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Bad Nights at ‘The Libertine’

Keith Walker, 8 October 1992

Handel’s ‘Messiah’: A Celebration 
by Richard Luckett.
Gollancz, 258 pp., £18.99, April 1992, 0 575 05286 4
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The Rise of Musical Classics in 18th-Century England: A Study in Canon, Ritual and Ideology 
by William Weber.
Oxford, 274 pp., £35, July 1992, 0 19 816287 1
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... early music came about – in short, of how works were collected into a canon – is addressed by William Weber in The Rise of Musical Classics in 18th-century England. Strictly, the classics did not rise: the notion was invented, as Weber notes. Public music in England (tabors, crumhorns and shawms apart) began with ...

Gang of Four

Christopher Driver, 22 December 1983

The String Quartet: A History 
by Paul Griffiths.
Thames and Hudson, 240 pp., £12, October 1983, 9780500013113
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Gyorgy Ligeti 
by Paul Griffiths.
Robson, 128 pp., £8.95, October 1983, 0 86051 240 1
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... an assumption that, without Haydn, no similar seedling would have taken root in soil so fertile. William Weber in his Music and the Middle Class (1975) quotes two pertinent comments by different writers about Austrian society in the 1820s and 1830s:   To play is their pride, and in that consists chiefly the education of the middle class.   A ...

Stay away from politics

William Davies: Why Weber?, 21 September 2023

Nihilistic Times: Thinking with Max Weber 
by Wendy Brown.
Harvard, 132 pp., £19.95, April, 978 0 674 27938 4
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... relentless observation and quantification of British academics.Nihilistic Times: Thinking with Max Weber is a revised and expanded version of the Tanner Lectures on Human Values that Wendy Brown gave at Yale in 2019. As she acknowledges, Weber is, on the face of it, a surprising choice of ally for a radical political thinker ...

How to Be Prime Minister

William Davies, 26 September 2019

... beyond policy or ideology; they reach into more basic questions of human psychology and what Max Weber called the ‘vocation’ of politics. Corbyn, of course, never wanted to lead anything, let alone the country. It wasn’t until the age of 66, when it was ‘his turn’ to stand as the left-wing candidate in a Labour leadership election, that he was ...


Geoffrey Hawthorn: Max Weber, 27 August 2009

Max WeberA Biography 
by Joachim Radkau, translated by Patrick Camiller.
Polity, 683 pp., £25, January 2009, 978 0 7456 4147 8
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... More than most, Max Weber’s reputation reflects the aspirations of others. His wife, Marianne, did much to establish it in Germany, rapidly turning his articles and drafts into books and writing a biography. Liberal émigrés were what one of his American editors, Günther Roth, describes as its shock troops in the English-speaking world ...

The Politics of Good Intentions

David Runciman: Blair’s Masochism, 8 May 2003

... nation to have vindicated the higher principles of humanity.’ The Leader of the Opposition, William Gladstone, seconding Disraeli’s vote of thanks to the troops who had pulled off this masterly campaign, could only acquiesce. Unfortunately, however, Disraeli meant by the purity of his purpose precisely the opposite of the course the Guardian was ...

Destination Unknown

William Davies: Sociology Gone Wrong, 9 June 2022

The Return of Inequality: Social Change and the Weight of the Past 
by Mike Savage.
Harvard, 422 pp., £28.95, May 2021, 978 0 674 98807 1
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Colonialism and Modern Social Theory 
by Gurminder K. Bhambra and John Holmwood.
Polity, 257 pp., £17.99, July 2021, 978 1 5095 4130 0
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A Brief History of Equality 
by Thomas Piketty.
Harvard, 272 pp., £22.95, April, 978 0 674 27355 9
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... the late 1860s and his death in 1883, while the other two giants of the sociological canon, Max Weber and Émile Durkheim, wrote their most important works between 1890 and 1920. As Bhambra and Holmwood show, this canon wasn’t established until after 1945, and then only thanks to the American sociologist Talcott Parsons, who led the effort to establish ...

The Old Question

W.G. Runciman, 19 February 1987

The Sources of Social Power. Vol I: A History of Power from the Beginning to AD 1760 
by Michael Mann.
Cambridge, 549 pp., £37.50, July 1986, 0 521 30851 8
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... that Mann succeeds in carrying a perceptible way forward the same intellectual enterprise to which Weber’s posthumous treatise is addressed. Although Mann’s treatment suffers from a number of serious and even crippling defects, they are not fatal: 541 pages on, despite some alarming bumps and lurches, the show is still on the road. The first serious defect ...

Do you Floss?

