Peter Breiner 

Department of Political Science

Subfield:  Political Theory

University at Albany, State University of New York





Department of Political Science
Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy
University at Albany, State University of New York
135 Western Avenue
Albany, NY 12222
(518) 442-5277

Curriculum Vita (click for full cv)

Ph.D. (Political Science) Stanford University, 1986.

Dissertation:    Political Reason and Public Freedom:  A Critique of Max Weber's Theory of Politics, 1986

M.A. (Political Science) Stanford University, 1971.
B.A. (Political Science) University of California, Berkeley, 1969.

Teaching Experience

Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University at Albany, State University of New York (1996-)

Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, University at Albany, State University of New York (1990-1996)

Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, University at Albany, State University of New York (1988-90)

Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Southern California (1985-88). (replacement appointment)

Lecturer, Department of Political Science University of Southern California (1984-85).

Instructor, European Culture Program, Occidental College (1981-82).

Teaching Assistant, Department of Political Science, Stanford University (1971-75, 1977-79)


Max Weber and Democratic Politics. Cornell University Press, 1996.  237 pages. (refereed)
This book reinterprets Weber as a theorist who uses political sociology as part of a theory of political judgment.  It also examines the implications of Max Weber's account of political judgment and ethics for the theory of democracy. Finally, it provides a critical assessment of the meaning of his notion of political judgment for theories of strong democratic participation.




“Weber and Weberian Political Sociology” in The New Blackwell Companion to Political Sociology  edited by Edwin Amenta, Kate Nash, and Alan Scott (forthcoming)


“Raymond Aron’s Engagement with Weber: Recovery or Retreat,” in a special issue of The Journal of Classical Sociology on The Legacy of Raymond Aron (forthcoming)

“Machiavelli’s ‘New Prince’ and the Primordial Moment of Acquisition” in Political Theory (February 2008) (refereed).
Weber’s Puritan Capitalist and Vocational Politician–A Series of Just-so Stories? Or Why is Weber’s Genealogy of the Vocational Politician So Uncontroversial” in Max Weber Studies.  6.1, Spring, 2006: 3-31.  (refereed). 

“Weber’s Protestant Ethic: Hypothetical Account or Historical Explanation of Capitalism?” included in a special issue of The Journal of Classical Sociology on Weber’s Protestant Ethic. 5.1 March, 2005:  11-30. (refereed).

Commentary on Jeff Isaac, ‘Social Science and Liberal Values in a Time of War’” in Perspectives on Politics, 2.3, September, 2004: 485-488 . (refereed)

“‘Unnatural selection’: Max Weber's Concept of ‘Auslese’ and His Criticism of the Reduction of Political Conflict to Economics,” 18.3 International Relations, September, 2004: 289-307. (refereed).

“Translating Max Weber: Exile Attempts to Forge a New Political Science,” European Journal of Political Theory, 3.2 April, 2004:  133-149. (refereed).

 The Political Logic of Economics and the Economic Logic of Modernity in Max Weber,  Political Theory, 23.1, February, 1995. pp. 25-47. (refereed)

 Democratic Autonomy, Political Ethics, and Moral Luck,  Political Theory, 17. 4 November, 1989, pp. 550-574.  (refereed)

Book Chapters and Collections:

“Ideal Types as ‘Utopias’ and Impartial Political Clarification: Weber and Mannheim on Sociological Prudence” in Laurence McFalls, ed., Max Weber's  Objectivity  Revisited, (Toronto:  University of Toronto Press, 2007).

 The Political Logic of Economics and the Economic Logic of Modernity in Max Weber,  Political Theory, February, 1995; “Weber’s Protestant Ethic: Hypothetical Account or Historical Explanation of Capitalism?” The Journal of Classical Sociology March, 2005 included in the volume, Max Weber, Peter Lassman, ed. in the International Library of Essays in the History of Social and Political Thought. Ashgate Publishers. 2006.  This series brings together the most significant articles in English in the field of Social and Political Thought.

Articles on “democracy,” “oligarchy,” and “republic” in Neal Tate ed. Governments of the World, Farmington Hills: Macmillan (December, 2005). (refereed) 

Book Reviews:
Review of John Sanbonmatsu, The Postmodern Prince in Perspectives on Politics, 4.1, February, 2006.

Review of Max Weber, The History of Commercial Partnerships in the Middle Ages, Translated and Introduced by Lutz Kaebler in Canadian Journal of Sociology Online May - June 2004.

Review of Martin Morris, Rethinking the Communicative Turn: Adorno, Habermas and the Problem of Communicative Freedom, Joseph Heath, Communicative Action and Rational Choice in Perspectives on Politics (formerly book review section of APSR) March, 2003.

