Letter: Weber's wilder side

November 17, 2000

Frank Webster writes that Max Weber had "little life outside writing, reading and worrying about the state of the world" (Books, THES , November 10). Sounds like the sad contemporary Brit academic.

For Weber, it was the reverse. His public life included being a member of the Stock Exchange commission, a wartime hospital administrator, a member of the German delegation to Versailles and political adviser to Friedrich Naumann. In 1910, newspapers said his wife was part of a women's movement composed of "old maids, sterile wives, widows and Jewesses". Weber halted his academic work to bring libel and defamation actions and was ready to fight a duel. The defamers retracted. Likewise Weber acted for years as a lawyer for Frieda Gross, the wife of the libertarian psychoanalyst Otto Gross. Add in love affairs, his travelling and interest in the arts, and you have a man to whom no research assessment exercise-conscious university would give tenure.

Sam Whimster
Reader in sociology
London Guildhall University

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