Max Weber: Collected Methodological Writings

Max Weber: Collected Methodological Writings

Max Weber: Collected Methodological Writings

Max Weber: Collected Methodological Writings


Weber's methodological writings form the bedrock of key ideas across the social sciences. His discussion of value freedom and value commitment, causality, understanding and explanation, theory building and ideal types have been of fundamental importance, and their impact remains undiminished today. These ideas influence the current research practice of sociologists, historians, economists and political scientists and are central to debates in the philosophy of social science. But, until now, Weber's extensive writings on methodology have lacked a comprehensive publication.

Edited by two of the world's leading Weber scholars,Collected Methodological Writingswill provide a completely new, accurate and reliable translation of Weber's extensive output, including previously untranslated letters. Accompanying editorial commentary explains the context of, and interconnections between, all these writings, and additional useful features include a glossary of German terms and an English key, endnotes, bibliography, and person and subject indexes.


Methodology is not a hard and fast category. In Max Weber’s day, it could perhaps be said to refer, in formal terms, to the constitution, by means of concepts, of scientific knowledge. Methodology in this sense was linked to the discussion of the constitution, by means of categories, of knowledge in general (epistemology), to formal logic, and also to the discussion of theoretical approaches or systems within a particular branch of scientific investigation (scientific theory). This is the general criterion that we have applied in identifying the “methodological” parts of Weber’s oeuvre (although it must be said that Weber himself was not always consistent in his use of terms such as “method”, “logic” and “methodology”). It should be noted that the sense of the term “methodology” adopted for this purpose may differ from the way in which the term is used nowadays, where the emphasis is often on practical methods of survey analysis and the use of qualitative data and related concepts of validity and reliability.

The selection of texts

The editors have sought to reflect the range of Weber’s methodological concerns to the widest possible extent by bringing together in this volume, as far as possible, all his methodological writings. It may be an overstatement to say that this collection is complete: when one is dealing with the whole, vast corpus of Weber’s writings, in which many methodologically relevant passages have to be identified and excerpted from larger units of material, such a claim would necessarily be subjective. But we can confidently claim that what we present is by far the most extensive collection of Weber’s methodological writings published to date, in any language. Almost a hundred pages of text included in the present volume have never appeared before in full in English; and most of the notes and drafts, and some of the letters, have never before been published in full, even in German. Moreover, we feel justified in adding that, in terms of textual criticism, the state of the texts translated in the Methodological Writings (apart from a few texts and many letters, which have already appeared in the MWG) is better than that of any other published version, in any language.

1 For a detailed discussion, see Bruun, Methodology, pp. 7–11.

2 For a detailed description of the state of the texts included, see pp. xxix–xxx.

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