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What were the conditions that Weber thought he encountered? How and why did his perceptions differ from those of others? These turn out to be complicated questions, and an answer must begin with Weber’s emergence after the turn of the century into a new period of intellectual engagement, which also involved a recovery and extension of some themes that were close to his heart. New Horizons of Thought Max Weber returned home to Heidelberg on his birthday, April 21, 1902, after an absence of nearly two years.

The practice of using Bible study to promote “character building” was one among many examples he explored. Weber’s central interest in North Tonawanda had to do with the general relationships across the religious community, an individual’s religious or spiritual beliefs, and economic activity. This interest was expressed in a number of comments that served as the starting point for two sets of ideas: first, the formulation of an essential distinction between the religious community as either an institutionalized “church” or a voluntary “sect”; and second, a similarly crucial 32 CHAPTER TWO distinction between considerations of social “status” or socioeconomic “class” and their interplay in nascent immigrant communities that found themselves embedded within a preexisting “democratic” social order.

From this group only Simmel, whose essays had already been translated by Albion Small and published in the American Journal of Sociology, declined to attend. For Weber, in any case, his reputation was based not on recent work, but on accomplishments in the meteoric early years of his career. Planning for the Congress of Arts and Science turned out to be a contentious affair, a not uncommon occurrence with academic assemblies. In the verbal imbroglio leading up to it, Weber even considered avoiding the Congress altogether, while following through with his travel plans in order to exchange views with colleagues and see the American cities, as he wrote directly to Hugo Münsterberg on June 21 and July 17, 1904.

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