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Calling or vocation were originally terms that applied

only to religious vocations. The Protestants,

however, extended this notion to apply to worldly

occupations (an example of the same kind of

incrementalist approach as in his legal studies).

Protestants taught that faithful work in a calling

was a sign of election.

Weber, Max (1864–1920) Weber, Max (1864–1920)


Weber argued that this combination of doctrines

created a novel and powerful psychological

sanction for conduct. To assure oneself that one

was saved, one could strive to live up to the standard

of doing one’s daily work as though it was

God’s command, and (because predestination

had the effect of making the idea of sin and forgiveness

meaningless) to live one’s life as a whole

in accordance with God’s particular assignment of

a calling. A major element of this was asceticism,

hostility to fleshly pleasures and entertainment,

of which God would have disapproved. The theological

premise thus had the indirect effect of

producing a personality which, in the appropriate

setting, becomes the austere, abstemious, rationalizing

capitalist. These religiously motivated

businessmen were economic revolutionaries,

who transformed the areas of commerce and

manufacturing they entered. They rationalized

the workplace, invested for the long term, and

sought to expand markets beyond traditional customer

bases. The relation between capitalism and

religion in this case is one of “elective affinity,” as

Weber put it. The two reinforced one another,

with capitalism bringing religious success, and

religion bringing capitalistic success.

There are many controversial features of this

account, some of which result from the fact that

the doctrinal element of the ideal type which

Weber constructed, which relied heavily on

Calvinism, only imperfectly corresponded to the

theological doctrine of much of Protestantism

in Europe, especially where Lutheran national

churches existed. Nevertheless the account is

deeply compelling, in part because the depictions

of the believer accord so well with a character type

that unquestionably did leave a profound mark on

western culture.

Weber closed the essay with some prophetic

remarks about the course of western culture,

and an important analysis of the cultural situation

created by the secularization of the “ethic.”

He said that the rosy blush of the Reformation’s

“laughing heir,” the Enlightenment, had faded,

and that the inexorable demands of the modern,

rationally organized economy, now enforced the

organization of work into callings but stripped

them of their religious meaning. This process, in

which rationalization strips the world of meaning,

or disenchants it, in his phrase, was to become a

major theme of his thought. The sacralization of

work by the Protestants gave way as well, so that

today in the United States, as he put it, even the

accumulation of wealth takes on the character of

sport. The people in the machine of capitalism

become divided beings, “specialists without spirit,

sensualists without heart” (1905).

In his late lectures on economic history (General

Economic History, 1923 [trans. [1927]), Weber restated

the thesis with some different emphases,

resulting from his comparative studies of religion

and economics. Weber came to see the rational

organization of free labor as especially crucial,

and indeed to be the distinguishing feature of

modern capitalism in contrast to booty capitalism,

trade, and political capitalism, all of which

were found in the ancient world. The crucial

moment came when the craftsman was replaced

by the worker, and the owner of the firm supplied

tools, exacted discipline, and assumed the risks.

This change was, Weber thought, a precondition

for the mechanization of work, with the goal of

saving labor costs and, in this sense, rationalizing

labor. Rational accounting methods, rational

price-setting for the purpose of profit, and a

system of law with calculable results also developed

at about this time, and were also necessary

conditions for the development of capitalism.

But the worldwide expansion and continued success

of capitalism did not rest on the foundation

of religious belief.

Nevertheless, he believed that in some settings

the original influence of Protestantism on capitalism

persisted. He traveled to the United States,

where he spent several months, traveling widely,

and participating (as an agricultural economist) in

the scholarlymeetings of the 1904 St. Louis World’s

Fair. His American experience was the basis of

his essay “The Protestant Sects and the Spirit of

Capitalism” (1905 [trans. 2002 in From Max Weber:

Essays in Sociology]), in which he describes how

church membership served to assure conformity

as well as to establish the credit-worthiness of its

members, preserving the strength of asceticism

into Weber’s own time, and accounting for the

puritanism and conventionalism of American life.

Weber was an important methodological thinker.

