Johannes Winckelmann after the
frst meeting, I know how much Homburg 1 must have put you out
of sorts []. Since each of you has his own and recognizable voice:
the erroneous Mommsen, the confused nephew, the cursed Baier.

Baumgarten, born in 1898, and therefore the eldest of the group,
urged the two years younger Winckelmann to give equal right to all
those attending, and in fact the group represented a mixture of the
specialist, the institutional and the archival competence. The more
important issue was not what separated the participants of the frst
advisory meeting but what united them in spite of every specialist
and personal difference. It was the will, through a historical-critical
Gesamtausgabe to create an international Weber renaissance, to
strengthen the liberal academic tradition of Germany and, in work-
ing together and in transcending disciplines, to make a specifc con-
tribution to sociology as well as to history.
The fourth meeting of the editorial board, 4-5 December 1975,
marked an important milestone in the institutionalization of the
MWG. For the frst time the publisher Mohr Siebeck as well as
the academic assistant Manfred Schn were present alongside the
47. Hans Henrik Bruun, Science, Values and Politics in Max Webers Methodology
(Copenhagen: Munksgaard, 1972), second enlarged edition (Ashgate: Aldershot,
2006). He took part in the frst four advisory meetings and then departed Weber
research for a diplomatic career in the Danish Foreign Offce.
48. Eduard Baumgarten, Max Weber. Werk und Person (Tbingen: J.C.B. Mohr
[Siebeck], 1964). For his biography see Internationales Soziologenlexikon, vol. 2, p. 53f.
as well as his role in the National Socialist period, Carsten Klingemann, Soziologie im
Dritten Reich (Baden-Baden: Nomos, 1996), especially pp. 179ff.
49. Letter Eduard Baumgarten to Johannes Winckelmann, 18 October 1974,
Nl. Winckelmann.
74 Max Weber Studies
Max Weber Studies 2012.
initiating group. A protocol signed by Rainer Lepsius reads like a
statute of the MWG. For the frst time the organs of the MWGA (as
the MWG was abbreviated at that time)the editorial board, editors,
assistants, redactor, advisory committeewere given names and the
legal institutional functions of the editorial board were defned and
fxed in relation to the Bavarian Academy of Sciences.
It was now
established that Baier, Lepsius, Mommsen, Schluchter and Winck-
elmann would form the editorial board. Lepsius was in charge of
business for a year, and thereby he was decisive in handling the 1976
agreed contract between the publisher, the Academy and the edi-
tors, and the establishment of a central administrative centre of the
MWG in Munich. The 1976 contract formed, to this day, the legally
binding basis for the edition of the Max Weber-Gesamtausgabe.
With the establishment of the core group a generational differen-
tiation became visible. The Max Weber-Gesamtausgabe became an
undertaking of the middle and younger generations. The generation
born after 1928 took over the helm, whereas Johannes Winckelmann
(born 1900) felt his claim to leadership rebuffed. When in the summer
of 1976 the leadership of the Munich administrative centre was
denied to him, he was affronted threatening to jam a chair in front
of the door. Guenther Roth then tried to reconcile him to a senior
role and to agree to acting in an advisory capacity.
At the end of
1974 the emeritus chair for Bavarian History in the Commission for
Social and Economic History of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences
passed from Karl Bosl to the economist and economic historian Knut
Borchardt (born 1929). And in the publishing house of Mohr Siebeck
Hans Georg Siebeck (born 1911) handed over the leadership of the
frm to his son Georg (born 1946), to whom he had already given
responsibility for the Gesamtausgabe.
Returning to the institutional pillars of MWGthese are: the edi-
torial board, the Bavarian Academy of Sciences, the publisher Mohr
Siebeck in Tbingen, and the research centres.
50. See the protocol of the meeting of the editorial board for a Gesamtausgabe of
the works of Max Weber for 4-5 December 1975 in the Werner Reimers Foundation,
Bad Homburg, Max Weber-Arbeitsstelle, BAdW Munich.
51. See the letter of Johannes Winckelmann to Wolfgang Schluchter, 28 April
1978, Nl. Winckelmann, in which he dwelt upon the events in the 5th meeting in
the summer of 1976; also the letter of Guenther Roth to Johannes Winckelmann, 22
June 1976, Nl. Winckelmann. The Academy concluded a contract with Winckelmann
in July 1976 which appointed him an academic advisor to the Max Weber research
centre in the Commission for Social and Economic History.
Hanke et al. The Genesis of the Max Weber-Gesamtausgabe 75
Max Weber Studies 2012.
a. The editorial board
To it belongs overall academic and organizational responsibility
for MWG.
It appoints editors for the individual volumes from the
board itself or identifes academics, for example, sinologists or musi-
cologists. Editorial posts, whether drawn from within or outside the
board, were honorifc unpaid posts. The decisions of the board were
reached through the principle of consensus,
and this often led to
very long (troublesome) and controversial debates, which actually
in the longer perspectivecontributed importantly to ensuring the
quality of the edition. This probably occurred (and occurs) because
of a strong moderator, who endures the tensions, weighs up the
arguments, and fnally reaches a conclusion. M. Rainer Lepsius has
continuously fulflled this role with his strength of personality and
intellectual presence, even while regarding it with some self-irony
as psychotherapeutic management.
b. The Bavarian Academy of Sciences
It provides and guarantees the institutional framework for the func-
tioning of the Max Weber-Gesamtausgabe.
In line with the trilateral
contract of 1976, the individual volumes will state on the left hand title
page: On behalf of the Commission for Social and Economic History
of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences edited by. Following the so-
called Academy solution, the alternative models of a Foundation or
Society fell by the wayside. But the linkage to the Bavarian Academy
developed into something more diffcult than anyone involved antic-
ipated. The then President of the Bavarian Academy, Hans Raupach,
who was familiar with Webers writings, had promptly expressed
great interest in a Gesamtausgabe after preliminary conversations
in December 1973 with Horst Baier and Johannes Winckelmann. As
an economist he linked the Gesamtausgabe to the Commission on
52. Protocol of the meeting of editorial committee 4-5 December 1975, p. 2.
53. This went against the expectations of Johannes Winckelmann who had
simply assumed the principle of majority decisions, and this formed the basis of his
strategy of co-option for the editorial board. If it was required, positions put forward
by Mommsen could be out-voted.
54. The Academy, not as initially envisaged, increasingly came to administer the
fnancial resources and to be in charge of contracts for full-time working associates.
Knut Borchardt, the chair of the Commission for Social and Economic History, took
on the role of managing appointments and the posts of associates. This started in
1990 with the package of contracts from the German Research Council for the editing
of Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft, Letters and Lectures, and then (from 199798)
responsibility for the support from the Academys programme.
