Law and the Development of Capitalism

Laura R. Ford

in The Oxford Handbook of Max Weber

ISBN: 9780190679545
Published online February 2019 | e-ISBN: 9780190679569 | DOI:
Law and the Development of Capitalism

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The relationship between law and capitalism was of central interest to Max Weber. His legal training sensitized Weber from the beginning of his scholarly career to the social and historical significance of law, a sensitivity that was reflected in his wide-ranging studies of capitalism. This chapter focuses on the linkages between law and capitalism that Weber elucidates in Economy and Society and in other works ranging from his dissertation and habilitation to his writings on financial exchanges. It concentrates on Weber’s writings about commercial law and modern finance capitalism, showing how these reflect the broader picture that he paints of the developmental trajectory of occidental law and, in turn, the development of modern, rational capitalism. The discussion also focuses attention on jurists as the culture-carriers of an intellectual tradition, who formulated a new commercial law for merchants and industrial guilds. This would become the legal basis for modern market finance capitalism. In helping to build a new Ordnung for modern capitalism, jurists were formulators of a type of this-worldly salvation system, one that Weber both admired and regretted.

Keywords: law; commercial law; capitalism; property; contract; history of law

Article.  9936 words. 

Subjects: Social Theory ; Political Sociology

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