The Vocation Lectures

The Vocation Lectures

The Vocation Lectures

The Vocation Lectures


Originally published separately, Weber's 'Science as a Vocation' and 'Politics as a Vocation' stand as the classic formulations of his positions on two related subjects that go to the heart of his thought: the nature and status of science and its claims to authority; and the nature and status of political claims and the ultimate justification for such claims. Together in this volume, these newly translated lectures offer an ideal point of entry into Weber's central project: understanding how, as Weber put it, "in the West alone there have appeared cultural manifestations [that seem to] go in the direction of universal significance and validity."


It might be a basic characteristic of existence that
those who would know it completely would perish,
in which case the strength of a spirit should be
measured according to how much of the “truth”
one could still barely endure.

F. Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil,
paragraph 39

Max Weber has claim not only to being one of the founders of modern social science but also to being one of the most acute diagnosticians of the conditions of modernity in the West. The fifty-six years of his life saw the writing of an astonishing array of works, not only in the general field of political economy (ranging from ancient Rome through the Middle Ages to contemporary Europe and America), but also in philosophy, the methodology of social scientific investigation, musicology, the sociology of most of the world's major religions, social theory, and political science. Nor were his efforts purely “academic”: as what we would now call a “public intellectual,” his attentions included contemporary events. For instance, after the 1905 abortive revolution in Russia, he took six months to learn Russian so that he could read the sources in the original language and then produced several important analyses of those events. A man of impeccably bourgeois origins and upbringing, he was also at the intersection of several of the most progressive dimensions of German and European intellectual, cultural, and artistic life.

Weber is also one of the few scholars of a century ago with whom most contemporary social scientists still feel the need to come to terms. In preparing the (necessarily dramatically incomplete) Further Reading section of this volume, we were struck by how many modern scholars, as well as those of previous and later generations, have written on Weber, even, and perhaps notably, when he did not remain the . . .

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