76 Max Weber Studies
Max Weber Studies 2012.
Social and Economic History of which he was a member.
After sep-
arate conversations with Winckelmann and Lepsius in early 1974,
Karl Bosl (then chair of the Commission and also acquainted with
Webers writings) declared, to the Minister of Culture Hans Maier,
the readiness of the Commission to take part in a complete edition of
the works of Max Weber and also to provide the accommodation for
On the rules for its institutionalization, Hans Maier invited to the
Ministry for 22 July 1974: those representing the Bavarian Academy
of Sciences, the potential editorial board of MWG, the Max Weber
Institute of Ludwig-Maximilians-University as well as the Max
Weber Gesellschaft, and Messrs. Baier, Bosl, Helle, Lepsius, Lbbe,
Raupach, Sieveking and Winckelmann.
A protocol of this meeting
was not taken, though the associated correspondence shows that the
issue of the linkage of MWG to the Academy has been frequently
mixed up with the moving of the Max Weber Institute, which had
been set up by Winckelmann at the University. The transfer of the
archive and research contents, gathered by him, including the per-
sonal and material resources to the Academy, appeared to Winckel-
mann as a good opportunity to continue his lifes work and to ensure
his co-editorship of MWG as well as the leadership of the proposed
Munich administrative centre. Because of this amassing of interests,
the setting up of the MWG administrative centre in the Academy
was blocked. Finally, at the end of 1975, through an order of the
Ministry of Culture the transfer of the Max Weber Institute, both
contents as well as material and personal resources, took place.

In 1975, the year when the guiding framework was established, the
close connection of Academy and Gesamtausgabe was institutionally
strengthened through the co-optation of Winckelmann and Lepsius
in the Commission for Social and Economic History.
55. This becomes clear in the letter, 9 July 1976, sent out by Lepsius to all the par-
ticipants of MWG after the fnal negotiations in the Commission and the Academy,
Nl. Winckelmann.
56. Letter from Karl Bosl to Minister of Education and culture Hans Maier, 1 July
1974, copy in Documents of Commission for Social and Economic History, BAdW,
57. Letter of invitation, 12 July 1974, copy in Commission Documents and in Nl.
58. Letter of the Bavarian Minister of State for Education and Culture, 12 Decem-
ber 1975, Documents of Commission and Nl. Winckelmann.
59. See Yearbook of Bavarian Academy of Sciences 1975 (Munich, 1975), p. 44.
After the death of Winckelmann in 1985, Lepsius, as the managing editor represented
Hanke et al. The Genesis of the Max Weber-Gesamtausgabe 77
Max Weber Studies 2012.
Knut Borchardt, the chair of the Commission, took part in 1984 in his
frst meeting of the editorial board.
c. The publisher Mohr Siebeck
It took on the commercial responsibility for the Max Weber-Gesamt-
ausgabe and controlled the rights to the edition. This concerned the
existing copyright to the published writings and manuscripts of Max
Weber. Contacts to the family and heirs were established and main-
tained by the publishing house. Already in the preliminary con-
versations, which Horst Baier in June 1973 and then Wolfgang J.
Mommsen a year later had conducted with Hans Georg Siebeck, the
publisher was keen on the undertaking. Georg Siebeck remembered
his father calling him into the meetings, because the publication was
a future project.
Weber had been a house author since 1895 and he
was also the author with the greatest royalties. Webers signifcance
for the Japanese book market at that time was of major importance
in the decision to bind energy and resource costs to a major extent to
this large edition. From1984 to the collapse of the yen, around two
thirds of the sales have been to Japan.
The publishers Siebeck Sr.
and Jr. have helped signifcantly to speed up the institutionalization
of MWG since the editorial board meeting of 1975. At the outset the
idea of an alliance of publishers was rejected and it was agreed that
Siebeck would be the sole publisher.
Both Siebecks energetically
pursued the drawing up of the contract that, after several drafts and
negotiations, was signed in September/October 1976 by the Bavar-
ian Academy President Raupach, the publisher Hans Georg Siebeck
the MWG in the Commission. Gangolf Hbinger, as member of the editorial board
since 2005, was co-opted to the Commission in June 2007.
60. His participation in the editorial board was at frst sporadic. Borchardt
became substantively active through editing MWG I/5; Max Weber, Brsenwesen.
Schriften und Reden 18931898, in collaboration with Cornelia Meyer-Stoll (Tbingen:
Mohr Siebeck, 1999/2000). Since 2003 he has become increasingly involved in the
checking and active support of the work on the Lectures volumes.
61. Conversation with Edith Hanke, 22 February 2010.
62. See Wolfgang Schwentker, Max Weber in Japan. Eine Untersuchung zur
Wirkungsgeschichte 19051995 (Tbingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1998), p. 307.
63. Hans Georg Siebeck clarifed the situation with the publisher Enke and its
management when taken over by Thieme Verlag. Webers dissertation and habilita-
tion thesis were published by Ferdinand Enke. See the letter of Hans Georg Siebeck
to Horst Baier, 20 November 1975, in VA Mohr Siebeck, Tbingen and, since June
2010, in Staatsbibliothek BerlinPreussischer Kulturbesitz, Nr. 675.
78 Max Weber Studies
Max Weber Studies 2012.
and the fve editors.
The publishing house greatly supported the
volumes of the edition through making available its historic corre-
spondence. Wolfgang Mommsen frst obtained copies,
and then the
originals were deposited in June 1980 in the Bavarian State Library
and made available to MWG. At the same time the publisher was
able to come to a similar agreement with the adoptive son and heir,
Max Weber-Schaefer.
d. The research centres
They incorporated Baiers principle of decentralization which he had
demanded at the outset. It was characteristic of Wolfgang J. Mom-
msens will for action and strategic practicality that he had set up his
Dsseldorf research centre even before the institutional form of the
Gesamtausgabe enterprise was assured. On 25 July 1974 he made
the frst application to the German Research Council for the fnanc-
ing of the preparation of a historical-critical edition of the political
letters and the political writings of Max Weber. His student Manfred
Schn was appointed to fnd, collect and register Max Weber letters.
He had the best grasp of Webers handwriting and became a walk-
ing encyclopaedia on Weber. Dsseldorf quickly became the largest
and most effcient research centre. Parallel to this Lepsius set up the
research centre at Mannheim, where from November 1975 primar-
ily the private letters were transcribed. With Schluchter (1976) and
Lepsius (1981) called to chairs at Heidelberg, a second important
Weber centre was created close to Webers own place of activity. As
already mentioned the Munich research centre, on account of the
transfer of the library and materials established by Johannes Winck-
elmann, had a special position among the research centres. Martin
Riesebrodt, since 1 October 1976, had made an important contribu-
tion through compilation and systematization to the professionalism
of MWG.
