Max Weber's 1919 lecture Politik als Beruf is still considered a classical text in the social sciences. The reception of the text in the Anglo-Saxon world has been profoundly shaped by the translation provided by Hans H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills, first appearing in 1946. Their Politics as a Vocation is more than a vivid transposition of Weber's rather peculiar German rhetoric—it is rendered in a way that suggests a certain interpretation and makes others highly improbable. The present article traces the reception of Weber's text back to certain decisions made by the translators after World War II. It argues that the translation emphasized philosophical and ethical parts of the text at the expense of others that were more geared toward a political sociology of modern politics. Moreover, the adoption of Weber's approach in empirical research was hindered if not foreclosed by a distorted presentation of his key typologies and some central concepts.
The Translation, Transformation, and Reception of Max Weber's Lecture
This article is built on a close reading of the use of the term 'calculation' by Max Weber. On the basis of this reading, I argue for a deeper understanding of Weber's views on uncertainty in the Calvinist ethos, and for a new approach to some key issues in the moral and discursive world of financial capital today, in which accounting, accountability and profit-making have become dangerously delinked from one another.
This article is a thought experiment. It constructs ideal types of political representation in the sense of Max Weber. Inspired by Quentin Skinner and others, the aim is to give a rhetorical turn to contemporary debates on representation. The core idea is to claim an ‘elective affinity’ (Wahlverwandschaft, as Weber says following Goethe) between forms of representation and rhetorical genres of their justification. The four ideal types of political representation are designated as plebiscitary, diplomatic, advocatory, and parliamentary, corresponding to the epideictic, negotiating, forensic, and deliberative genres of rhetoric as the respective ways to plausibly appeal to the audience. I discuss historical approximations of each type of representation and apply the combination of representation and rhetorical genres to the understanding of the European Union’s unconventional system of ‘separation of powers’. I conclude with supporting parliamentary representation, based on dissensus and debate, with complements from other types.
How does one deal with diversity in an organization known to be hostile to it? Drawing on a Weberian perspective I present in this article one case occurring in actual historical practice: that of Inspector Bobkowski, a teacher, chief of the political education unit at the Berlin police academy and training center, and a hobby historian. With an eye to the case at hand as well as other efforts to deal with difference under the Weimar Republic encountered during my fieldwork, I attempt to uncover the motives underlying the action of officers who contributed to the promotion of diversity within the police force in Germany. Inquiring into their motives enables me to construct an ideal type of a “carrier of diversity,” which, I argue, shares affinities with a liberal agenda of civic equality.
This note revisits Weber (especially his General Economic History) and Knight on risk and calculation, while adding commentary based on some other authors, notably Durkheim in The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life. Some recent ethnographies of finance are considered, as well as popular literature on making money. The future is unknowable, but modern societies train their members to expect to pin down future time. Precise calculation of future outcomes is a chimera, one of the principal causes of the recent financial collapse. Reasoning works best backwards as rationalization and this is scientific method. Extrapolation from the past to the future is where it all breaks down.
On the Generosity of Ritual
The thought experiment ‘ritual in its own right’ implies a suspension of dominant interpretive paradigms in anthropological research. This essay begins by juxtaposing the foundational accounts of Weber and Geertz—both of whom associate ritual with the quest for meaning in suffering—with the phenomenological account of Emmanuel Levinas, who argues that suffering is inherently “useless” and therefore resistant to meaning’s claim. All three theorists are then juxtaposed with the Warsaw ghetto writings of a twentieth-century Jewish mystic, Kalonymos Shapira, whose work exemplifies the tension between meaningful and useless suffering in a real social setting. Shapira’s work bears comparison with Levinas’s, and lends support to the idea that our preoccupation with meaning may stem from a particular religious genealogy of social theory. Ritual can be analyzed as a ground of intersubjectivity or transcendence rather than meaning, which makes it more akin to medicine, in Levinas’s terms, than to theodicy.
Faith on the Neo-liberal Frontier
What, if anything, is distinctive about the Pentecostal revival that is currently palpable in many parts of the world? How might such revitalization be related to larger transformations in economy and society, and to enduring Weberian questions about the spirit of capitalism? Drawing largely on material from the US and Africa, this article explores three dimensions of contemporary theologico-politics—the sociological, the ontological, and the cultural—to examine the ways in which current religious emphasis on realism and rapture in many quarters might differ from apocalypse past, and how theocratic tendencies might be linked to shifts in the nature of the state, the shape of the secular, and the axioms of liberal humanism. How have the mass media played into this, and why are they such uncannily apt vehicles for a late-modern culture of the miraculous?
Le Nouvel Esprit du capitalisme is a socio-cultural response to the neoliberal explanation of the successes and failures of capitalism in France during the last three decades in terms of individual rational actors and markets. Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello draw their inspiration from critical readings of sociologists who interpreted earlier incarnations of capitalism, including Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Max Weber, and Emile Durkheim.
Charisma and Clothes in Tibetan Buddhism Today
Magdalena Maria Turek
Contextualized in discussions around charisma as originally conceived by Max Weber, this article examines the case of Tsültrim Tarchin, a charismatic adept from Eastern Tibet whose everyday dress consists of a specialized garment, a white cotton robe. Earned as a mark of virtuosity in the Tantric tummo practice and worn as a sign of an ascetic lifestyle, this robe functions as a key instrument in Tsültrim Tarchin’s charismatic actions. More than a repository of power and beyond insignia that signify privilege or superiority, the religious garment I consider in this article does not merely channel the routinized charisma of the lineage. It also effectively augments the master’s personal power through the performativity of its symbolism, while its real potency lies in structuring all meanings within the master’s network of influence.
Man and Microbes in Dracula, The War of the Worlds, and The Nigger of the “Narcissus”
Jens Lohfert Jørgensen
The tension between specialised and commonsensical notions of microbes in the last decades of the nineteenth century resulted in ‘ bacillophobia'; a marked anxiety amongst the public concerning the threat posed to the individual by germs. This article investigates how the conceptual impact of bacillophobia challenged the cohesion of late Victorian society. It focuses on the role played by bacteria in the negotiation between interiority and exteriority in three novels, all published in 1897: Bram Stoker's Dracula, H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds and Joseph Conrad's The Nigger of the “Narcissus”. The analyses of the works emphasise the varying functions of bacteria in them – as allegory in Dracula, as plot device in The War of the Worlds, and as theme in The Nigger of the “Narcissus” – and the varying degrees of ambiguity they are represented with. Bacteriology participated in what the German sociologist Max Weber referred to as the ‘ disenchantment' of the world, which is characteristic of modernity, but the three works all testify to a re-enchanted fear of the possibility that nature might not, after all, be controllable.