Modernity and Politics in the Work of Max Weber

Modernity and Politics in the Work of Max Weber

Modernity and Politics in the Work of Max Weber

Modernity and Politics in the Work of Max Weber

Synopsis

This rich and assured book is a major contribution to the growing Weber industry. It reveals Weber's theory of modernity in a new and unexpected light.

Excerpt

It is regarded as the mark of a cultivated intellectual sensibility to care whether Gadamer or Habermas, Popper or Adorno, Freud or Jung, phenomenology or Marxism, or Foucault or Derrida got it right, to get hot under the collar when reading Bloom or Rorty. Perhaps the reason is that, beyond their substantive differences, these thinkers, even the ones who worry about ‘the role of intellectuals’, share a belief in the enduring relevance of what they do, so that by devoting oneself to the study of any one of them one can find oneself on the cutting edge of social and political debate.

As a graduate student my initial interest in these people was based on the same belief. Yet it was precisely because of this that that interest waned. My reading kept being disrupted by the thought that these types of questions had all been raised before, by Max Weber. In itself this was no argument for going back to him, especially if his problems are merely identical to theirs. What made me go back was the thought that while many contributors to contemporary debates seemed to be engaged in an indefinable, interdisciplinary exercise known as ‘theory’, Weber had forced himself constantly to ask himself about the status of what he called his science, about the limits of that science and what lay beyond them. So much so that Leo Strauss accused him of reducing science to the same dignity as stamp collecting, of giving us no reason to listen to its results. That he could produce the work he did and lay himself open to such a charge seemed like the best reason to listen to him.

For comments on earlier versions of parts of the manuscript, I would like to thank: Paul Filmer, Phil Manning, Irving Velody and members of the BSA Max Weber Study Group. I have benefited from conversations with Chris Clark, Patrick Dassen,

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