With the creation of the post of general redactor, 1 Feb-
64. Copy of the contract, Max Weber-Arbeitsstelle, BAdW Munich. The draft
contracts with comments by Winckelmann in Nl. Winckelmann. The correspondence
with Siebeck in VA Mohr Siebeck, Berlin, Nr. 685 under Lepsius.
65. See the exchange of letters between Wolfgang J. Mommsen and Georg Sie-
beck in February 1976, VA Mohr Siebeck, Berlin, Nr. 685.
66. Riesebrodt established the bibliography of the works of Max Weber, which
became the binding basis of assigning texts to particular volumes (see also section
5 below). He worked for a systematic fling of the MWG related correspondence
and documents, contributing to the now professionally run protocol of the edito-
rial board. He was an active participant in the preparation of guidelines for the
editions and he edited one of the frst volumes to appear: Max Weber, Die Lage der
Hanke et al. The Genesis of the Max Weber-Gesamtausgabe 79
Max Weber Studies 2012.
ruary 1982,
the Munich research centre fnally became the central
site for redaction, business and documentation of the Max Weber-
4. Wolfgang J. Mommsen as a Weber interpreter and editor
With regard to the study of Max Weber, the early 1970s were a
very productive period for Wolfgang J. Mommsen. By the second
half of the 1960s, following vigorous discussions of his dissertation
that continued on until the Heidelberg Sociology Conference of
1964 (dedicated to Max Weber),
Mommsen had not published on
Weber, other than some reviews. Instead he had worked for sev-
eral years on his habilitation thesis on Bethmann Hollweg and had
written a volume on European imperialism for the Fischer series on
world history.
He only re-engaged in the German debates in 1970
with a review essay Neue Max Weber Literatur for the Historische
What makes this essay relevant here is his sharp critique
of Johannes Winckelmanns editing of the 3rd edition of Gesammelte
Aufstze zur Wissenschaftslehre, published in 1968; from this can be
surmised why Winckelmann had been so outspoken about Mom-
msens participation in the editorial board of MWG. The new edi-
tion, said Mommsen, contained no really new text. Winckelmanns
thesis that the essay Three pure types of legitimate domination was
Landarbeiter im ostelbischen Deutschland, MWG I/3, which appeared in 2 volumes
(Siebeck, 1984). Following Riesebrodt (19761981), as academic associates and redac-
tors, were Gangolf Hbinger (19821984), Rita Aldenhoff (19851991), Edith Hanke
(19922005), Ursula Bube (from 2005 onwards). In 1981/82 Dietrich Uffhausen was
also employed as Redactor of the Edition and was based in Tbingen.
67. Karl-Ludwig Ay occupied this post until his retirement at the end of 2004,
and Edith Hanke then took on the post.
68. Discussion contribution of Wolfgang J. Mommsen on Raymond Arons Max
Weber und die Machtpolitik, in Max Weber heute. Verhandlungen des 15. Deutschen
Soziologentages (Tbingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1965), pp. 130-38. Mommsen has hit the
nerve of German sociology reported the FAZ (6 May 1964) on the conference.
69. The Habilitation remained unpublished. Parts of it appeared in Wolfgang
J. Mommsen, Die Regierung Bethmann Hollweg und die ffentliche Meinung
19141917, Vierteljahrshefte fr Zeitgeschichte 17 (1969): 117-59 and his Die latente
Krise des Deutschen Reichs 19091914, in Handbuch der deutschen Geschichte, vol. 4,
Section 1a (ed. Brandt, Meyer and Just; Essen: Akademie-VerlagGes. Athenaion,
1972), pp. 3-120. On imperialism see Mommsen, Das Zeitalter des Imperialismus (=
Fischer Weltgeschichte, vol. 28; Frankfurt a. M.: Fischer, 1969).
70. Wolfgang J. Mommsen, Neue Max-Weber-Literatur, Historische Zeitschrift
211 (1970): 616-30.
80 Max Weber Studies
Max Weber Studies 2012.
directly linked to the Logos essay On some categories of interpretive
sociology and must therefore have originated from 1913 was based
on a mere presumption; the dating was extremely questionable. It
was to be hoped that in the soon to appear 5th edition of Wirtschaft
und Gesellschaft Winckelmann would give up his practice of treating
this torso of a work as three overlaid stages forming a unifed whole.
It was to be welcomed that Winckelmann as editor of the second
edition of the Rechtssoziologie (1968) at least placed his own addi-
tions to the text in square brackets where they could now be seen.
Winckelmann as a Weber editor was thus evaluated, academically,
of limited worth. The personal relationship between the two must
be reckoned as destroyed. Even more surprising, in retrospect, was
Horst Baiers success in getting them to work together on the MWG
editorial board.
Aside from basic problems with the history of Webers works,
Mommsen was interested at the start of the 1970s with systematic
issues of political sociology and these extended far beyond the politi-
cal views of Max Weber as they were more narrowly perceived in his
1959 book. An important stimulus for a renewed engagement with
the work of Max Weber was the invitation to be a visiting professor
at St Antonys College, Oxford in 1971/72. During his stay in Oxford,
Mommsen had the opportunity to interact with English Weber spe-
cialists and to hold a seminar on Max Weber as a universal historian
and politician. He also found time to bring together in a book previ-
ous studies on the sociology of domination and to write new essays
on Webers analysis of Wilhelmine and post-war society.
Some of
these studies appeared later in the collection Max Weber. Gesellschaft,
Politik und Geschichte
which appeared at about the same time as the
English book, though not identical.
Mommsen himself considered his essay on Universal history and
political thought in Max Weber, which dated from 1965 as perhaps
his most signifcant contribution to international Weber research
since the publication of his dissertation. This argued that the uni-
versal process of bureaucratization [] has been the unmistakable
thread in the political and sociological thinking of Max Weber.

Aside from this self-assessment, in the actual discussion of the 1970s
it was the study on Weber and Marx, which appeared under the
71. Wolfgang J. Mommsen, The Age of Bureaucracy. Perspectives on the Political
Sociology of Max Weber (Oxford: Blackwells, 1974; foreword dated 1972).
72. Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp, 1974.
73. This frst appeared in Historische Zeitschrift 20 (1965): 557-612.
Hanke et al. The Genesis of the Max Weber-Gesamtausgabe 81
Max Weber Studies 2012.
title Max Weber als Kritiker des Marxismus in Zeitschrift fr Soziol-
ogie as well as in an English collected volume, which was far more
In opposition to the thematic essay of Herbert Mar-
cuse that had appeared a few years earlier, Mommsen presented
his own extremely down to earth interpretation.
