Geoffrey Hawthorn

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. Marianne’s biography appeared in German in 1926, in English in 1975, and has been regarded as the most authoritative. Joachim Radkau’s was first published in German in 2005, at much greater length than in the new English edition. ‘There is no longer any reason for silence,’ he writes: all those who knew Weber are dead. ‘The truth . . . has a certain quality of release’; but it does nothing, he believes, to destroy ‘the magic of the great anti-magician.’

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