SOCIOLOGY AND ESTRANGEMENT: Three Sociologists of Imperial Germany by Arthur Mitzman

SOCIOLOGY AND ESTRANGEMENT: Three Sociologists of Imperial Germany

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This is an explication of the sociology of cultural despair. On the premise that social forces, social thought and intellectuals' personal lives interact and create the spirit of an age (""the choice of a particular social ideal is in the last analysis dependent on the individual's whole conception of life and the world"" was how Werner Sombart put it) Mitzman has sought the roots of Central Europe's inter-war alienation in the biographies and collected works of three colossi -- Tonnies (Wesenwille and Willkur, Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft), Sombart (the capitalist as either adventurer or burger) and Michels (the iron law of oligarchy in politics). All traveled on the same trajectory -- from estrangement with Imperial Germany's rapidly developing capitalism and semi-feudal Prussianized military-bureaucratic complex, through a flirtation with Socialism to cynical rightist romanticism. The legacy these thinkers left was largely negative -- that ""community is not compatible with contemporary institutions,"" that entrepreneurial joie de vivre gets smothered by bureaucracy, and that socialism when selling out for power and position becomes ""incapable of changing anything."" It's Mitzman's intent to revise these judgments and reclaim ""community, creativity and altruistic socialism"" as realizable ideals, but only those who have read his primary sources will stay with him to the end.

Pub Date: Nov. 7th, 1973
Publisher: Knopf