Against Marcuse,
Mommsen argued that Weber in no ways intended through the
accentuation of formal rationality as a basic element of modern
industrial capitalism to immunize it against criticism.
In the dis-
tinction between formal and substantive rationality there was a
chance for a fundamental critique of the capitalist system, which
Weber himself has not taken up. Weber does not spare the individ-
ual from the effects of formally free labour contracts, but he also
did not believe that a socialist planned economy, in whatever form,
will be less constrained in relation to the life chances and conduct
of individuals in the face of the gigantic apparatus which would
control the means of production.
What is surprising in reading the essay on Weber and Marx some
30 years after its appearance is how little Mommsen reacted to the
strengthening of neo-Marxist currents in the intellectual life of the
Federal Republic. Only at the conclusion of the essay is there a rebuke
of the ossifed communist system of our time. Unlike Baier, there is
no politically or academically motivated critique of West German neo-
Marxism in Mommsens writings of the 1970s. Mommsen, infuenced
by Weber, had no trace of an ideological anti-Marxism.
Rather, he
74. See Zeitschrift fr Soziologie 3.3 (1974): 256-78. In the English and German col-
lected volumes the essay appeared under a different title: The Alternative to Marx:
Dynamic Capitalism instead of Bureaucratic Socialism, in The Age of Bureaucracy, pp.
47-71 and Kapitalismus und Sozialismus. Die Auseinandersetzung mit Karl Marx,
in Max Weber, pp. 144-81.
75. See Herbert Marcuse, Industrialisierung und Kapitalismus in Werk Max
Webers, in Marcuse, Kultur und Gesellschaft, vol. 2 (Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp, 1965),
pp. 125ff. Mommsens commentary was different to that of Guenther Roth: Das his-
torische Verhltnis der Weberschen Soziologie zum Marxismus, in Klner Zeitschrift
fr Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie 20 (1968): 429-47 and Jrgen Kocka, Karl Marx und
Max Weber. Ein methodologischer Vergleich, in Zeitschrift fr die gesamte Staatswis-
senschaft 122 (1966): 328-57. Roth agreed that the phrase the bourgeois Marx was
not particularly helpful, even though Mommsen himself used this phrase. Kockas
position was overly limited to a methodological comparison since it concerned only
the methodological early works and did not take suffcient account of Economy and
Society. That was where, though, the real alternative to Karl Marx was formulated.
See Mommsen, Neue Max-Weber-Literatur, p. 624.
76. Mommsen, Kapitalismus und Sozialismus, p. 174.
77. On another occasion Mommsen allowed Wolfgang Lefvres critique to stand:
82 Max Weber Studies
Max Weber Studies 2012.
emphasized the methodological parallels between Marx and Weber
and defned Webers political standpoint as that of a liberal, by which
the rights and opportunities for self realization of the individual
against all-powerful institutions, namely bureaucracy, were cham-
pioned. This general position, which Mommsen stated from Weber,
was in his view to be found in the academic-theoretical writings that
offered categories for principled analysis open in their results, with
which the social action in history and the present could be under-
stood and causally explained.
Alongside these and other particular aspects devoted to study of
the work of Max Weber, on his return from England Mommsen was
occupied with the re-working of his book Max Weber und die deutsche
Politik, which appeared in its second edition in 1974. Compared to
the frst edition, it had been greatly expanded and carried much
newly appeared source material as well as taking account of the
comprehensive new specialist literature. Mommsen saw no occasion
for a fundamentally changed interpretation, but he was concerned to
bring out more clearly the chronology of Webers constitutional rec-
ommendations. Apart from these clarifcations, Mommsen adhered
to the core of his thesis, whereby the concept of plebiscitary leader-
democracy contained within it an anti-parliamentary tendency that
could lead to a fascistic model of order. That Weber himself would
have been a convinced opponent of fascism, as in his biting condem-
nation of the reactionary moves like the Kapp putsch, stood beyond
question for Mommsen. In a comprehensive Afterword and in reply
to his critics, Mommsen brought forward the aristocratic individu-
alism of Max Weber by which liberal ideas were bound to the Nietz-
schean conception of the value-asserting personality. Weber could
not have envisaged the problem of charismatic domination in totali-
tarian systems; his focus was the self-averring and self-realization
of the personality in an administered world. In this sense Mommsen
rebutted the critique of those like Karl Loewenstein and Guenther
Roth, and in his book he brought Max Weber the politician in line
with the academic. This, for him, was an artifcial separation, for it
only served to immunize the academic writings of Max Weber from
that in the Protestant Ethic Weber did not probe the phenomenon of capitalism as such
and excluded the working class from consideration, even though this was included
in Webers thesis. Other than that he made little attempt to radicalize the criticism
of Herbert Marcuse on Max Weber. On this, compare Lefvre, Methode brgerlicher
Soziologie and Mommsen, Max Weber und die deutsche Politik (Tbingen: Mohr Siebeck,
2nd edn, 1974), pp. 464ff.
Hanke et al. The Genesis of the Max Weber-Gesamtausgabe 83
Max Weber Studies 2012.
political criticism. But it was beyond question, for Mommsen, that
Webers sociological work was based on a specifc intellectual and
social framework, which also had a political side.
The plenteous quantity of works on the politics and political
sociology of Max Weber formed the basis for Mommsens function
as editor of the political writings, lectures and letters since 1975.
As a member of the editorial board and leader of the Dsseldorf
research centre, this was indeed fortunate for MWG. His engage-
ment with conceptual questions, which touched on the edition in its
entirety, as in the alignment according to the principle of pertinence
vis--vis chronologyan area where his own ideas could not pre-
vail, remained in opposition to the otherwise active involvement as
editor of the individual volumes of the political writings and letters.
Mommsen was sensitive to the problems of a historical-critical edi-
tion of the classical thinkers of political and social thought, since he
had worked on the edition of the writings of Friedrich Naumann
under the direction of his academic teacher Theodor Schieder.
experience from working on these texts and his expertise in relation
to Webers hard to read handwriting, which he had acquired when
studying the sources in the Merseburg-located Nachlass and else-
where, came in very useful for him and the edition. As a historian
Mommsen combined an inclination and capacity for large synthesis;
in the editions of the writings and letters of Max Weber, in con-
trast, he demonstrated an inexhaustible enthusiasm for philological
nuance in textual critique and the details of biographical and histori-
cal commentary. In the diffcult issues of Max Webers writings, he
himself often went into the archives and on occasions argued pas-
sionately with his material over the various styles of handwriting
in the archive materials. From the outset, he succeeded in inspiring
young academics, whom he mostly recruited for the edition direct
from the seminar. The relatively quick establishment and disband-
ing of the Dsseldorf research centre had the effect of speeding up
the entire edition, because frequently in the course of the editions
of political writings basic questions of textual presentation were
thrown up whose solution became important for other, later vol-
umes. Mommsen was never keen to go to the editorial meetings,
after Homburg, where among the editors he vehemently argued
78. Mommsen, Deutsche Politik, p. 446.
79. See Friedrich Naumann, Werke. Vol. 4: Schriften zur Verfassungspolitik; Vol. 5:
Schriften zur Wirtschafts- und Gesellschaftspolitik (ed. Theodor Schieder, in collabora-
tion with Wolfgang J. Mommsen; Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag, 1964).
