Marianne Weber

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Painting of Marianne Weber.

Marianne Weber, (born Marianne Schnitger on 2 August 1870 in Oerlinghausen, died 12 March 1954 in Heidelberg), sociologist, women's rights activist and wife of Max Weber.


Childhood, 1870–1893[edit]

Marianne Schnitger was born on 2 August 1870 in Oerlinghausen to medical doctor Eduard Schnitger and his wife Anna Weber, daughter of a prominent Oerlinghausen businessman Karl Weber.[1] After the death of her mother in 1873 she moved to Lemgo and was raised for the next fourteen years by her grandmother and aunt. During this time, both her father and his two brothers went mad and were institutionalized.[2] When Marianne turned 16, Karl Weber sent her off to fashionable finishing schools in Lemgo and Hanover, from which she graduated when she was 19. After the death of her grandmother in 1889, she lived several years with her mother's sister Alwine in Oerlinghausen.

In 1891, Marianne began to spend time with the Charlottenburg Webers, Max, Jr. and his mother Helene in particular. She became very close to Helene, who she would refer to as being "unaware of her own inner beauty".[3] In 1893 she and Max Weber married in Oerlinghausen and moved into their own apartment in Berlin.

Marriage, 1893–1920[edit]

Marianne and Max Weber, 1894

During the first few years of their marriage, Max taught first in Berlin, then, in 1894, at University of Heidelberg.[4] During this time, Marianne pursued her own studies. After moving to Freiburg in 1894 she studied with leading neo-Kantian philosopher Heinrich Rickert. She also began to engage herself in the women's movement after hearing prominent feminist speakers at a political congress in 1895. In 1896, in Heidelberg, she co-founded a society for the circulation of feminist thought. She also worked with Max to raise the level of women students attending the university.

In 1898, Max suffered a psychological collapse, possibly brought on after his father's death, which happened shortly after Max confronted him regarding abuse of Helene.[5] Between 1898 and 1904, Max withdrew from public life, moving in and out of mental institutions, traveling compulsively and resigning from his prominent position at University of Heidelberg.[5] During this time, their roles reversed somewhat; as Max worked toward recovery and rested at home, Marianne attended political meetings, sometimes until late at night, and published her first book in 1900: Fichtes Sozialismus und sein Verhältnis zur Marxschen Doktrin ("Fichte's Socialism and its Relation to Marxist Doctrine").[6]

In 1904, the Webers toured America.[7] In America, Marianne met both Jane Addams and Florence Kelley, both staunch feminists and active political reformers [8] Also during that year, Max re-entered the public sphere, publishing, among other things, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Marianne also continued her own scholarship, publishing in 1907 her landmark work Ehefrau und Mutter in der Rechtsentwicklung ("Wife and Mother in the Development of Law").

In 1907, Karl Weber died, and left enough money to his granddaughter Marianne for the Webers to live comfortably.[9] During this time, Marianne first established her intellectual salon. Between 1907 and the start of World War I, Marianne enjoyed a rise in status as an intellectual and scholar as she published "The Question of Divorce" (1909), "Authority and Autonomy in Marriage" and "On the Valuation of Housework" (both in 1912), and "Women and Objective Culture" (1913). While the Webers presented a united front in public life, as Max defended his wife from her scholarly detractors, Max carried on an affair with Else Jaffe, a mutual friend.[10]

In 1914, World War I broke out. While Max busied himself publishing his multi-volume study of religion, lecturing, organizing military hospitals, serving as an adviser in peace negotiations and running for office in the new Weimar Republic, Marianne published many works, among which were: "The New Woman" and "The Ideal of Marriage" (both 1914) "War as an Ethical Problem" (1916), "Changing Types of University Women" (1917), "The Forces Shaping Sexual Life" and "Women's Special Cultural Tasks" (both 1919).[11]

In 1918, Marianne Weber became a member of the German Democratic Party and, shortly thereafter, the first woman elected as a delegate in the federal state parliament of Baden.[12] Also in 1919, she assumed the role of chairwoman of the Bund Deutscher Frauenvereine (League of German Women's Associations), an office she would hold until 1923.[13] Also in 1920, Max's sister Lili suddenly committed suicide, and Max and Marianne adopted her four children.[14] Shortly thereafter, Max Weber contacted pneumonia and died suddenly, on 14 June 1920, leaving Marianne a widow with four children to raise.

