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Modern European Intellectual History. Lecture 24 Max Weber: Capitalism, Disenchantment, and Charisma. outline. Intro: another sociological view of modernity Weber’s life and reputation The Protestant Ethic modernity and modernism charisma and bureaucracy responsibility and leadership

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modern european intellectual history

Modern EuropeanIntellectual History

Lecture 24

Max Weber: Capitalism, Disenchantment, and Charisma

  • Intro: another sociological view of modernity
  • Weber’s life and reputation
  • The Protestant Ethic
  • modernity and modernism
  • charisma and bureaucracy
  • responsibility and leadership
  • conclusion
the protestant ethic 1905
The Protestant Ethic (1905)
  • -the “spirit” of capitalism (Ben Franklin)
  • not greed but frugality because
  • 1) greed is a historical constant
  • 2) capitalism requires an ethic of saving
  • “a person does not ‘by nature’ want to make more and more money, but simply to live — to live in the manner in which he is accustomed to live, and to earn as much as is necessary for this” (16).
  • “a well-developed sense of responsibility … perform[ing] the work as though it were an absolute end in itself — a ‘calling’” (17)
  • “ceaseless work,” an “irrational element” whereby “a man exists for his business” (23)
  • “immense sacrifices for the sake of irrational and ideal goals” (85)
cont d
  • “the creation of capital through the ascetic compulsion to save” (117)
  • -the “elective affinity” between Protestant “calling” and capitalist ethic
  • - how, from the most unworldly ethic, could secular modernity emerge?
  • - the Reformation as ushering in new authority and rigorous self-discipline
  • capitalism as originating out of a spiritual exercise, a new kind of self-governance
  • “what is often forgotten is that the Reformation meant less the entire removal of ecclesiastical authority over life than the replacement of the previous form of authority by a different one” (2).
  • “methodical control over the whole man” (82)
cont d6
  • “God willed the social achievement of the Christian, because it was his will that the social structure of life should accord with his commands and be organized in such a way as to achieve this purpose. The social work of the Calvinist in the world was merely ‘in majorem gloriam Dei.’ Labor in a calling, in the service of the secular life of the community, also shared this character” (75).
  • “Any real entering of the divine into the human soul is excluded by the absolute transcendence of God in relation to all his creatures: ‘finitum non est capax infiniti.’ … [And t]otally unsuited though good works are to serve as a means of attaining salvation — for even the elect remain creatures, and everything they do falls infinitely short of God’s demands — they are indispensable as signs of election” (79).
  • “putting one’s faith to the test in secular working life” (83)
  • “Asceticism turns all its force … against one thing in particular: the uninhibited enjoyment of life and of the pleasures it has to offer. … Instinctual enjoyment of life, which was equally prejudicial to the life of the calling and to piety, was qite simply the enemy of rational asceticism” (112-3).
several crucial distinctions
several crucial distinctions
  • • between total explanation and partial affinity
  • “the attitude from which the capitalist ‘spirit’ emerged as a mass phenomenon” (15)
  • • an original affinity does not require any permanent connection
  • Ben Franklin’s way of life “without the religious foundations” (120).
  • • between first and following generations of Protestant reformers
  • “[T]his moral quality ascribed to life in a secular calling was one of the most momentous achievements of the Reformation, and was Luther’s own achievement” (29-30).
  • In Calvinism, “a completely different kind of relationship has … been created between religious life and earthly action” (33).
  • • between intended result and actual effect
  • “[T]he cultural effects of the Reformation … [were] unforeseen and indeed unwished for … [and were] often far removed from, or even in virtual opposition to, everything that [the Reformers] themselves had in mind” (35).
  • • between monastic, “extraworldly” asceticism and generalized, “innerworldly” asceticism