Review of David Dyzenhaus, ed., Law as Politics: Carl Schmitt’s Critique of Liberalism (Durham, Duke University Press, 1999) in American Political Science Review, December 2000, Vol 94 no. 4, pp. 926-927.

Review of David Owen, Maturity and Modernity: Nietzsche, Weber and Foucault and the Ambivalence of Reason (New York: Routledge, 1994) in American Political Science Review June 1999, Vol. 93, no. 2, pp. 437-438.

Review of Stephen P. Turner, Regis A. Factor, Max Weber:  The Lawyer as Social Thinker,  (New York: Routledge, 1995)  in Ethics, 7, no. 3, April, 1997, pp. 553-554.

Review of James Fishkin, Democracy and Deliberation (Yale University Press, 1992), in Journal of Politics, May, 1993, pp. 547-550.

Review of John Dunn ed. Democracy the Unfinished Journey (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992) in Contemporary Sociology, September, 1993, pp. 680-681.

Review of Nicholas Xenos, Scarcity and Modernity (London and New York:  Routledge, Chapman, & Hall, 1989), in American Political Science Review,  September,  1991, pp. 1011-1012.

Other Publications

“Max Weber Among the Exiles: The Weber-Mannheim Project and the Launching of a Dynamic Political Science” in Essays from the ‘No Happy End’ Workshop ed. by David Kettler (Galda Wilch  Publisher, 2002).

“Plebiscitary Democracy and Mass Protest” in Insights into Democracy, April, 1994, p. 3.

“Markets Against Democracy” in Insights into Democracy, April 1997.



My research interests are fairly wide, ranging from certain canonical thinkers such as Thucydides and Machiavelli to contemporary political theorists such as Weber, Mannheim, and Gramsci.  But the common thread running through my work on these theorists is that they all try to understand the changes our political terms undergo to be a response to the ebb and flow of political conflict.  That is, much of my recent work on political theory rotates around the pressure that the contexts of political conflict exert upon political language and the ways that political language itself informs our understanding of these contexts.  

At the moment, I am working on two books each of which address this question in a different way.  The first seeks to put the concept of political equality in the contexts of political struggle in which the concept is fought out.  It understands political equality not just as an "essentially contested" concept but as an expansive one as well, taking in new spheres of state, economy, and society and new groups and classes. 

The second book seeks to address the role of political examples in molding the political generalizations that political theorists draw.  In this project, I am especially interested in the way theorists of political foresight deploy examples and the way these examples often redirect and reshape the predictions and advice being offered. 

I am in the midst, as well, of publishing articles on Machiavelli.  They interpret Machiavelli as a theorist whose texts have to be completed by a reader-actor in light of a recurrent but constantly shifting relation of forces.  

I have published articles, book chapters, and a book on Max Weber.  In this writing, I have tried to cover a number of questions in Weber's work that commentators have either overlooked or deemphasized.  These include Weber's strategic use of the subjective and objective points of view in providing political advice, especially on the prospects for democracy; his much neglected concept of "selection" or "Auslese" as a counterpoint to his more famous notion of rationalization; his Protestant Ethic as an attack on Smithean and marginalist accounts  of original accumulation; the curiously uncritical acceptance of his genealogy of the "leading politician" by political science; and the role of his political sociology in providing a generation of theorists such as Mannheim, Neumann, Brecht, and Morgenthau with a model on how to test political ideals against political "reality;" and lastly, the intertwined relation between his claims on the "objectivity" of social science and his account of practical judgment.

Following from the work on Weber, I have written a paper on trying to deal with the knotty problem of how to treat the contexts of political theories when we view them as political ideologies in conflict with one another:  "Political Theory, Political Science, and the Problem of Ideology:  Contextualizing Political Theories in Fields of Political Conflict."  

Finally, I have written a series of papers in democratic theory.  The most recent ones address the following questions:  

"Is Social Citizenship Really Outdated?  T. H. Marshall Revisited"

"Does Democracy Really Require Complex Equality?"

"Ideologies of Economic Populism in America and their Subversion by the Right"

See my full vita for other papers.

Teaching (selected courses)

History of Political Theory I

History of Political Theory II


Political Philosophy: Machiavelli

Political Philosophy--Marx and Weber

Contemporary Democratic Theory

Problems of Political Inquiry--Political Theory and Political Economy

Contemporary Political Theory--Overview (undergrad)

Contemporary Political Theory--Political Theory and Political Ideology (graduate)

 Contemporary Political Theory--Theories of Democratic Citizenship (graduate)

 Field Seminar in Political Theory (graduate)