Widowhood, 1920–1954[edit]

Following Max's unexpected death, Marianne withdrew from public and social life, funneling her physical and psychological resources into preparing ten volumes of her husband's writing for publication.[14] In 1924, she received an honorary doctoral degree from the University of Heidelberg, both for her work in editing and publishing Max's work as well as for her own scholarship. Between 1923 and 1926, Weber worked on Max Weber: Ein Lebensbild ("Max Weber: A Biography"), which was published in 1926.[15] Also in 1926, she re-established her weekly salon, and entered into a phase of public speaking in which she spoke to audiences of up to 5,000. During this phase, she continued to raise Lili's children, with the help of a close-knit circle of friends.[16]

Marianne Weber in Nazi Germany[edit]

Weber's career as a feminist public speaker ended abruptly in 1935, when Hitler dissolved the League of German Women's Associations. During the time of the Nazi regime up until the Allied Occupation of Germany in 1945, she held a weekly salon.[17] While criticisms of Nazi atrocities were sometimes subtly implied, she told interviewer Howard Becker in 1945 that "we restricted ourselves to philosophical, religious and esthetic topics, making our criticism of the Nazi system between the lines, as it were. None of us were the stuff of which martyrs were made." Weber did claim, however, to know people who had been involved in the July Plot.

Weber continued to write during this time, however, and published Frauen und Liebe ("Women and Love") in 1935 and Erfülltes Leben ("The Fulfilled Life") in 1942.



1. The basis for Weber's sociology was that of a woman in a patriarchal society. Weber wrote about the experiences of German women of her time, many of whom were entering the workforce for the very first time. This new exposure of women to the outside world led to shifting gender-based power dynamics within the household.[18] The male-created and male-dominated institutions of law, religion, history and the economy provide a framework for the lives of women, whose autonomy suffers as a result.

2. The framework and structures of marriage can be used as a case-study for the larger society. Marriage, and the destiny of women to be married, is central to the lives of women, and this can be seen across the spectrum of law, religion, history and economy".[19] While marriage can restrict the lives of women, it is in itself a form of protection for women, serving to undermine "the brutal power of men by contract".[20] Weber's work, especially Wife and Mother in the Development of Law (1907), was devoted to the analysis of the institution of marriage. Her conclusion was that marriage is "a complex and ongoing negotiation over power and intimacy, in which money, women's work, and sexuality are key issues".[19]

3. Women's work can be used to "map and explain the construction and reproduction of the social person and the social world".[21] Human work creates cultural products ranging from small, daily values such as cleanliness and honesty to larger, more abstract phenomena like philosophy and language.[21] Between the two extremes lies a vast, unexplored middle territory called "the middle ground of immediate daily life", in which women, being the caretakers, child-rearers, and everyday economic actors of the family, have a large part. This middle ground is where the self is created, for the most part, Weber argued, and that self then affects other people in its daily actions in the world.

  • The continual struggle between the spiritual and the animal is what makes us human.

Rather than being a crisis to be resolved, the conflict between the natural and the moral forms the basis of human dignity. This "millennial struggle of human beings for the subordination of instinctual life under the dominion of morally free human will" is a cultural product, for the production of which women are largely responsible.[22]

4. Differences such as class, education, age, and base ideologies, have an enormous effect on the day to day existences of women. There are profound differences not just between rural and urban women, but also among different types of rural, and different types of urban women.[23] Urban women, of whom Weber was one, are distinguished not just by their husbands' occupations but also by their own. Within the class of working women, women's occupations (traditional women's work versus the elite: academics, artists, writers, etc) have an everyday effect upon patterns of daily life, and lead to differences in needs, lifestyle and overall ideologies.

