Max Weber nach Amerika: Die Amerikareise und die »Protestantische Ethik«
Abstract des Vortrags von Lawrence A. Scaff.
Max Weber traveled to America twice: the first time in person with Marianne Weber and colleagues attending the Congress of Arts and Science in St. Louis, the second time in spirit with avid readers of his work like Frank Knight and Talcott Parsons. The Amerikareise covered nearly three months in 1904, whereas the American reception started twenty years later and lasted for decades, persisting to this day. The actual journey to the New World stirred Weber’s imagination and provided substance for his inquiries; it became a turning point in the biography of the work. The subsequent »spiritual« appropriation in America consolidated, extended, and institutionalized the work in the human sciences; it became the essential condition for Weber’s world-wide reputation.
In what sense might these two moments in the genealogy of Weberian thought – the Amerikareise and the subsequent Rezeptionsgeschichte – be related to each other? How can Weber’s America sojourn inform us about the later attractions of his thought for American scholars of the interwar and postwar generations? Why did the work hold such fascination? What is it about this particular historical configuration or »Verkettung von Umständen« that encouraged the reconstitution of Weber as a »classic« of enduring contemporary significance?
The answer to these questions must begin with the subject foremost in Weber’s mind in 1904: his cultural-historical investigation of the »Protestant Ethic« and the »capitalist spirit«. Weber used the journey to observe both sides of the relationship: on the one hand numerous expressions of the spiritual life in social communities, educational institutions, and religious services; on the other the ethos and culture of modern capitalism in its most massive and unconstrained forms. The dual theme was never far from his consciousness: an American culture filled with »secularisierte Sprößlinge des alten puritanischen Kirchentums«, but also a world in which is »mit geradezu rasender Hast […] alles, was der kapitalistischen Kultur im Wege steht, zermalmt«. Stated concisely, the problematic of Weber’s work then reproduced the contradictions of the journey, while the paradoxes of the culture were represented in the dynamics of the text. Weber’s American readers could not miss the points of reference: the work conveyed an analysis of themselves and their culture. But it offered more than this: Weber’s thinking was also a commentary on the coming of the modern world, a potent narrative with the possibility of universal appeal.
Lawrence A. Scaff ist Professor für Politikwissenschaft und Soziologie an der Wayne State University in Detroit. Zu seinen wichtigsten Publikationen gehören »Fleeing the Iron Cage: Culture, Politics, and Modernity in the Thought of Max Weber« und »Max Weber in Amerika« (dt. Fassung in Vorbereitung).
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