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Ethnos, race and nation: Werner Sombart, the Jews and classical German sociology

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Bodemann addresses the problem of how classical German sociology in the early twentieth century dealt with the question of the Other, as well as with the questions of ethno-national solidarities and race. In contemporary debates the Jews constituted a central trope. Bodemann focuses in particular on Werner Sombart, one of the three central figures in sociology at the time, but he also looks at the early meetings of the German Sociological Society and writings by Georg Simmel, Max Weber and Ferdinand Tonnies. Despite the fact that, even in 1910, Germany was a multi-ethnic state replete with discussions of race and the role of the Jews in society—and in sharp contrast to early American sociology—German sociology (with the principal and important exception of Sombart, and some minor reflections by Weber, Simmel and Tonnies) took little interest in the social positioning of Jews and the disputes on antisemitism, and even the classics were concerned with these issues mostly in relation to contemporary race theories. This lack of interest, Bodemann argues, left sociology theoretically unprepared for the nationalist frenzy that was about to be unleashed with the outbreak of the First World War, or for the intensifying antisemitism and the rise of fascism that followed it.
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Keywords: Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Soziologie; German Sociological Society; Jews; Werner Sombart; antisemitism; classical sociology; ethnos; nationalism; race; sociology

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2010

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