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Arthur Mitzman's critical study of three major German sociologists—the nineteenth-century pioneers Ferdinand Tonnies, Werner Sombart, and Robert Michels—is rooted in the context of German social and intellectual history. Mitzman shows how Tbnnies's interest in community and Michels's critique of socialist bureaucracy were both intimately connected with their allegiance to an older, more communitarian and decentralized Germany that was being irreparably destroyed by Prussian domination. Sombart's analysis of modern capitalism and his evolution from supporter of revisionist socialism to bitter critic of modernity are similarly related, by the author, to his increasing estrangement from German society.
With the brilliance of analysis that distinguished his study of Max Weber—The Iron Cage—Arthur Mitzman's book has revised long-held ideas about the beginnings of sociology: Far from originating as an antiseptic development of scientific objectivity, it grew out of a passionate commitment to humanist values within a social order apparently determined to destroy them.