84 Max Weber Studies
Max Weber Studies 2012.
for his viewsyet ceded in these conficts to pragmatic solutions.
Diplomatic skills were not his forte and his behavior at the Reimers
Foundation was not always happy. Despite thisand often after the
editorial meetingshe adapted substantial controversies to produc-
tive work programmes, whose guidelines he was able to further
develop in the work of those volumes for which he was responsible
in the Dsseldorf research centre.
5. A documenting complete edition according
to historical-critical principles
In May 1981, for the frst time the overall undertaking was presented
to the academic world. A detailed prospectus by the Siebeck publish-
ing house (the so-called green brochure) presented the layout and
structure of the Max Weber-Gesamtausgabe in three sections: Writ-
ings and Speeches, Letters and Lecture Manuscripts and Lecture
Notes. Wolfgang Schluchter composed an introduction for the edi-
tors, which went into the debate on theories of editions in relation
to the purposes of MWG, its governing principles, its substantive
structure and its institutional linkages overall. The central message
was that MWG saw itself as a documenting edition according to
historical-critical principles.
This handy formula does not itself specify which guidelines were
decisive in order to explain how the four central elementsan edi-
tion of all the texts, according to critical reconstruction, in regard
to historical location and documentationwould in combination
represent Webers work. For, in the actual defnition and emphasis
of these four elements lay the core editorial question: which Weber
has to be read in what way?
While the main overall decisions on dividing up the works were
reached in the second editorial meeting at Bad Homburg in October
1974, for six years after that the editors experimentally weighed up
the fner points on proceeding before fnally determining, through
consensus, the editorial principles. There were very many ways of
realizing a project that involved assembling within an overall con-
cept an intellectual lifes work of some three hundred separate titles,
which until 1980 comprised the authorized editionsfrom the inter-
nationally known Protestant Ethic in its two versions of 1904/5 and
80. Prospekt der Max Weber-Gesamtausgabe (Tbingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1981), see
within Wolfgang Schluchter, Einfhrung, pp. 4-15 (11).
Hanke et al. The Genesis of the Max Weber-Gesamtausgabe 85
Max Weber Studies 2012.
1920, to completely unknown reviews and newspaper articles, to the
reports taken down in shorthand of speeches and contributions to
discussions in associations and meetings.
The frst draft plans with regard to structuring the work stuck
closely to the principles that had guided Marianne Weber (and there-
after Johannes Winckelmann) in her selection of volumes. This was
the picture of Weber that was familiar to the academic world. There
were 150,000 copies in circulation of the collected volumes under
the supervision of the private scholar, Johannes Winckelmann.

Wolfgang J. Mommsen voted emphatically for the assignment of the
texts along thematic principles (pertinence) as opposed to a purely
chronological orderin contradiction to what one might expect of a
What appeared to be technical questions of assignment went to
the very core of the edition. What was the relationship between per-
tinence and chronology, how theoretical does this have to be and
how pragmatically does it have to be balanced in practice? And
what does this mean for the type of historical-critical edition, can
this approach be pursued or does it have to be abandoned? Wolf-
gang J. Mommsen did not at frst seem to be satisfed with decision
criteria of general principles, or the theoretical combination of such
principles. He wanted something more pragmatic: the working out
of a very concrete plan on the basis of the texts. It appeared to him
impossible to meanwhile scatter the other texts according to a purely
chronological viewpoint between the substantive complexes like the
Handelsgesellschaften im Mittelalter, the rmische Agrargeschichte, the
Religionssoziologie, the wartime Politische Schriften On mature consid-
eration it seems to me in principle perfectly sensible to operate with
the so far agreed principle of combining pertinence and chronology
rather than giving precedence to chronology.
Mommsen wrote in a long letter to M. Rainer Lepsius on his frst
reactions to Schluchters berlegungen dated 15 July 1977, and he
added some examples on the disputed assignment of individual texts
from the feld of Webers writings on social and university policy.
The fear of endangering the edition through a false accentuation
in one or other direction was understandable when one regards the
81. M. Rainer Lepsius, Mnchens Beziehungen zu Max Weber und zur Pfege
seines Werkes, Faszinosum Max Weber, pp. 17-27 (25).
82. Letter to M. Rainer Lepsius, 30 June 1977, Max Weber-Arbeitsstelle Dssel-
dorf; also there a copy of Schluchters berlegungen zu einer historisch-kritischen
Ausgabe der Texte Max Webers.
86 Max Weber Studies
Max Weber Studies 2012.
theoretical discussion, which was underway in the feld of the
German Literary Archive at Marbach concerning texts and vari-
and with which the editors were engaged during this phase of
their deliberations. The literature academic, Siegfried Scheibe, was
co-author of the Basis of the Goethe Edition at the Berlin Academy
of Sciences, and he listed sixteen criteria, the fulfllment of which
would be decisive for the quality of historical-critical editing. They
extend from the obvious reproduction of all variants of any one par-
ticular version of an edited text to the exact historical description
of the authorized versions of the text and the process of printing,
and fnally to questions of biography and the historical legacy of the
Certainly not all the editorial possibilities from the complex
list were taken on board in the MWG, but two basic insights were.
Firstly, that of the complete development of the text: the history of
the work must be visible for all parts of the edition. And secondly,
that of the transparency of the editorial decisions: the edition real-
izes its specifc purpose in the visibility of the historical process.
As a result of the interchange with this literature, the editors and
the collaborative editors entered into a process of professionaliza-
tion that, with hindsight, can be seen as a process of adapting to the
needs of social science rather than the meticulous requirements of a
literary edition. The modern academic practice of an edition tended
neither to an excessive positivism, nor did it prize the editorial hand
in the tradition of the nineteenth century which, though staying in
the background, apparently knew better the will of the author. This
opened up the space to four basic elements for a collected edition
along critical, historical, and documenting lines, the content of which
would be determined by its own needs, so establishing the edition-
type of the MWG as a reasonable and practical approach to the texts
and the framing of the individual volumes.
