The Vocation of Reason: Studies in Critical Theory and Social Science in the Age of Max Weber

The Vocation of Reason: Studies in Critical Theory and Social Science in the Age of Max Weber

The Vocation of Reason: Studies in Critical Theory and Social Science in the Age of Max Weber

The Vocation of Reason: Studies in Critical Theory and Social Science in the Age of Max Weber

Synopsis

This book addresses, and at the same time reflects, the impact of Max Weber on both the social sciences and on critical theory's critique of the social sciences. Weber's conception of 'vocation' is a guiding thread unifying concerns about the nature, scope and limits of theoretical thinking among social scientists, whether supportive or critical of Weber. Not surprisingly, the source of many of these concerns, whether intended or unintended, biographical or situational, is the ambiguous legacy of Weber himself. Wilson's interrogation of Weber's thought in articles and essays over the past 30 years, supplemented by Kemple's insights, makes a strong case for the claim that we do indeed live in 'the age of Weber'.

Excerpt

What exactly was Max Weber's 'epoch' anyway? Did it end with world War I? The rise of the Third Reich? World War II? Or is it perhaps still with us, specifically those features that Weber drew to the attention of intellectuals during his lifetime with a sense of urgency which it is simply neurotic for individuals to reduce to neurosis?

—H. T. Wilson, “Author's Introduction”

Almost twenty years have passed since ifirst encountered the lively teaching of H. T. Wilson in a graduate seminar in Social and Political Thought at York University in Toronto. Speaking without notes in a small crowded room without windows, he led us through a maze of diffcult texts by the first generation of scholars from the Institute of Social Research, also known as the Frankfurt School of Critical Social Theory. Our first lesson, to which we often returned, was on the difference between “traditional theory” on the one hand, which attempts to grasp reality in a piecemeal fashion and without leaving a remainder, and “critical theory” on the other, which strives to glimpse the whole in the process of becoming. He invited us to consider how elements of critical and traditional theory mingle in various ways in the work of both classical and contemporary thinkers. The meaning of these cryptic remarks that first day then unfolded for us in weekly meetings that ultimately taught us to see the history of theory as a point of access into the history of social, political and cultural life, both as it is known by others and as it might otherwise be thought about by us.

The ironic moral of the many stories I heard in those seminars seemed to be that today we still live in “the age of Max Weber” to the extent that scientific de-enchantment and technological rationalization continue to characterize our world. As in Weber's day, these phenomena are sustained by the spirit of capitalist democracy and . . .

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