Max Weber & Democratic Politics

Max Weber & Democratic Politics

Max Weber & Democratic Politics

Max Weber & Democratic Politics

Synopsis

In this work, Peter Breiner explores the implications of Max Weber's political sociology for political judgment and democratic theory. In the process, he rejects what is problematic and retains what is valuable in the theorist's political thought and then uses the results to elaborate upon and extend democratic theory. Breiner demonstrates the tension between the subjective and objective dimensions of Weber's logic of rationality, and describes how Weber exploits this tension in judging the feasibility of social and political forms such as socialism, radical democracy, capitalism, and the nation. Breiner develops a concept of participatory democracy from within Weber's logic of power and legitimate domination. Unlike any of the many existing arguments for participatory democracy, it claims that direct participation in politics requires that citizens be willing to take moral risks and take responsibility for the paradoxical outcomes of political action. The book situates Weber in relation to greatpolitical theorists of the past, such as Thucydides, Machiavelli, Rousseau, and Gramsci, as well as engaging some of the most important Weberian scholarship. Rigorous, tightly argued, and concise, the volume will interest both political and social theorists: the former because of the focus on judgment and participatory democracy and the latter for the author's thorough and novel treatment of Weber.

Excerpt

This book is a defense of a certain way of reading Max Weber. It interprets Weber as a theorist of political judgment, indeed as one of the few theorists of modern politics to have met the requirements of all good accounts of political judgment. A strong notion of political judgment should provide a map to navigate the unstable seas of politics, a guide to destinations we might reach and those we might not, and above all a rough assessment of the costs of reaching these destinations. Weber does all this and more.

Viewed under the concept of political judgment, Weber's ideal-types and typologies do not merely help us understand the meaning and consequences of the modern culture in which we are embedded or provide a comparative developmental history of different social formations within and outside of that culture. They also serve to construct the contexts, the logics, and the consequences that we will be exposed to in deciding on a course of social and political action. This feature of Weber's sociology is not hidden in his work. Weber recurrently emphasizes that sociology, especially an ideal-typical sociology of economics, culture, and politics, can help agents clarify the meaning of the fundamental ends that they seek and the necessary means and likely consequences of realizing them. He also emphasizes that no amount of sociological clarification can take away from the agent the ethical responsibility to exercise judgment and make fundamental choices of political projects. What remains obscure is precisely how Weber's abundant typologies and conceptual accounts of central matters of politics--such as power and legitimate domination, the development of the modern political party, state, and vocational politician, the tension between methodical discipline and charismatic leadership, and the power struggle endemic to the capitalist market--are operating to sharpen judgment and enhance responsible political choices.

In particular, there is a fundamental ambiguity in Weber's use of such accounts to establish the seemingly objective and subjective features of action. On the one hand, Weber uses his sociology to develop long-range, inexorable tendencies toward methodical rationalization; on the other, he . . .

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