Promoting wider access to key works by Max Weber (Political Writings) and Friedrich Nietzsche (The Birth of Tragedy and other Writings) through the provision of new translations/editions.
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Birmingham
Unit of AssessmentModern Languages and Linguistics
Summary Impact TypeCultural
Research Subject Area(s)
Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies, Literary Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies
Summary of the impact
The principal, interrelated forms of impact claimed for these two new
editions/translations are educational and economic.
The educational impact derives from:
- ensuring that the discussion of Nietzsche and Weber rests on reliable
versions of key writings
- providing the first English versions of some less well-known, but
- providing detailed commentaries and annotations to assist new readers
- facilitating wider public access to seminal writings in their
respective fields by their publication in two influential and widely
- using English to bring Nietzsche and Weber to a worldwide audience of
The economic impact (totalling £200,328 to date) has been
generated by high annual sales (so far 24,204 copies of Nietzsche and
9,866 copies of Weber sold), with £67,279 generated between 2008 and 2012.
These sales figures reflect the widespread adoption of the texts on
educational courses across a range of disciplines and in many different
The new versions of Weber's foundational political essays also "enhance
public understanding" of key issues in "civil society". The
new version of "The Birth of Tragedy" has presented a key part of the "cultural
capital" of Europe to a wider international readership.
The research embedded in the two translations (see outputs R1 and R2
below) was carried out by R. Speirs while Senior Lecturer at the
University of Birmingham in 1992-3 (Weber) and 1997-98 (Nietzsche)
respectively. Each edition was a joint, inter-disciplinary undertaking.
Speirs co-edited Nietzsche with the philosopher Raymond Geuss, University
of Cambridge. Speirs co-edited Weber with the political scientist Peter
Lassman, University of Birmingham. Translation and linguistic commentary
were entirely the work of Speirs.
The detailed work of translation was preceded by a period of extensive
and intensive reading and systematic analysis of the characteristic lexis
and syntax of each author, as evidenced both in the texts chosen for
translation and in the much larger body of writings produced by each of
these very prolific thinkers. The writings of each author had in turn to
be studied in and related to the context of the cultural and intellectual
communities in which they were framed, in order to reflect the discursive
usage to which Nietzsche and Weber made reference and in relation to which
they defined their own views of the topics they were writing about.
The aim was not to transfer the work of Nietzsche or Weber out of their
original German intellectual and cultural context and into an English one,
but rather the opposite: to build a bridge which would allow English
readers access to an intellectual and rhetorical culture that many would
find unfamiliar in significant respects. The translations therefore
knowingly sacrificed elegance for the sake of bringing the reader as close
to the source texts as possible. If this meant that the English reader
would have to concentrate hard to follow Weber's complex periods, for
example, so be it; Weber's original essays do not make easy reading in
For purposes of consistency, it was particularly important to examine
closely the meaning or range of meanings attached by each author to a
number of recurrent key terms in their arguments across a range of
contexts in order to establish whether they could be rendered by a single
term in English or whether different emphases in different situations
called for a variety of translational equivalents. Where no single
one-for-one (approximate) equivalence was available, key terms were marked
by an asterisk in the text, referring the reader to an explanatory
This approach to translation was a particular desideratum for a new
translation of Weber's political writings, not only because some important
texts were being translated for the first time, but also because
English-speaking readers had access to Weber until that point mainly
through translations into American English made in the 1930s by Talcott
Parsons, where the terms used to render Weber were too often taken from
the specific kind of (functionalist) sociological discourse inhabited (and
largely shaped) by the translator. In addition to the research embedded in
the many linguistic decisions made when translating the texts, each
edition included numerous brief explanatory footnotes (historical or
References to the research
R1) Weber, Political Writings, Cambridge University Press, first
published 1994. ISBN 0 521393 124 hardback, ISBN 0521 397197 paperback;
reprinted 2002. Licensed English language reprint for China, 2003, ISBN 7
5620 2368 9.
R2) Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy and Other Writings,
Cambridge University Press, first published 1999. ISBN 0521 63016 9
hardback, ISBN 0 521 63987 5 paperback.
Articles arising from the research:
R3) R. Speirs, `Apollo aber schließlich die Sprache des Dionysus':
Harmony or Hegemony in Die Geburt der Tragödie? In The
Challenge of German Culture, ed. M. Butler and R. Evans,
Basingstoke, Palgrave, 2000, pp. 51-8. ISBN 0 333 80090 7.
R4) R. Speirs, Nietzsche's `Thier mit rothen Backen': The birth of
culture out of the spirit of shame. German Life and Letters,
January 2013, 1-21.
[outputs R1 - R4 available from HEI on request]
Evidence of research quality: The Weber translation was awarded
the Schlegel-Tieck Prize for Translation in 1995. Both
editions/translations were submitted as outputs in the RAE for the
relevant period (Weber in RAE 1996, Nietzsche in RAE 2001).
Details of the impact
Professor Speirs' translations of Weber and Nietzsche are having
sustained and demonstrable impact upon educators, students, the general
public, and on the publishing industry in the UK and abroad. The range of
impacts upon these groups includes: contributing to economic prosperity in
the publishing industry through sales; influencing education through
inclusion in numerous teaching bibliographies outside the submitting HEI;
and informing wider public understanding in a number of fields as a
reliable source for a number of non-academic publications, resources and
other writings. These are outlined in more detail for each translation
The economic impact is evident from receipts and sales (for
details, see below). The economic impact mainly arises from the educational
impact (evident in the international adoption of both texts in many
educational courses of different kinds), which in turn reflects the
perceived reliability of the translation and explanatory apparatus. The
consistently high annual sales figures confirm the widespread uptake of
both texts not only in the UK, but across the world, especially in the US.
