From Politik als Beruf to Politics as a Vocation: The Translation, Transformation, and Reception of Max Weber's Lecture

Max Weber's 1919 lecture Politik als Beruf is still considered a classical text in the social sciences. The reception of the text in the Anglo-Saxon world has been profoundly shaped by the translation provided by Hans H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills, first appearing in 1946. Their Politics as a Vocation is more than a vivid transposition of Weber's rather peculiar German rhetoric—it is rendered in a way that suggests a certain interpretation and makes others highly improbable. The present article traces the reception of Weber's text back to certain decisions made by the translators after World War II. It argues that the translation emphasized philosophical and ethical parts of the text at the expense of others that were more geared toward a political sociology of modern politics. Moreover, the adoption of Weber's approach in empirical research was hindered if not foreclosed by a distorted presentation of his key typologies and some central concepts.
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