Edited by Jürgen G. Backhaus
Chapter 55: Werner Sombart (1863–1941)
Günther Chaloupek The German Historical school of which Werner Sombart was a member had developed in the nineteenth century as a school of economic thought alternative to the classical school, which it criticized for its abstract theoretical approach. Sometimes recognizing and sometimes questioning the scientiﬁc legitimacy of deductive economic laws, the Historical school put its main emphasis on the changeable and changing conditions which constitute the reality in which economic laws operate. Its research efforts were therefore devoted, to a large extent, to institutions and, especially, to the evolution of institutions in time. Werner Sombart, who is generally considered the leading member of the third and last generation of the Historical school – together with the sociologist Max Weber – has produced the most comprehensive synthesis of the enormous research work of the Historical school with his book Der moderne Kapitalismus which was completed by the third volume in 1927. An earlier version had been published in 1902, but the critical reception it had encountered, especially from Sombart’s teacher, Gustav von Schmoller, had convinced Sombart of the necessity of both a more detailed empirical foundation and a more thorough analysis of the subject. Born in 1863 in Ermsleben (Prussia), Sombart studied political economy at the universities of Berlin, Pisa and Rome. His doctoral dissertation on tenancy and labour relations in the Roman campagna was completed under the supervision of Gustav Schmoller and published in 1888. The main focus of this book is on the causes of the unsatisfactory level of...
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