The translations/editions of both Weber and Nietzsche are cited or listed
as standard works of reference in many other books in their respective and
related fields, so that the social and educational impact is
multiplied through the readership of these books in turn. In this way each
edition/translation has enhanced public understanding of cultural
capital or of civil society.
1) Weber, Political Writings
Each year Weber's Political Writings sells ca. 550 copies (total
9866, with receipts of £75,801 since 1994), including an English-language
paperback edition (2,000 copies) licensed for China (2002), to be followed
in 2013 by a full Chinese-language version (3,000 copies). Receipts for
the Weber volume in 2008-12 were. £17,512 (1479 copies).
The Weber translation currently (October 2012) has 26,700 citations
on Google and is used in a range of contexts.
The Weber translation has been adopted on the following (selected) course
reading lists: LSE, Social Theory and Political Commitment: the case
of Max Weber and Nationalism; University of Warwick : Politics and Social
Theory; Univ. of York: Reason and Power in European Political Thought;
Bratislava International School of Liberal Arts: History of Political
Thought; Carleton College, Minnesota: Global Society and World Politics;
Cambridge University: Politics Psychology and Sociology Tripos; Central
European University, Hungary: Theories of International Relations: The
Classical Debates; Princeton University: European Political Development
(see source 2 below). One course convenor at LSE writes that the volume is
`invaluable, even indispensable... all in the most reliable and clearest
translations available' (source 1).
Permission to reproduce parts of the Weber edition was granted
through the United States Copyright Clearance Centre between 1999 and 2011
and through ALCS in the UK, New Zealand, Denmark, South Africa, and
Citations of the edition/translation have contributed to the public
understanding of civil society. The following books, selected from
ca. 200, illustrate the multiplier effect of the impact of the Weber
edition on the educated public in the fields of politics, education,
culture, and social understanding: Runciman, Political
hypocrisy: The mask of power, from Hobbes to Orwell and beyond;
Runciman/ Vieira, Representation;
A Comparative Approach; Jamal, Media
politics and democracy in Palestine: political culture, pluralism, and
the Palestinian Authority; Hagen, German
History in modern times: four lives of the nation;
law: the foundation of an orderly economic system; Rynning, NATO
in Afghanistan: The Liberal Disconnect; Smokescreen:
Aranas, How the US and NATO Governments Justify the Illegitimate Use
of Force; Brown, Body
Parts on Planet Slum: Women and Telenovelas in Brazil;
Them, and Others: Pluralism and National Identity in Diverse Societies;
Charisma, and Fate: Historical Sources and Modern Resonances in the
Work of Max Weber; Gane, Max
Weber and Contemporary Capitalism (sources 3 and 4 below)
The decision of Beijing University Press to follow up their Chinese cover
licensed edition (of the English text) with a full translation of Weber's
Political Writings into Chinese based on my English version,
indicates that the latter is considered to render Weber's thought with a
high degree of reliability.
2) Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy and other Writings
Approx. 1,800 copies of Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy and Other
Writings are sold each year (total receipts of £124,517 on sales of
24,904 copies since1999). In the period 2008-2012, 7,663 copies were sold
(with receipts of £49,767).
The Nietzsche translation currently (October 2012) has 51,685
citations on Google, indicating wide use for a variety of purposes.
The edition has been adopted on reading lists for a range of
different educational courses around the world, e.g.
Toronto (Politics), Boston College (Philosophy), Washington (Nietzsche on
Truth and Lying), Melbourne (Ancient Greek Theatre), Harvard (Tragedy
Ancient to Modern), Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts
(Foundational Texts: Plato to Kristeva) (source 6).
Permission to reproduce parts of the Nietzsche edition has been
requested and granted through the United States Copyright Clearance Centre
every year between 2001 and 2011 and through ACLS in the UK and the EU.
The translation has been anthologized in: A Nietzsche Reader;
The Faber Book of Opera; The Norton Anthology of Theory and
Criticism; How to Read Nietzsche; The Nature of Art. The edition has
been cited in works on such varied topics as Greek and Roman
Aesthetics (textbook); Modern Antiquity: Picasso, `de Chirico,
Leger (catalogue raisonné); Shiva onstage: Uday shankar's Company
of Hindu Dancers and Musicians (sources 7 and 8).
The impact on public discourse is also evident in the following
encyclopaedia entries: Wikipedia: Tragedy; Reference:
Tragedy; Psychology Wiki: Nietzsche;
online articles on websites: Existential Primer: Friedrich
Nietzsche thus spake the radical individual; The Nietzsche Circle: Peter
Greenaway's Writing on Water
essays on blogs: The Loyal Opposition to Modernity; The
Christian Humanist Podcast; The Turbo Times: Nietzsche's The Birth of
Tragedy; Nietzsche on the cross: the defence of personal freedom in the
birth of tragedy (source 9).
Sources to corroborate the impact
All available from HEI on request:
Weber. Political Writings
 Collected statements from users of Weber's Political Writings
 Collated details of courses using the Speirs edition in teaching
 Collated details of anthologies featuring the Speirs edition
 Collated details of popular books citing the Speirs edition.
Nietzsche: The Birth of Tragedy and Other Writings
 Popular reviews of the Speirs edition
 Collated details of courses using the Speirs edition in teaching
 Collated details of anthologies featuring the Speirs edition
 Collated details of popular books citing the Speirs edition
 Collated details of websites citing the Speirs edition.