Sombart, Werner (1863–1941) By Van Wyck, Brian
Werner Sombart, German economist and sociologist, was born into an upper-class family in Ermsleben. After studying economics and law, Sombart received his doctoral degree from the University of Berlin in 1888. In the early years of his career, he was an avowed Marxist and his most influential work, Modern Capitalism, first published in 1902, defined the development of capitalism in three stages – early, high and late – each governed by a guiding spirit. For Sombart, this spirit, rather than the mode of production, was the most basic layer of social organisation. Despite this historicist disagreement with Marx, Sombart’s communist leanings and sympathy for organised labour saw him struggle to find acceptance in the German academic establishment.