Need, greed or deeds

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  • Published 20160202
  • ISBN: 978-1-925240-80-1
  • Extent: 264pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

AT THE BEGINNING of the First World War, a fifty-something German academic, vigorous but not fit enough for the frontline, was appointed to the Military Hospitals Commission and told to organise several reserve hospitals in Heidelberg in quick time. On arrival, sociologist Max Weber found the institutional preparations for his task non-existent, the supply contracts outdated and unusable, and the local tradespeople unable to meet agreed-upon prices. So much for German bureaucracy. So much for German efficiency.

Weber suffered fools badly, including those above him in the German military hierarchy. When the commissariat in Karlsruhe asked why he needed a telephone installed, for example, Marianne Weber recounted in her biography of her husband that he sent the inquiry back with a handwritten note: ‘Normal people know why a telephone is needed, and I cannot explain it to others.’[1]

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