  • “[T]he model of how to lead a methodical life par excellence, was, as ever, the monk, and he alone, that therefore the more firmly asceticism took hold of the individual, the more it forced him out of everyday life, because the truly holy life consisted in exceeding innerwordly morality” (82).
  • “And this asceticism was no longer an opus supererogationis, but could be expected of everyone wanting to be sure of salvation” (104).
versus marxist explanation
versus Marxist explanation
  • the occasional priority of the ideal to the material
  • “the manner in which ‘ideas’ become effective in history” (35).
  • “[I]t cannot, of course, be our purpose to replace a one-sided ‘materialist’ causal interpretation of culture and history with an equally one-sided spiritual one” (122).
modernity s iron cage
Modernity’s “iron cage”
  • “The Puritans wanted to be men of the calling — we, on the other hand, must be. … Today this mighty cosmos determines, with overwhelming coercion, the style of life not only of those directly involved in business but of every individual who is born into this mechanism, and may well continue to do so until the day that the last ton of fossil fuel has been consumed. In Baxter’s view, concern for outward possessions should sit lightly on the shoulders of his saints ‘like a thin cloak which can be thrown off at any time.’ But fate decreed that the cloak should become a shell as hard as steel [stahlhartes Gehäuse]. … [T]he idea of the ‘duty in a calling’ haunts our lives like the ghost of once-held religious beliefs” (120-1).
modernity and modernism
modernity and modernism
  • Compatibilist view: modernity allows modernism as an outgrowth, even if the latter misrepresents this relationship
  • Weber’s implicit dissent
charisma and bureaucracy
Charisma and bureaucracy
  • The End of “The Protestant Ethic”
  • alternatives: 1) “Chinese” ossification; 2) new prophets
  • 1) “ossification, dressed up with a kind of desperate self-importance… Then, however, it might truly be said of the ‘last men’ in this cultural development: ‘specialists without spirit, hedonists without a heart, these non-entities imagine they have attained a stage of humankind never before reached” (121).
  • 2) “powerful old ideas and ideals will be reborn at the end of this monstrous development” (121).
  • Typology of Rule
  • charisma
  • rationalization
  • bureaucracy
cont d12
  • “Charisma … by its very nature is not an ‘institutional’ and permanent structure, but rather, where its ‘pure’ type is at work, it is the very opposite of the institutionally permanent.”
  • the “disenchantment of the world” [Entzauberung der Welt]
  • -rationalization (the triumph of means-end rationality)
  • -bureaucracy (the rise of impersonal authority)
  • -rule of law (formalistic rather than charismatic adjudication)
cont d13
  • “It is horrible to think that the world could one day be filled with nothing but those little cogs, little men clinging to little jobs and striving toward bigger ones--a state of affairs which is to be seen once more, as in the Egyptian records, playing an ever increasing part in the spirit of our present administrative systems, and especially of its offspring, the students. This passion for bureaucracy enough to drive one to despair. It is as if … we were to deliberately to become men who need ‘order’ and nothing but order, become nervous and cowardly if for one moment this order wavers, and helpless if they are torn away from their total incorporation in it. That the world should know no men but these: it is in such an evolution that we are already caught up, and the great question is, therefore, not how we can promote and hasten it, but what can we oppose to this machinery in order to keep a portion of mankind free from this parceling-out of the soul, from this supreme mastery of the bureaucratic way of life.”
  • Stefan George
  • Art has “nothing positive to offer” except the project of overcoming “rationalism, capitalism, and so forth.”
  • “Hope waits and searches for a new holder of charisma.”
a politics of responsible leaders
a politics of responsible leaders
  • “Politics as a Vocation” (1919)
  • “how can warm passion and a cool sense of proportion be forged together in one and the same soul?” (115)
  • ethics of absolute ends: “it is all or nothing” (119)
  • ethics of responsibility: sensitive to “the foreseeable results of one’s actions” (120).
  • “One cannot prescribe to anyone whether he should follow an ethic of absolute ends or an ethic of responsibility, or when one and when the other” (127).
  • Bleak modernity and charismatic modernism?
  • Schmitt and Weber