This was then concluded in the already mentioned Prospekt
der Max Weber-Gesamtausgabe in which the Siebeck publishing
house presented the organization of the edition in its Sections with
the volumes in numbered series. On the basis of the bibliography
assembled by Martin Riesebrodt all the Weber texts were allocated
83. Gunter Martens and Hans Zeller, Texte und Varianten (Munich: Beck, 1971).
In connection to this, the MWG editors drafted the rules, see Schluchter, Einfh-
rung, p. 8. A shortened version appears in each volume of MWG.
84. Siegfried Scheibe, Grundprinzipien einer historisch-kritischen Ausgabe, in
Texte und Varianten, pp. 1-43 (9-11).
85. Scheibe, Grundprinzipien, p. 7.
Hanke et al. The Genesis of the Max Weber-Gesamtausgabe 87
Max Weber Studies 2012.
to the planned individual volumes; Mommsen and the Dsseldorf
research centre were able to demonstrate the historical-critical prep-
aration of their edition of Webers wartime speech Deutschland
unter den europischen Weltmchten complete with its draft out-
line and its two printed versions; Wolfgang Schluchter expressed
the basis of the edition in systematic form.
This overall situation
respected Wolfgang J. Mommsens interests as an editor working
along historical lines. On the basis of the now agreed type of edition
with its express regard for the context of the work, historians could
now expect a differentiated view of Webers academic analyses and
his contemporary intellectual community in this epoch of classical
With regard to the cultural signifcance of MWG for the work
of historians, something should now be said about the combining
of the four basic elements and Mommsens dynamic role for the
conceptual development; in addition his rapid work on the actual
volumes should be emphasized.
MWG as a Complete Edition: With his Dsseldorf research centre
Wolfgang J. Mommsen contributed considerably to fulflling the cri-
teria of a complete edition. Meticulous archival research worldwide
and in remote places led to a continuous expansion of the inventory
of texts of Webers publications and lecture activity, in particular
his scientifc, political and personal correspondence. All texts within
any specifc volume were ordered chronologically and unlike liter-
ary practice it was not the creative text of the frst hand but the
worked-on text of the fnal hand that determined the edited text
and the earlier versions were annotated as variants. The principle
of pertinence, which Mommsen wanted, was met by presenting the
large themes not as a unifed block but including the actual work-
historical places in their internal connection and giving their con-
tents clear explanatory titles. So this was the case for the titles he was
responsible for, the political writings: Volumes I/4 Landarbeiterfrage,
Nationalstaat und Volkswirtschaftspolitik 18921899; I/10 Zur Russis-
chen Revolution von 1905; I/15 Zur Politik im Weltkrieg 19141918; I/16
Zur Neuordnung Deutschlands 19191920. Within these volumes there
was still a signifcant sub-division so that under the criteria of Com-
plete Edition press reports of speeches and contributions to debates
86. See above, n. 81.
87. This point was raised once again by M. Rainer Lepsius in conversation with
Edith Hanke and Gangolf Hbinger in Munich, 7 October 2009.
88 Max Weber Studies
Max Weber Studies 2012.
could then be included even though handwritten drafts were absent.
Taking into account the indirect transmission in such attested cases
increased the source value of the edition.
As is well known, there is no genuine Weber Nachlass. The col-
lection known as Weber Nachlasslocated initially in the Central
State Archive in Merseburg and now in the Secret State Archive of
Prussian Heritage (Geheimes Staatsarchiv Preuischer Kulturbesitz)
in Berlinis a collection which Marianne Weber supplemented by
the addition of letters and copies of letters after the death of her
husband. This made the decision plausible to edit those letters that
were deposited in Merseburg and the other letters to recipients
found elsewhere in Section II: Letters and to decide not to include
the return correspondence. Some 3,200 letters altogether were found
and transcribed, which meant that the original plan of eight letter
volumes had to be extended to ten volumes.
Section III: Lecture Manuscripts and Lecture Notes was calcu-
lated in 1981 to a dilatory two volumes, so that the widely dissemi-
nated Munich lectures of 1919/20 Outline of universal social and
economic history, known internationally as the General Economic
History, could be presented. After thorough examination of all
the lecture manuscripts and lecture notes by Wolfgang J. Momm-
sen and his team this section was later expanded to a total seven
The historical-critical presentation of the text: the uncovering of
the historical Weber, in a double sense, beneftted from the close
examination of the text as well as the careful presentation of the text
according to historical-critical principles. Critical means that all
texts were checked for correctness of the authors own rendition and
thereby for mistakes or publisher and typesetting errors. Ever since
Otto Hintzes specialist review of Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft in 1926,
in which he uncovered 50 simple reading errors by the frst editors,

the need for such re-reading was established beyond doubt. Depict-
ing all phases of the text according to the historical method, was
less obvious. The MWG decided on detailed and specifc text-critical
indices and these would appear on the same page as the edited
text. This allowed the study of the development of the text and of
the points at which changes occurred, while possibly inhibiting the
88. Otto Hintze, Max Webers Soziologie, Schmollers Jahrbuch 50 (1926): 83-95.
Hintzes review was in respect of the 2nd edition of Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft of
1925, which included the sociology of music.
Hanke et al. The Genesis of the Max Weber-Gesamtausgabe 89
Max Weber Studies 2012.
fow of reading. Historical editing, so dearly loved by Mommsen,
included in his opinion an Editorial Report, which proceeded each
text and which went into matters of provenance, transmission and
editorial decisions. Commentary on contents was provided for by
substantive explanations, of which Mommsen made extensive use.
Detailed research in the university archives by Manfred Schn pro-
duced new insights into the academic history. Strictly speaking the
Editorial Reports are more important than the actual introductions
to the volumes, in which the specifc approach of the volume editor
in presenting the overall scientifc history and biographical features
are given more emphasis.
A documenting edition: Reviews of the various volumes of MWG
always show that it had made sense to differentiate between the
documenting and the interpreting type of edition. What was
too much for the one, was too meager for the other. Some review-
ers had expectations on the edition that it can and will not fulfll.
Others expressed, solely on the basis of the selection of the editor
of a volume, the suspicion of the falsifcation of textual materials
through an overly sociological point of view. The MWG encounters
both points with the attacking remark that the shadow of the editors
hand falls on each edition, and its scientifc value is to be measured
according to the extent that verifable results are brought forth, the
editorial contours are made visible.
This may seem trivial, but is
not if one considers that knowing the fnal intention of the author
better than he knew it himself was once regarded as editorial mas-
tery. Johannes Winckelmann remained true to this tradition when
bringing together different textual pieces and constructing Wirtschaft
und Gesellschaft as Webers posthumous main work, and when com-
piling his sociology of the state.