Lawrence Lessig: The sharing economy, 18 August 2005

The Success of Open Source 
by Steven Weber.
Harvard, 312 pp., £19.95, August 2004, 0 674 01292 5
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Democratising Innovation 
by Eric von Hippel.
MIT, 208 pp., £19.95, May 2005, 0 262 00274 4
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... in social research that governments, and corporations, would be wise to keep track of. Steven Weber’s The Success of Open Source explores the economy that has produced the ‘open source’ and ‘free software’ movements. Eric von Hippel’s Democratising Innovation looks at an economy involving a much wider range of user-supplied innovation. Both ...

Rosalind Mitchison on the history of Scotland

Rosalind Mitchison, 22 January 1981

Presbyteries and Profits: Calvinism and the Development of Capitalism in Scotland 1506-1707 
by Gordon Marshall.
Oxford, 406 pp., £18, September 1980, 0 19 827246 4
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The Jacobite Risings in Britain, 1689-1746 
by Bruce Lenman.
Eyre Methuen, 300 pp., £9.95, May 1980, 0 413 39650 9
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... It is over seventy years since Max Weber put forward the thesis that the Protestant ethic was closely linked to the ethos of capitalism, a thesis which has inspired a long-standing debate among historians. In the cases held to support the theory, Weber included Scotland. Economic historians have at various times commented on the paradox of the Scottish case, contrasting the backward economy of the country in the 17th century with its monolithic adherence to an extreme form of Calvinism, but nobody has, till now, taken the trouble to make a thorough study of whether the evidence from Scotland confirms or contradicts Weber’s theory ...

How to Write It

Sanjay Subrahmanyam: India after Independence, 20 September 2007

India after Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy 
by Ramachandra Guha.
Macmillan, 900 pp., £25, April 2007, 978 0 230 01654 5
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The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence and India’s Future 
by Martha Nussbaum.
Belknap, 403 pp., £19.95, June 2007, 978 0 674 02482 3
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... It may seem perverse to begin an essay on India by invoking a historian of France: Eugen Weber, who died this year, a colleague of mine and a formidable presence at UCLA. He wrote a book in 1976 on how France became a proper nation by transforming ‘peasants into Frenchmen’. But the Weber I knew, and bantered with during the last years of his life, also had an Indian past of which he felt periodically obliged to speak, though he spoke of it to me with discomfort ...

Weimar in Partibus

Norman Stone, 1 July 1982

Hannah Arendt: For Love of the World 
by Elizabeth Young-Bruehl.
Yale, 563 pp., £12.95, May 1982, 0 300 02660 9
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Hannah Arendt and the Search for a New Political Philosophy 
by Bhikhu Parekh.
Macmillan, 198 pp., £20, October 1981, 0 333 30474 8
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... student to find out what her invitation referred to, and accepted it only when she learned that William James had been there before her, with his Varieties of Religious Experience). The lectures were subsequently put together, after her death in 1975, by Mary McCarthy, as The Life of the Mind. The question that crops up, unstated, throughout Elizabeth Young ...

Who am I prepared to kill?

William Davies: The Politics of Like and Dislike, 30 July 2020

... maturity, as well as to many of the most important works of 20th-century social theory, from Max Weber to Hannah Arendt to Michel Foucault: guilt and innocence are rarely as easily distinguishable as we might like them to be. This is what it means for a problem to be systemic. Bad things don’t happen simply because bad people intend them; and good people ...

English Individualism Revisited

Alan Ryan, 21 January 1988

The Culture of Capitalism 
by Alan Macfarlane.
Blackwell, 254 pp., £19.50, August 1987, 0 631 13626 6
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... Christopher Hill, C.H. Wilson, C.B. Macpherson (and long-dead greats such as Tocqueville, Marx, Weber, Durkheim and Tonnies) is his answer to the question of why fully-fledged industrial capitalism first took off in England. This has usually been thought to be the same question as ‘how did England escape its peasant origins and turn into a ...

Secret Purposes

P.N. Furbank, 19 September 1985

Defoe and the Idea of Fiction: 1713-1719 
by Geoffrey Sill.
Associated University Presses, 190 pp., £16.95, April 1984, 0 87413 227 4
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The Elusive Daniel Defoe 
by Laura Curtis.
Vision, 216 pp., £15.95, January 1984, 0 85478 435 7
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Dofoe’s Fiction 
by Ian Bell.
Croom Helm, 201 pp., £17.95, March 1985, 0 7099 3294 4
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Realism, Myth and History in Defoe’s Fiction 
by Maximillian Novak.
Nebraska, 181 pp., £21.55, July 1983, 0 8032 3307 8
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... with almost every sentence in it. The problem is perhaps epitomised by Watt’s dependence on Max Weber, who, I increasingly think, had quite a genius for getting things wrong. Watt, speaking of Crusoe’s methodical book-keeping, quotes Weber on ‘profit-and-loss book-keeping’ being ‘the distinctive technical feature ...

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