His major methodological essays were published

between 1903 and 1907, including Roscher

and Knies: The Logical Problems of Historical Economics

(1903–5 [trans. 1975]), “Objectivity in Social

Science and Social Policy” (1904 [trans. 1949]),

“Critical Studies in the Logic of the Cultural Sciences”

(1905 [trans. 1949]), and Critique of Stammler

(1907 [trans. 1977]). In “Objectivity in Social Science

and Social Policy,” Weber argued that to

construct a historical explanation, or even an

object of explanation, requires conceptualization,

which he examined in terms of the concept of

ideal types, which he distinguished from mere

Weber, Max (1864–1920) Weber, Max (1864–1920)


classifications, which simply sorted objects into

categories. He then argued that these conceptualizations

have a number of problematic properties.

One involves interests: what makes sense to us, in

our historical setting, is the product of our values,

experiences, and our own culture. History is thus

a discipline that works on the small segment of

the empirical that is meaningful to us, and that

segment is already at least partly conceptualized.

This is a form of historical relativism: our concepts

differ from the concepts of others, so the

content of history is different. But history is also

factual and causal, and to some extent, then, not

subject to this sort of relativism. He speaks of the

“real causal processes” (1905) which our concepts

give an intelligible form to, and argues that genetic

ideal types (1904) are themselves relative to a

culture-bound historical interest: the calculation

of probabilities is fully objective, but the selection

and conceptualization of the conditions that determine

action cannot be. These are inherent limitations

of social science. The meaningfulness of its

concepts derives from sources outside of the science

itself: as he says in the “Objectivity” essay,

these sciences must speak “the language of life”

(Gesammelte Aufsatze zu¨r Wissenschaftslehre, 1922

[trans. 1988]), a language which is itself necessarily

bound to a historical moment and its values.

During the years after The Protestant Ethic, Weber

continued to write about religion, but in order to

test The Protestant Ethic thesis by expanding it

to a general study of the relation between religion

and “economic ethics,” focused especially on one

puzzle – the fact that a rational capitalism developed

only in the West. This enlarged study

had many results, and transformed the problem

with which he had begun. To understand his approach

in his diverse studies of the Asian religions

and ancient Judaism, it is useful to begin with a

much-quoted passage, written as part of the introduction

to his collected studies of religion: “Not

ideas, but material and ideal interests, directly

govern men’s conduct. Yet very frequently the

‘world images’ that have been created by ‘ideas’

have, like switchmen, determined the tracks along

which action has been pushed by the dynamic of


His early legal studies were implicitly about

interests: contract law is a means of reconciling

the interests of the contractors. And the jurisprudential

theory of the time emphasized the concept

of interests. His approach in his later studies was

to show the interplay of interests characteristic of

particular institutional forms or orders, and to

identify their effects on “rationalization,” both

within the sphere of religion and in other spheres.

Religious ideas are the source both of interests

ideal interests that include salvation as well as

honor and similar “interests” that we would now

regard as cultural – and of world images. But they

operate in a world of other kinds of interests,

including material interests, with which they can

combine, or be stymied, or develop in relation

to other interests in a wide variety of ways.

Particular combinations of institutional forms,

feudalism, priesthood, monarchy, bureaucracy,

kin relations, and so forth produce characteristic

interests and conflicts for religion to relate to.

The theme of rationalization is both central and

puzzling. Weber identified processes of rationalization

internal to each religious tradition. In the

case of ancient Judaism, for example, the prophets

were the rationalizers, and their prophetic messages

were designed to iron out internal conflicts

in the religious tradition and its world image. He

noted that merchants tend to seek a kind of practical

rationalization of their spheres, while the

priestly class tends to seek a theoretical rationalization:

these are examples of “elective affinities.”

But interests, especially status interests, a powerful

kind of “ideal” interest, often conflict with

rationalization. And fully rationalized religious

ideologies may prove to be difficult to live with,

as was the case with Calvinism.

A general question which all salvation religions

must answer, and which drives rationalization, is

the issue of theodicy: the problem of the relationship

between destiny and merit, or, put differently,

the problem of why God allows evil. The

Chinese solution was to reconcile destiny and

merit by recourse to popular magical practice,

which in turn produced a kind of fearful conservativism.

