Kenneth S. Most
FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY
HOW WRONG WAS SOMBART?
Werner Sombart, a political economist of some note, was born and died in Germany. He studied law, economics, history and phi-losophy at the Universities of Berlin, Rome, and Pisa, and eventually became professor of economics in Berlin. He was a student of the so-called Katheder Socialists Schmoller and Wagner in Berlin, and as a young man Sombart became a Marxist. He was probably too bright to be a Marxist for long and he eventually became an anti-Marxist; in fact, his Modern Capitalism is really a book in praise of capitalism, in which he predicted that capitalism would reach its zenith in the twentieth century. Late in life he became apologist for the national socialists, but the Nazis did not accept him in this role primarily because his observations on the role of Jews in the middle ages conflicted with their own theories.
In terms of sheer volume of publications and translations of his publications, Sombart must be reckoned as one of the more suc-cessful economists of his time, but he failed to form a school or disciples for his views, and must be regarded as a historical curiosity at the present time. This is probably because he combined the social and historical views of his economic thought into an excit-ing but rather unstable mixture in a manner which subsequent generations have come to view as unscientific.
The Sombart Propositions
The so-called "Sombart Propositions" have received consider-able attention in recent accounting literature. Basil Yamey reviewed them critically in two articles.1 Winjum has identified "substantial academic support for the Sombart thesis,"2 and I have revisited them myself.3 The propositions relate to the role of accounting in the development of capitalism.
In fact, Sombart went so far as to state that the introduction of accounting was of the highest importance for the development of capitalism, and clearly, such perception deserves special study.