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Max Weber

Max Weber (1864–1920) was born in Erfurt, near Weimar, Germany, the eldest of seven siblings. His father was a civil servant who played an active role in politics. Weber studied philosophy and history at the University of Heidelberg, completed a dissertation on medieval commercial law at the University of Berlin, and rose quickly through the academic ranks, becoming a full professor of economics at the University of Freiburg in 1894. At the same time, his relations with his father grew increasingly contentious, and when, in 1897, after quarreling with his son, his father died, Weber developed a severe nervous condition that led him to abandon academia. Supported by the inheritance of his wife, Marianne Schnitger, he continued to pursue a career as an independent scholar, and, in 1903, the publication of The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism made him widely known as a bold and controversial analyst of the nature of modern society. Weber was initially an enthusiastic supporter of Germany’s aims in World War I, but his views changed as the war dragged on, and after the German defeat he helped to found the liberal German Democratic Party, stood (unsuccessfully) for a seat in parliament, and served as an adviser to the committee that drafted the constitution of the Weimar Republic. Economy and Society, his magnum opus, appeared shortly after his unexpected death from the Spanish flu.