Georg Simmel and Marianne Weber[edit]

There has been discussion of Max Weber's scholarly connection to Georg Simmel, particularly in terms of their influence on the Frankfurt School, but Marianne Weber too was a colleague of Simmel.[24] In addition to a more than 20 year friendship, in which Max and Simmel conversed and wrote letters often, Marianne wrote a critical response to Simmel's 1911 essay "The Relative and the Absolute in the Problem of the Sexes", in which she criticized his concept of "gender relations".[25] Both sociologists dealt with the "woman question" and, more broadly, "the interrelation between gendered modes of individuation, social differentiation and gender difference".[26]


“Occupation and Marriage”[3] - 1906

In this book, Weber explains that in the Protestant Ethic, “for women to be instructed in methodical planning of their lives,” on the other hand had insisted on motherhood as women’s special vocation and rejected attempts to lift the burden on women through collective childcare.” (Radkau, 2005).

“Wife and Mother in the Development of Law” - 1907

Weber argues that woman-centered societies, in certain times and places, should be called matrifocal rather than matriarchal. This is because social organization does not employ a hierarchy, “Rather, society centers on matrilineal descent and the authority of elders who have earned their status through practical knowledge in child care, farming, storing, gathering, and communal tasks of livelihood.”[27] She also discusses the economic and social positions of women in ancient and modern societies, along with discourse on ancient and modern marriage and economic positions of women.

“Authority and Autonomy”[28] - 1912

In this writing published in 1912, Marianne Weber analyzes and critiques the system of marriage and the relationship between men and women. Weber identifies two systems, “authority” and “autonomy,” with “authority” being the more common model. Weber advocates from the replacement of the “authority” system with the “autonomy” system because she argues the latter results in more equal, balanced, and rewarding relationships. She argues that the “authority” system stems from patriarchal societies where men are the dominant decision-makers in the household. Weber contends that the “autonomy” system would give women more freedom as well as more participation in decision-making, resulting in relationships with more even distributions of power.

“On The Valuation of Housework” - 1912

This piece discusses the need for economic autonomy among women and possible processes through which to achieve financial agency. Weber begins by explaining how the economic imbalance within a marriage acts as a source of conflict for both partners. She pays particular attention to the wife who, as the economically disenfranchised individual, must ask for money from her husband. Weber states that this dependency, “can heavily burden her general attitude toward life and her self-respect.” [29]

Weber posits three processes which are frequently cited as methods to economic autonomy among women. First, the idea that women, like men, must earn compensation through wage labor, or “independent earnings.” This calls for wives and mothers to take on an additional job in order to achieve financial empowerment. The second process would institute a tax on the general population to provide a “motherhood-subsidy” that would provide money based on number of children. Weber points to numerous faults in this plan, such as the difficulty in deciding an amount of money that would be adequate and fair to all mothers. The final process, and the one Weber supports, would involve an agreement made between husband and wife before marriage that would designate an amount of money to be given to the wife (or husband if he is the primary housekeeper) each month. She advocates for this plan as it keeps the matters within the family’s contexts, and doesn’t call for an overarching government sanction on the valuation of housework. Weber also believes that small, incremental, and consistent payments fuel less antagonism between spouses than the “demeaning petty warfare” over money. [30]

“Women and Objective Culture”[31] - 1913

Weber argues against Simmel about the impact of modernization on the role of women in household tasks, noting that this change is particularly good for women’s participation in the objective culture as it empowers them to influence their own society.  This allows them the freedom to not just be women, but to be human beings. She argues that women should make some type of income and be able to do the same things that men do but still need time to do household tasks. Weber makes compelling arguments against Simmel; women should be able to participate in an objective culture without having to meet certain standards, thus, in time, she is confident that women can get past the obstacles presented to them and hold the same privileges that men hold.

“Women, Men and Human Nature: The Critique by Marianne Weber”

Weber disagrees with the content of Simmel’s view on men and women in an objective culture; while she acknowledges that Simmel slightly differs from philosophers who thought of women as child bearers and a “second sex,”  she argues that by accepting Simmel’s view on splitting humankind into two different sexes is analogous to accepting that women were a mistake made by nature. Weber focuses on the fact that men and women have more in common than we think, despite certain differences. In order to participate in an objective culture, one can’t think of it as male capacities or female capacities, they simply are human capacities.