Wolfgang J. Mommsen also cast his shadow on the edition. In
order to distinguish the particular status which he adjudged to the
texts of Webers activity as member of the Peace Delegation in May
1919, he inserted, for example, in Volume I/16 his own thematic
section Ia Contributions to the offcial politics of the Versailles
peace negotiations, a decision which he justifed in great detail.
Mommsens weighing up the different sorts of texts with a varying
scale of Weber authorship, the scholar/intellectual Weber was no
longer divided into the scientifc genius of a Dr Jekyll and the remote
89. Schluchter, Einfhrung, p. 9.
90. MWG I/16, p. 43.
90 Max Weber Studies
Max Weber Studies 2012.
nationalistic political publicist of Mr Hyde; rather the unrelenting
swing of the pendulum between the spheres of science and politics
was now documented in detail.
If one reviews the fnal text of the MWG as a complete edition
according to historical-critical and documentary methods, one thing
becomes clear as far as the interests of historians are concerned: it
is shown far more concisely than ever before how very much Weber
placed all topics continuously in a historical context and, more exactly,
how he treated them as universal-historical problems. Under the
aspects of the Gesamtausgabe and the way in which Wolfgang J.
Mommsen helped to frame it, far more can now be revealed of Max
Weber, the historian, especially if one compares the situation now
with that of 1986 when a book of conference papers was published
under that title.
6. The work of Max Weber in academic knowledge
At a time when readers of renowned academic publishers praise
the middling book and professional historians complain in review
that many specialist historians consistently write over the heads of
their audience,
historical-critical editions with their lavish pre-
sentation are subject to especial critical scrutiny. That was the case
for MWG whose pilot volume, Mommsens Zur Politk im Weltkrieg
(MWG I/15), appeared in early 1984. All the editorial problems
of the Gesamtausgabe were tested out in this volume of writings,
speeches, manifestos, commentaries and lists. In September 1984
Wolfgang J. Mommsen organized an international conference at the
German Historical Institute in London, entitled Max Weber and
his contemporaries: to determine more precisely the place of Max
Weber within the intellectual and political currents at the turn of
the century.
Among the Weber specialists who at the same time
91. Jrgen Kocka (ed.), Max Weber. Der Historiker (Gttingen: Vandenhoeck &
Ruprecht, 1986). The volume contains the papers of the Weber section of the Interna-
tional Historians Conference of 1985 in Stuttgart.
92. Volker Ullrich in Die Zeit (4 May 2006) on Olaf Blaschke and Hagen Schulze
(eds.), Geschichtswissenschaft und Buchhandel in der Krisenspirale?, in Historische
Zeitschrift Beiheft Vol. 42 (Munich, 2006). Cf. Detlef Felken, Die Geschichtskultur und
das mittlere Buch. Anmerkungen zur Lage der historischen Literatur, HZ Beiheft, pp.
93. Wolfgang J. Mommsen and Wolfgang Schwentker (eds.), Vorwort, Max
Weber und seine Zeitgenossen (Gttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1988), p. 9.
Hanke et al. The Genesis of the Max Weber-Gesamtausgabe 91
Max Weber Studies 2012.
could gain their frst impression of MWG were David Beetham, Ralf
Dahrendorf, Eberhard Demm, Anthony Giddens, Wilhelm Hennis,
Jrgen Kocka, Arthur Mitzman, Guy Oakes, Pietro Rossi, Edward
Shils, Friedrich Tenbruck and Sam Whimster.
So how has the critical appropriation and the refection of the work
of Max Weber fared since the appearance of MWG?
This question
can only be specifed by making some concluding comments on the
relationship of edition and audience and cannot be answered in
depth at this point. Given the different interests in Weber and so
also MWG, four ideal-typical academic parts of the audience can be
Firstly, the specialist conversation of the international Weber
community; this may focus on Webers contribution and his lin-
guistic idiosyncrasies in the collectively written texts, as in the
Accompanying Remarks (Geleitwort) of the new editors on taking
over the Archiv fr Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik in early 1904.

Or, to give another example, the exegetical treatment of his soci-
ology of religion or the principles behind the construction and
dating of the scattered texts of Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft. Here the
interpretation within very heterogeneous academic cultures is
central. The systematic use of MWG is a conditio sine qua non for
these purposes.
Secondly, the specialist discourse on the Weber paradigm, primar-
ily in the historical social sciences. The specialist audience profted
from MWG and a further development of Max Webers research
programme has followed from the new state of text disclosure.

Parallel to, and intertwined with, the text history of MWG a strug-
gle over Weber erupted. Wilhelm Hennis, who thought that his
own interest in a new political-anthropological discovery of Max
94. Mommsen, Einleitung, Max Weber und seine Zeitgenossen, p. 38.
95. Peter Ghosh demanded a historical-critical clarifcation in Max Weber,
Werner Sombart and the Archiv fr Sozialwissenschaft: The authorship of the
Geleitwort (1904), History of European Ideas 36 (2010): 71-100.
96. For an overview see Edith Hanke, Max Weber weltweit, in Akademie
Aktuell. Zeitschrift der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften 3 (2009): 18-21. A good
insight into the historical and philological detailed research is provided by Peter
Ghosh, A Historian Reads Max Weber (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2008). Cf. Wirtschaft
und Gesellschaft and the complex history of its origins reconstructed by Wolfgang
Schluchter in MWG I/24.
97. Gert Albert et al. (eds.), Das Weber-Paradigma. Studien zur Weiterentwicklung
von Max Webers Forschungsprogramm (Tbingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2003).
92 Max Weber Studies
Max Weber Studies 2012.
Webers Central Question was badly served by the editorial circle
of MWG, mounted a fanking attack from the start of the edition:
too expensive, too detailed, too sociological, a bundle of objections
which could amount to the accusation of falsifcation.
H. Tenbruck made a more reserved assessment of MWG. In 1985
he wrote with reference to the increasing worldwide interpretation
a plan of construction is still missing which makes the work in its
unity, especially Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft as a whole, comprehensible
to us. This then is the problem of Weber research: the timely recon-
struction of this concept and its unfolding on the basis of the Wissen-
schaftslehre and in regard to the purpose and arrangement of Wirtschaft
und Gesellschaft. But, let it be said, this is only possible if we understand
Webers questions and answers within the feld of problems of aca-
demic knowledge in his time.
As can be seen, Tenbruck already had in his apodictic way a plan
of construction of his ownas did (in their hearts) the many pro-
tagonists of Weber. These controversies increased the legitimacy of
MWG, and indeed its main contribution to the speedy reconstruc-
tion of the text documents, making them available to the contenders
for use in their own plans of construction.
