The Weber-Wieser Connection: Early Economic Sociology as an Interpretative Skeleton Key
The Center for the History of Political Economy Working Paper Series No. 2017-22
28 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2017
Date Written: December 7, 2017
Max Weber’s relationship to economics in general and to the Austrian School in particular has received more attention recently. However, this literature as conducted by Weber scholars and by Austrian economists exhibits two major deficiencies. First, the studies are often either purely ahistorical or use superficial historical expositions. Second, the conceptual focus is often motivated by Weber’s importance for the theoretical edifice of Ludwig von Mises, a motivation which leads the analyses in a rather narrowly confined direction. The current paper attempts to provide a solid biographical foundation of Weber’s relationship to the early Austrian School as seen from a channel rarely studied systematically before: His relationship to economist and economic sociologist Friedrich von Wieser. Such a perspective sheds light on the multiple levels of interaction between Weber and the early Austrians between 1876 and 1920: 1) Weber’s formative years at Heidelberg and his early professorship at Freiburg; 2) several institutional contexts, especially the Verein für Socialpolitik; 3) the cooperation with Wieser during the Grundriß der Sozialökonomik project 1909-1914; 4) Weber’s brief stay at the University of Vienna 1917-1918.
This portrayal shows not only biographical proximities and affinities, but also several levels of substantive overlap between Weber and Wieser. Their projects of “Social Economics” are studied comparatively, with a special focus on the concepts of power(s) and order(s) that are central for both. The goal is twofold.
First, the “Heidelberg-Vienna” connection offers important insights for the development of “Social Economics” and of the early economics of the Austrian School. Second, this connection enables new interpretations of the later evolution in the German-language politico-economic discourses, especially of the “Freiburg-Vienna” connection between the ordoliberals and later generations of the Austrian School.
Keywords: Max Weber, Friedrich von Wieser, Austrian School, ordoliberalism, economic sociology, power, order
JEL Classification: A11, B13, B15, B25, B31, P16, Z13
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