Theorizing against politics: Rethinking Max Weber and the purpose of political theory
Political theorists have long noted the “liberal” dimensions of Max Weber's theory of politics. In doing so, I believe they overlook the anti-political overtures in his push for national glory, his mechanical design of parliamentarism, and his desperate faith in plebiscitarian leaders—all of which constrain the prospect of human struggle underlying his idea of politics. Political theorists who address Weber's works on science and methodology have viewed them as “correlates” of his theoretical project of politics. I contend that they too ignore the degree to which Weber's methodological works reveal an immanent critique of his own theory of politics in particular and the craft of political theorizing in general.
In this dissertation I confirm the anti-political overtures that underlie Max Weber's theory of politics. I challenge his theory of liberal democracy insofar as he anchors it to his public and quite problematic advocacy of German national glory. But more important, I charge that his scientific and methodological works provide greater insight into the elements that comprise a theory of politics in his thinking. I believe they do so in that Weber's theory of scientific scholarship posits the aim of ethical clarity, the divide between facts and values, and the conditional quality of all human values. I thus turn Weber the ethical scholar against Weber the active citizen.
With this critique, I draw several conclusions about the contemporary value of Max Weber's political thinking. In clarifying the differences between his concepts of political judgment (Augenmass) and scholarly judgment (Urteil), I confirm that where the former succumbs to the dictates of one conviction, the latter ultimately contests all convictions. Based on this contrast, I also affirm how Weber's idea of scholarship invites more fruitful prospects of political struggle, prospects that extend outside the “life-sphere” of the liberal institutions of politics. Finally, from this alternative location of politics, I suggest that Weber's idea of an ethic of responsibility (Verantwortungsethik) includes the scholar as much as the politician, especially a scholar who contests the ultimate ends of the politician, other scholars, and one's own self.
0344: Social research