Sociology of the Renaissance

Sociology of the Renaissance

Sociology of the Renaissance

Sociology of the Renaissance

Excerpt

During a long and intellectually active career Alfred von Martin was constantly engaged with the problems of historical periodization and with the attempt to analyse and define what was most typical of the spirit or mentality of the Middle Ages, the Renaissance or the period of Romanticism. His interests ranged widely over the centuries from antiquity to the nineteenth century, his last published works being studies of Burckhardt and Nietzsche, which, incidentally, were banned by the Nazi government. Born in 1882, he grew up in the atmosphere of German historicism prevalent around the turn of the century. A large part of his academic life was spent at the University of Munich, where he taught from 1915 to 1931. Then for three years he was Honorary Professor and Director of the Sociological Seminar at the University of Göttingen, which post he resigned upon the entry of the Nazi party into power in 1933. From that date there is a gap in his academic record until 1946, when he appeared once more as a teacher at the University of Munich, where he was still living in 1962.

Von Martin's attempt to present in one sweeping sociological synthesis the rise and decline of the capitalist haute bourgeoisie of Italy, or more specifically of Florence, during the Renaissance, which is here republished in English translation, was the fruit of his middle years. It is interesting not only as a unique attempt to place the evolution of the dominant class of Florentine society in relation to the whole cultural complex of the age, but, still more, because it marks the culmination of a definite stage in the socioeconomic historiography devoted to the Renaissance during the opening decades of this century. If in many respects it belonged to a tradition already becoming obsolete, if many of its assumptions have been modified by later research, it nevertheless presents in its broad outlines historical insights of permanent value.

It also presents certain difficulties to the English-speaking student who is unfamiliar with the abstract conceptualism that characterized so much of German scholarship in von Martin's generation. The formidable combination of multiple concepts into . . .

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