The Oldest Social Science? Configurations of Law and Modernity

By W. T. Murphy | Go to book overview

3
Rationalities and Technologies: Max Weber and his Legacy

[I]n logic a thought is understood to include nothing else but what depends on thinking and what thinking has brought into existence. It is in these circumstances that thoughts are pure thoughts. The mind is then in its own home element and therefore free: for freedom means that the other thing with which you deal is a second self -- so that you never leave your own ground but give the law to yourself. In the impulses or appetites the beginning is from something else, from something which we feel to be external. In this case, we speak of dependence. For freedom it is necessary that we should feel no pressure of something else which is not ourselves.1

'Whoever wants a sermon should go to a conventicle', wrote Max Weber.2 Hence, according to Jaspers, Weber's dying words: 'That which is true is the truth.'3 To conduct research into Weber today is, inevitably, more and more an endeavour located within the history of ideas and of epistemology. Yet it is also in many respects a contemporary exercise -- and this is the enigma of Weber for us. To look 'back' to Weber is one way of exploring the possibilities and the limits of the contemporary socio-legal imagination. For this reason the truculent figure of Weber continues, perhaps perversely, to seduce.

Of particular relevance here is the sceptical thrust of Weber's hostility towards the personification of collective entities like 'society', and the attribution to such entities of self-identity, purpose, and scope for autonomous historical action. It has recently been argued, convincingly, that Weber's notion of 'adequate cause' is rooted in debates and developments in nineteenth-century German legal thought.4 What emerges is a thinker who eludes the rigid framework of a simplistic 'methodological individualism' as precursor to the banalities of a prioristic neoclassical economic thought. Rather, the inner dynamic of Weber's

____________________
1
Hegel, Logic, 39.
2
Weber, The Protestant Ethic, 29.
3
Jaspers, On Max Weber, 187.
4
Turner and Factor, Max Weber, which also brings out the range of biological themes which stalk Weber's analyses as unelaborated substrates, especially in his various treatments of the theme of tradition.

-37-

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