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Capitalism and Judaism in Werner Sombart: A Contribution to the Analysis of Capitalist Rationality and its Limits

Vitantonio Gioia

A chapter in A Research Annual, 2014, vol. 32, pp 15-38 from Emerald Publishing Ltd

Abstract: Abstract In 1911 Sombart published Die Juden und das Wirtschaftsleben (Jews and Economic Life). As is well known Sombart conceived his essay – a response to Max Weber’s Die protestantische Ethik und der Geist des Kapitalismus (Protestant Ethics and the Spirit of Capitalism) – as an attempt ‘to study more carefully’ the influence of religion on economic life, to focus on the relationship between religion and the spread of the ‘spirit of capitalism’ and to explain the historical evolution of modern capitalism (from early to late capitalism).This analytical work has partially been overshadowed by Sombart’s endorsement of Nazism (1934), especially with reference to the suspicion that he was anti-Semitic. In this chapter we deal (Parts 2 and 3) with the ‘ambiguous relationship’ between Sombart and Nazism, and Sombart’s reflections on the scientific irrelevance of racist theories. Then (Parts 4 and 5), we focus on the limits of Sombart’s methodological approach to the analysis of modern capitalism. The erroneous conclusions of his inquiry emerge if we compare them with those of scholars like Simmel, Schumpeter and Max Weber.

Keywords: German historical school; Judaism; religion and economy; monopolistic capitalism; social question; B15; B31; A13 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2014
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