Upon his return to Heidelberg,
Weber resumed a full writing career, but he returned to teaching
only in the last few years of his life. His intellectual output
was now again astonishing. His methodological writings, the most
important of which are translated in Max Weber on the Methodology
of the Social Sciences, date from these years. The Protestant Ethic
was published in 1905. There followed in 1906 several important
studies on the political developments in Russia after the revolution
of 1905. In 1908 and 1909 he did a major empirical study in the
social psychology of industrial work and of factory workers. In
these years he also participated actively in academic conventions
and spoke at political meetings. In 1910 he became the co-founder,
with Toennies and Simmel, of the German Sociological Society. He
remained its secretary for several years and decisively influenced
its initial program of study.
World War I, Weber's home in Heidelberg became the center for richly
stimulating and varied intellectual gatherings. The Webers for a
time shared their home with Ernst Troeltsch. Sociologists Simmel,
Michels, and Sombart, and among the younger generation, Paul Honigsheim
and Kurt Loewenstein, were frequent visitors, as were the philosophers
Emil Lask, Wilhelm Windelband, and Heinrich Rickert, the literary
critic and historian Friedrich Gundolf, and the psychiatrist-philosopher
Karl Jaspers. Young radical philosophers like Ernst Bloch and Georg
Lukacs were to join the circle shortly before the war.
When the World
War broke out, Weber, in accord with his nationalist convictions,
volunteered for service. As a reserve officer, he was commissioned
to establish and run nine military hospitals in the Heidelberg area.
He retired from this position in the fall of 1915.
said initially that, "In spite of all, this is a great and
wonderful war," Weber lost his illusions. He now devoted much
of his time to writing memoranda and to seeking to influence government
officials, as a kind of self-appointed prophet of doom. He attacked
the conduct of the war and the ineptitudes of Germany's leadership.
He was particularly enraged by the increasing reliance on submarine
warfare, which, he prophesied, would bring America into the war
and lead to eventual defeat. He was not a principled enemy of the
war, yet he urged limited war aims and restraints on the industrialists
and the Junker forces of the Right, whose imperialist ambitions
were wide ranging. He advocated the extension of peace feelers,
especially in the direction of the English.
powers never availed themselves of Weber's advice and he was driven
to a paroxysm of loathing and despair about the current German leadership.
Articles urging a change in the whole political structure of Germany,
the development of responsible parliamentary government, restrictions
on the powers of the Kaiser and the Chancellor led the government
to consider prosecuting him for the crime of lese majeste. The reliable
nationalist of yesterday seemed to come perilously close to the
Vaterlandslosen Gesellen, the enemies of the fatherland, on the
pacifist and "defeatist" Left.
When the sailors
mutinied at Kiel on November 3, 1918, and gave the signal for the
German revolution, Weber's first reaction was negative. He called
the revolution a bloody carnival. But he soon rallied to it and
attempted to develop the basis for a liberal German polity.
Earlier in 1918
Weber had for the first time in many years lectured for a full semester
at the University of Vienna; a year later he accepted a call to
the University of Munich where he began to lecture in the middle
of the year. His well-known lectures, Science as a Vocation and
Politics as a Vocation, were first delivered to an audience of students
at Munich in 1919, and bear all the marks of his attempt to define
his major political and intellectual orientation in a time of revolutionary
In the last
three years of his life, 1918-20, Weber developed an astounding
political activity. He wrote a number of major newspaper articles,
memoranda, and papers on the politics of the hour. He was a founding
member of and active campaigner for the newly organized Deutsche
Demokratische Partei; he served as an adviser to the German delegation
to the Versailles peace conference; he had an active hand in the
preliminary work of writing a new German constitution; he addressed
student assemblies and academic groups alike and endeavored, in
the revolutionary turmoil of these days, to define a rational-democratic
orientation, opposed alike to the right-wing excesses of the enemies
of the Republic and the revolutionary chiliasm of some of his young
friends of the Left. He attempted to establish close contacts with
the Social Democratic movement, but the man who had committed the
sacrilege of calling the revolution a bloody carnival never managed
to overcome the opposition of most left-wing politicians. As a result,
proposals to have him join the government or to make him a candidate
for the Presidency of the Republic came to naught. Party bureaucrats
could only be suspicious of a man who, though he had shifted from
monarchist to republican loyalties, continued to be highly critical
of party machines and openly hankered for some decisive charismatic
breakthrough that would put an end to the reign of mediocrities.
During the war
years, Weber put the finishing touches to his work on the sociology
of religion. The Religion of China and The Religion of India were
published in 1916, and Ancient Judaism appeared a year later. During
this period, and in the immediate postwar years, Weber also worked
on his magnum opus, Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft (Economy and Society).
Although he was not able to complete this work, what he finished
was published posthumously, as were his last series of lectures
at Munich, entitled General Economic History.