Ancient Judaism, in contrast, devised

solutions that excluded and repudiated magic,

and this carried over into Christianity and consequently

into the western world-view in a way that

favored the eventual development of science and

technology. Rationalization in the religious realm,

of which Reformation Protestantism is an

example, can produce some peculiar historical

results, because producing new coherence or consistency

in religious doctrines characteristically

serves to produce conduct that is discrepant with

normal conduct in other “spheres” of life, as it did

with the early Protestants. Thus it is a potentially

powerful source of change.

The larger puzzle about rationalization is

this. The West developed a series of institutions,

notably the law, that were also unusually

rational, religions that had a minimum of magic,

Weber, Max (1864–1920) Weber, Max (1864–1920)


administrative structures that were also particularly

rational, and science first developed fully in

the West. Yet one can see processes of rationalization

in the histories of non-western cultures. Why

did they fail to produce the same kinds of effects?

And why did the distinctive mentality associated

with the rationalization of work arise only in the


The answer to this question in the studies of the

economic ethics of the world religions is that each

of the Asian religious traditions produced an economic

ethic that was inimical to the development,

though not necessarily the reception, of capitalism.

In the case of Chinese religion, for example,

Weber shows how the Confucian religious tradition,

together with its bureaucracy and its exam

system, supported a dominant mentality that precluded

the development of analogs to the western

institutional structures of rational law, to western

science, and to a state free of the constraints of

family loyalties, and promoted values, such as

piety and honor, that also had the effect of preventing

their emergence.

The work we know as Economy and Society was the

second major effort of Weber’s mature years. It

consists of an extensive typology of forms of social

action, especially institutional action. Weber said

that the claim to be made on behalf of the typology

was its usefulness. The elaboration of the

typology is an extended demonstration of the

uses to which the types could be put in analyzing

actual historical forms, particularly of institutional

structure, and in characterizing their historical

course of development as the product of

the basic properties of the type, always with the

caveat that these were idealizations rather than

“real” types with a teleological character.

The most famous of these typologies involved

beliefs legitimating authority and the forms that

are characteristically produced by these beliefs.

The categories were charismatic, traditional, and

rational-legal, which were further subdivided in

various ways to account for common forms of

political order, such as patrimonialism. These

were ideal types, which meant that they almost

never appeared in reality in a pure form, but were

typically combined with elements of other ideal

types. Weber was careful to point out the attenuated

charismatic element in even such things as

the modern monarchy and the jury.

Traditional authority was based on unwritten

rules believed to be handed down from time immemorial

while rational-legal authority rested on

the belief in and the validity of written rules produced

according to written procedures; charismatic

authority was the authority of the

extraordinary person. Weber had in mind of

course such figures as Napoleon and Jesus Christ,

but he found many more modest and recurrent

examples in Indian gurus and medieval battle

leaders. In each of these cases the obedience of

their followers rested on neither written nor unwritten

rules but on the direct influence of the

exceptional individual himself.

Political authority of this kind, Weber observed,

is inherently unstable. Eventually the charismatic

leader must support his followers with material

benefits, and this marked the beginning of the

transformation of charisma into everyday authority.

Charismatic regimes also face problems of succession,

and the routinization of charisma through

ritual in order to pass on charisma to successors

soon becomes transformed into something akin to

traditional authority, or alternatively becomes rationalized

into a bureaucratic system.

Weber was self-consciously part of the generation

that came after the unification of Germany

under Bismarck, and, as an ardent nationalist, was

deeply concerned about the problem of succession

of leaders. Bismarck’s career had shown how forceful

and successful leadership produced popular

acquiescence and even enthusiasm. Weber was

concerned that interest-faction parties, especially

parties that inevitably were bureaucratically organized,

would be effective electorally, but that

this would assume the predominance of party

hacks rather than of figures who could act boldly

as leaders. During the closing months of World

War I, he published an extensive newspaper

article on constitutional form, which suggested

a presidential system in which the president required

support in the form of a plebiscite rather

than party support, and thus stood above and

outside of party structures. His political thinking

is striking for its brusque dismissal of the core

ideas of democratic theory: the will of the people

he called a “fiction,” and “the Rights of Man” a

rationalist fantasy. He based his defense of parliamentary

government on grounds of Realpolitik,

especially the fact that modern states required,

in order to act politically, the mobilization of

mass sentiment. STEPHEN P. TURNER

welfare reforms

Welfare and well-being are concerned with the

satisfaction of basic human needs. Welfare has a

strong normative aspect, and there are significant

conflicts about what count as basic human needs

and about how to provide for human needs –

whether primarily through the market, the state

Weber, Max (1864–1920) welfare reforms


or the family. Classical sociology differentiates between

three dimensions of basic needs; “to have”