Thirdly, the open culture of intellectual dispute over life and
work. This comprises the change from Weber-and-Marx of the
student revolt to the Weber-and-Nietzsche of the so-called Post-
moderne; or the collaboration of the Bavarian capital Munich
with Bavarian Broadcasting to illuminate Munich researchers and
scholarsWerner Heisenberg, Max von Pettenkofer alongside Max
98. For Hennis, an illegitimate interpreting editorial shadow had already
fallen over the first volume and he elected for the continuation of the com-
bined Marianne Weber and Johannes Winckelmann editions in a UTB cassette:
Wilhelm Hennis, Im langen Schatten einer Edition. Zum Erscheinen des ersten
Bandes der Max Weber-Gesamtausgabe, in FAZ (15.9.1984), much enlarged in
Zeitschrift fr Politik 32 (1985): 208-217; also printed in his Max Weber und Thu-
kydides. Nachtrge zur Biographie des Werks (Tbingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2003), pp.
99. Friedrich H. Tenbruck, Das Werk Max Webers: Methodologie und Soz-
ialwissenschaften, in his Das Werk Max Webers. Gesammelte Aufstze zu Max Weber
(ed. Harald Homann; Tbingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1999), pp. 157-75 (173f.); English
translation by S. Whimster, The Problem of Thematic Unity in the Works of Max
Weber, British Journal of Sociology 31.3 (1980): 316-51.
Hanke et al. The Genesis of the Max Weber-Gesamtausgabe 93
Max Weber Studies 2012.
Above all, MWG stimulates new biographical work on
and the cultivation of Weber as classic of sociology.
Fourthly, the promotion of a classic author, the free circulation
of his ideas and concepts in the most varied contexts, the work as
a quarry. This addresses in the widest sense an open academic dis-
course which, in a survey of the International Sociological Associa-
tion in 1998, placed Webers Economy and Society (sic) at the top of
the list of Books of the Century.
Here the historians orientation
ranging from culturalist sciences of symbols to problems of world
history will beneft from the carefully edited and contextualized
texts, if they also critically relate their global histories to Weber.
Wolfgang J. Mommsen moved intellectually on all four levels,
though not linking them in a historiographical diagonal. In a richly fac-
etted obituary, in the journal Geschichte und Gesellschaft, Hans-Ulrich
Wehler discerned in Mommsens work a peculiar ambivalence.
Mommsen was without doubt one of the most knowledgeable experts
on Webers writings and letters, the theoretical and methodological
ideas, above all the sociology of domination, as numerous essays
show. As a practicing historian, however, he never experimented
in a recognizable way with Webers categories and ideas in order to
secure a theoretical-conceptual space for the analysis of existing prob-
lems; instead of this he willingly cited Weber as a sharp-minded com-
mentator on contemporary problems.
100. Ulrike Leutheusser and Heinrich Nth, Mnchen leuchtet fr die Wissenschaft.
Berhmte Forscher und Gelehrte (Munich: alliteraverlag, 2007), see within M. Rainer
Lepsius, Max Weber (18641920). Begrnder der modernen Sozialwissenschaften,
pp. 64-76.
101. Joachim Radkau, Max Weber. Die Leidenschaft des Denkens (Munich: Hanser,
2005; ET Max Weber. A Biography [Cambridge: Polity Press, 2009]). The biography
is written in a close engagement with MWG and its commentaries but could have
benefted from a less nonchalant treatment of the Weber texts.
102. See Dirk Ksler, Max Weber, in Ksler (ed.), Klassiker des soziologischen Denkens,
vol. 2 Von Weber bis Mannheim (Munich: Beck, 1978), pp. 40-177, 424-53, 514-20.
103. Cf. Wolfgang Schluchter, Max Weber: Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft. Grun-
dri der verstehenden Soziologie (1921/22), in Walter Erhart and Herbert Jaumann
(eds.), Jahrhundertbcher. Grosse Theorien von Freud bis Luhmann (Munich: Beck, 2000),
pp. 93-107 (93).
104. Cf. the report on research by Peter Kramper, Warum Europa? Konturen
einer geschichtlichen Forschungskontroverse, in Neue Politische Literatur 54 (2009):
9-46; also on the new world history see John Darwin, After Tamerlane. The Rise and
Fall of Global Empires, 14002000 (London: Allen Lane, 2007); the introduction and
elsewhere is structured through a classic use of Marx and Weber.
105. H-U. Wehler, Wolfgang J. Mommsen 19302004, Geschichte und Gesellschaft
31 (2005): 138.
94 Max Weber Studies
Max Weber Studies 2012.
Mommsen did experiment on the abovementioned lines, but there
remains a striking basic tension between the theory of history and
historical writing. How, using Webers categories, whole histori-
cal epochs according to current knowledge could be empirically
feshed out and the narrative graphically described, is an open
question. Wolfgang J. Mommsen was always reticent to embrace
theory building at the cost of the richness of historical source mate-
rial, simply because he was conscious of the Weberian demand
for perspectivity, the isolation of the particular viewpoint. In the
essays, which accompanied the initiating process of MWG, Mom-
msen emphasized the multiple signifcance of theories in historical
science and saw beyond historicism a not to be reconciled tension
between macro-theoretical constructions and historical-empirical
A further point can be adduced. Mommsens
paradigmatic epoch was that of Imperial Germany and its power
relationships, in which Weber belonged to the intellectual counter-
elite. Mommsen was enamoured of the conceptual idea of Wil-
helmine pseudo-constitutionalism. Weber was for him, therefore,
always both subject and facilitator of historiographical analysis.

The decisive criterion for Mommsen was at all times the work at
hand that was placed in competition with other works, and not
the purely theoretical programme. This was the habitus in which
he wrote his books and drove the MWG volumes forward. And
without this pragmatic trait of the historian Mommsen, the MWG
would surely not have attained its position in international aca-
demic life in the advanced stage in which it now stands in 2010
with its 30 published volumes.
106. Wolfgang J. Mommsen, Die Mehrdeutigkeit von Theorien in der Geschich-
tswissenschaft, in J. Kocka and T. Nipperdey (eds.), Theorie und Erzhlung in der
Geschichte (= Beitrge zur Historik, vol. 3; Munich: dtv, 1979), pp. 334-70.
107. Cf. Wolfgang Schwentker, Geschichte schreiben mit Blick auf Max Weber:
Wolfgang J. Mommsen, Jahrbuch der Heinrich-Heine-Universitt Dsseldorf (2004),
pp. 209-19 and Gangolf Hbinger, Obituary: Professor Dr DLitt (h.c.) Wolfgang J.
Mommsen 5 November, 193011 August, 2004, Max Weber Studies 5.1 (2005): 113-17.
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