Introduction

Grundmann, Reiner and Stehr, Nico Introduction. IN: Economic Life in the Modern Age: Werner Sombart. Grundmann, Reiner and Stehr, Nico (eds) Piscataway (US): Transaction.

Abstract

Werner Sombart (1863-1941) was a famous and controversial social scientist in Germany during the early 20th century. Highly influential, his work and reputation have been indelibly tainted by his embrace of National Socialism in the last decade of his life. Although Sombart left an enormous opus spanning disciplinary boundaries, the scholarly assessment of and intellectual reaction to his work inside and outside of Germany is divided, and ambivalent. Best known for his analyses of capitalism - his essay "Why is There No Socialism in the United States?" remains a classic - Sombart consistently responded to the social and political developments that have shaped the 20th century. This collection provides a representative sampling of those portions of Sombart's work that have stood the test of time. The volume opens with a substantial introduction by the editors reviewing Sombart's life and career, the evolution of his major intellectual concerns, his relation to Marx and Weber, and his political affiliation with the Nazis. Their selection of texts emphasizes areas of his economic and cultural thought that remain relevant to intellectual trends in the social sciences, particularly those trends that seek a more broadly based, cross-disciplinary approach to the relationship of culture and economics. Sombart's writings on capitalism are represented by essays on the nature and origin of the market system and the diversity of its actors and motives among the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Also included is an excerpt from Sombart's controversial volume "The Jews and Modern Capitalism" exploring the widely perceived relation between economic life and Judaism as a religion. In essays on the economics of cultural processes, Sombart's comprehensive and expansive idea of cultural science yields remarkable and prophetic insights into the nature of urbanism, luxury consumption, fashion and the cultural secularization of love. The volume's final section consists of Sombart's reflections on the social influences of technology, the economic life of the future, and on socialism, including the influential essay "Why is There No Socialism in the United States?". Encapsulating the most valuable aspects of his work, this study provides clear demonstration of Sombart's sense for fine cultural distinctions and broad cultural developments and the predictive power of his analyses. It should be of interest to sociologists, economists, political scientists and specialists in cultural studies.

Divisions: Languages & Social Sciences > Sociology
Languages & Social Sciences > Sociology research group
Uncontrolled Keywords: Werner Sombart,social scientist,Germany,National Socialism,capitalism,Marx,Weber,Nazis,urbanism,luxury consumption,fashion,cultural secularization,love

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