that refers to fundamental physiological and material

needs; “to love” that is about community,

care, and recognition; and “to be” about identity

and personal development. The understanding of

what counts as welfare has gradually been

expanded and the concepts of welfare have

become multidimensional, dynamic, and contextual.

It follows that principles and institutions of

welfare vary in and between different welfare

states. As Nancy Fraser has argued in Justice Interruptus

(1987), there is a “recognition/redistribution”

dilemma between two forms of social

justice. The dilemma refers to tensions between

different forms of welfare politics: “the politics of

redistribution of material needs,” and “the politics

of recognition and respect” that often conflicts.

There is an increasing emphasis on human agency

and on the individual’s capability to influence

their own life and society.

The evolution of welfare reform was connected

to the growth of capitalist markets and to the

response of the state to the demands of organized

workers. Welfare reforms had different backgrounds

and dynamics, and governments adopted

different strategies for providing basic needs for

the workers and their families, in relation to unemployment,

health, and old age. The roots to

welfare reforms date back to the nineteenth century.

In Germany, Otto von Bismarck (1815–98)

developed the social state and introduced sickness

and unemployment insurance and old age pensions

for workers. These conservative reforms

were based upon the insurance principle and

paid by both employers and workers. In the United

States, Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882–1945) introduced

the New Deal in the 1930s as a federal aid

to combat unemployment among workers and

farmers. This was a temporary relief package,

which gave financial aid to the needy that was

not intended to become permanent. The Nordic

countries developed a more corporate model of

welfare based upon negotiations between the employers

and the trade union organizations.

Comparative scholarship has identified different

welfare regimes. In Europe, political developments

after World War II were followed by an

expansion of the public sector and the adoption of

welfare reforms in relation to unemployment, elderly

care, and health care. The reforms were based

upon three different principles: (1) the insurance

principle, where employers and employees are the

main contributors; (2) the residual principle,

where the state would only provide benefits to

the needy; and (3) the principle of universal social

rights, where the state is the main provider of

welfare to all citizens. In Britain, the social-liberal

government inspired by the ideas of William Beveridge

(1879–1963) introduced a welfare reform

package after World War II based upon a principle

of universal rights, including a basic right to

health care and elderly care.

Political developments have contributed to

create different worlds of welfare. One illustrative

example is the difference between Britain and

Scandinavia. Beveridge’s model also inspired welfare

reforms in Scandinavia based upon a

principle of universal rights to health care and

elderly care. From the beginning of the 1960s Britain

and Scandinavia, however, developed in different

directions. The Scandinavian countries,

Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, developed a universal

welfare state with a big public-service

sector, including a public regulation of childcare.

Here social rights were based upon citizenship,

financed primarily on taxes. Britain moved towards

a residual welfare state, where the market

and the family are the primary welfare providers

and benefits are provided according to means

tests. The political development of Thatcherism

and neoliberalism in the United Kingdom and

the United States during the 1980s and 1990s has

exacerbated this trend towards a residual welfare

state and thus contributed to widen the gap between

the social democratic Scandinavian, the

continental European, and the neoliberal welfare

states. One differentiating factor in welfare

reforms has been the gendered distribution between

wage work and care work and between the

public and private provision of care.

The development of European integration has

influenced social developments and welfare

reforms in Europe. With the expansion of the

European Community to include Denmark and

Britain, different principles of welfare and different

typologies of welfare states evolved next to

the continental insurance model. European integration,

migration, and the adoption of the Maastricht

Treaty (1992) have raised new questions

about the future development of social policies

and coordination of welfare reforms in Europe,

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