“Women’s Special Cultural Tasks” - 1919

Embedded within this piece, Weber assigns men and women to distinct “spheres” of cultural production. She explains how men are put into the production of the objective culture, while women are in the creation of personal culture. “Weber explores women’s capacities for cultural production in both areas, seeing both areas as work which men and women are equally capable of doing.”[32] While equally capable, she points to another theme common throughout her work: that women must reckon with the duties of womanhood in addition to the tasks of objective, intellectual production. Weber states that we should not cast aside these housewifely duties despite the fact that they hold oppressive power over women as the “exclusive developmental goal for the female sex.”[33]

Finally, Weber introduces the “middle ground” of shaping immediate daily existence, which establishes importance of women’s overwhelming significance to the “cultural production” work. These roles, unique to women, primarily include caring for friends and family. Weber emphasizes the importance of these practices as a form of cultivation by passing and transforming notions of morality across generations. One example of how this process works is through the learning of “good form” and manners, what Weber refers to as “culture of expression,” which is, according to her, an important part of conducive morality. [34]

Select publications[edit]

  • Fichtes Sozialismus und sein Verhältnis zur Marschen Doktrin ("Fichte's Socialism and its Relation to Marxist Doctrine", 1900)
  • Beruf und Ehe ("Occupation and Marriage", 1906)
  • Ehefrau und Mutter in der Rechtsentwicklung ("Wife and Mother in the Development of Law", 1907)
  • Die Frage nach der Scheidung ("The Question of Divorce", 1909)
  • Autorität und Autonomie in der Ehe ("Authority and Autonomy in Marriage", 1912)
  • Über die Bewertung der Hausarbeit ("On the Valuation of Housework", 1912)
  • Frauen und Kultur ("Women and Objective Culture", 1913)
  • Max Weber. Ein Lebensbild ("Max Weber: A Biography", 1926)
  • Die Frauen und die Liebe ("Women and Love", 1935)
  • Erfülltes Leben ("The Fulfilled Life", 1942 - republished in 1946)
  • Lebenserinnerungen ("Memoirs", 1948)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Patricia M. Lengermann and Jill Niebrugge-Brantley, "Marianne Weber (1870- 1954): A Woman-Centered Sociology," The Women Founders: Sociology and Social Theory, 1830-1930 : a Text/reader, Boston: McGraw-Hill, 1998. 194.
  2. ^ Lengermann, 194
  3. ^ a b Marianne Weber, 1997, Max Weber: a biography, New York: Wiley, 1975. 18.
  4. ^ Lengermann and Niebrugge-Brantley. 196-7.
  5. ^ a b Lengermann and Jill Niebrugge-Brantley, 197
  6. ^ Lengermann and Niebrugge-Brantley. 197.
  7. ^ Scaff, Lawrence A. (1998). "The `Cool Objectivity of Sociation': Max Weber and Marianne Weber in America". History Of The Human Sciences. 11 (2): 61. 
  8. ^ Lengermann and Jill Niebrugge-Brantley, 197.
  9. ^ Weber, ??
  10. ^ Lengermann and Jill Niebrugge-Brantley, 198
  11. ^ Lengermann and Jill Niebrugge-Brantley, 198.
  12. ^ Marianne Weber: Lebenserinnerungen , Johs. Storm Verlag Bremen 1948, p. 82.
  13. ^ Dickinson, Edward Ross (2005). "Dominion of the Spirit over the Flesh: Religion, Gender and Sexual Morality in the German Women's Movement before World War I". Gender & History. 17 (2): 378.  p. 382.
  14. ^ a b Lengermann and Niebrugge-Brantley, 199.
  15. ^ Weber, Marianne (1975). Max Weber: A Biography. Translated by Harry Zohn. New York: Wiley. 
  16. ^ Lengermann and Jill Niebrugge-Brantley, 199
  17. ^ Becker, Howard; Weber, Marianne (1951). "Max Weber, Assassination and German Guilt: An Interview with Marianne Weber". American Journal of Economics and Sociology. 10 (4): 402. 
  18. ^ Lengermann and Jill Niebrugge-Brantley, 203
  19. ^ a b Lengermann and Jill Niebrugge-Brantley, 204
  20. ^ Dickenson, 397.
  21. ^ a b Lengermann and Jill Niebrugge-Brantley, 207
  22. ^ Dickenson, 401.
  23. ^ Lengermann and Jill Niebrugge-Brantley, 210
  24. ^ "Elective affinities: Georg Simmel and Marianne Weber on gender and modernity." Theresa Wobbe. Engendering the Social: Feminist Encounters with Sociological Theory. eds. Barbara L. Marshall and Anne Witz. Maidenhead, England: Open University Press, 2004. pp 54-68.
  25. ^ Wobbe, 54.
  26. ^ Wobbe, 55.
  27. ^ Lundskow, George (2008-06-10). The Sociology of Religion: A Substantive and Transdisciplinary Approach. SAGE Publications. p. 55. ISBN 9781506319605. 
  28. ^ Weber, Marianne; Bermingham, Craig R. (2003-01-01). "Authority and Autonomy in Marriage". Sociological Theory. 21 (2): 85–102. 
  29. ^ Lengermann, P. M., & Niebrugge, G. (2007). The Women Founders: Sociology and Social Theory 1830-1930 (1st edition). Waveland Press. 221
  30. ^ Lengermann, P. M., & Niebrugge, G. (2007). The Women Founders: Sociology and Social Theory 1830-1930 (1st edition). Waveland Press. 223
  31. ^ "OhioLINK Institution Selection". Retrieved 2017-04-18. 
  32. ^ Lengermann, P. M., & Niebrugge, G. (2007). The Women Founders: Sociology and Social Theory 1830-1930 (1st edition). Waveland Press. 224
  33. ^ Lengermann, P. M., & Niebrugge, G. (2007). The Women Founders: Sociology and Social Theory 1830-1930 (1st edition). Waveland Press. 227
  34. ^ Lengermann, P. M., & Niebrugge, G. (2007). The Women Founders: Sociology and Social Theory 1830-1930 (1st edition). Waveland Press. 226

