Guenther Roth was born in Wolfskehlen (Germany) on Jan. 12, 1931. He attended the Ludwig Georgs-Gymnasium in Darmstadt from 1941 to 1951. Until 1953 he studied at the University of Frankfurt with Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer and Frederick Pollock and was research assistant in the Institute of Social Research, working on postwar German attitudes. In October 1953 he became research assistant to Kurt H. Wolff, a Darmstadt emigré, at Ohio State University in Columbus to complete a denazification study (his first English publication). At the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research in New York in 1954/55 he came in contact with emigré scholars Otto Kirchheimer, Albert Salomon, Alfred Schutz and Frieda Wunderlich, but also studied with Solomon Asch and Horace Kallen. From 1955 until 1957 he was graduate research sociologist in the Institute of Industrial Relations at UCBerkeley, working under emigré scholar Reinhard Bendix within the Ford Project on Labor in Economic Development. Out of this research emerged his 1960 dissertation and 1963 book on “The Social Democrats in Imperial Germany. A Study in Working-Class Isolation and National Integration,” which proposed the influential theory of the negative integration of a radical labor movement into a dominant regime.
In 1968 Roth edited, with his Darmstadt schoolmate Claus Wittich, the first complete English edition of Max Weber’s “Economy and Society,” which has become the standard reference. Exploring the logic and utility of Weber’s historical sociology for contemporary problems, he wrote on such issues as personal rulership, personalistic politics, charisma and neopatrimonialism in Communist China, the Soviet Union, the US, the Third World and the counterculture of the nineteen sixties.
Roth’s second line of work has been the intellectual and political context of Weber’s oeuvre in his time and in its international reception, from the contrasts with 19th-century evolutionism and Marxism to post-world war II American structural functionalism and the French Annales School (especially Fernand Braudel).
Over time, Roth turned to the cosmopolitan bourgeoisie of the 19th century, especially Max and Alfred Weber’s descent from one of the wealthiest Anglo-German merchant families: “Max Weber’s deutsch-englische Familiengeschichte 1800-1950” (2001). This was accompanied by a number of essays on globalization in Weber’s time and the utility of his typologies of capitalism for the new globalization in recent decades and the post-Soviet years.
A parallel interest concerned the women’s movement in Marianne Weber’s time and her role in it (“Marianne Weber and Her Circle,” 1988). Related essays range from the gender theories of Emile Durkheim and Georg Simmel to treatments of them in feminist theory. Some essays also deal with the personal involvement of Marianne Weber, the Weber brothers and Else von Richtofen in the early sexual revolution (the New Ethic).
In recent years, an interest has been the world of transatlantic family connections from the emigrants of the 1848 Revolution to the refugees from the Nazi regime. One study has dealt with four generations of American and German descendants of the 48er Friedrich Kapp, leader of the German Republicans in New York City and later mentor to the young Max Weber. Roth’s most recent book has been “Edgar Jaffé, Else von Richthofen and Their Children. From German-Jewish assimilation through Nazi persecution to American integration 1880—1980” (2012, available online). A recent essay treated the letters of Kurt Riezler, Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg’s confidante, to his fiancée Kaethe Liebermann, daughter of the impressionist painter Max Liebermann, from the Grosse Hauptquartier in the fall of 1914 (2012). This was followed in 2016 by the edition, with John Röhl, of Riezler’s letters to Käthe Liebermann: Aus dem grossen Hauptquartier.