Works Cited[edit]

  • "Marianne Weber (1870- 1954): A Woman-Centered Sociology," Patricia M. Lengermann and Jill Niebrugge-Brantley. The Women Founders: Sociology and Social Theory, 1830-1930 : a Text/reader. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 1998.
  • Weber, Marianne. 1975. Max Weber: a biography. New York: Wiley.
  • Scaff, Lawrence A. 1998. "The `cool objectivity of sociation': Max Weber and Marianne Weber in America." History Of The Human Sciences 11, no. 2: 61. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed 11 November 2011)
  • "History of the German Women's Movement". Translated by Robert Burkhardt, assisted by members of the Translation Workshop organized by the Goethe-Institut. Boston, January–March 1998.
  • Becker, Howard and Marianne Weber. "Max Weber, Assassination and German Guilt: An Interview with Marianne Weber." American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Vol 10, No. 4 (July 1951), pp 401–405.
  • Wobbe, Theresa, 2004. "Elective affinities: Georg Simmel and Marianne Weber on gender and modernity." Engendering the Social: Feminist Encounters with Sociological Theory. eds. Barbara L. Marshall and Anne Witz. Maidenhead, England: Open University Press. pp 54–68.
  • Weber, Marianne, 1913. "Authority and Autonomy in Marriage." trans. Craig R. Bermingham. Sociological Theory, Vol. 21, No. 2 (Jun. 2003), pp. 85–102.
  • Dickinson, Edward Ross. 2005. "Dominion of the Spirit over the Flesh: Religion, Gender and Sexual Morality in the German Women's Movement before World War I." Gender & History 17, no. 2: 378-408. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed 12 December 2011). 382.
  • Lundskow, G. N. (2008). "The Sociology of Religion: a Substantive and Transdisciplinary approach". Los Angeles: SAGE.

External links[edit]