During the twentieth century, Max Weber (1865-1920), a German economist and sociologist, was one of the key thinkers (Breen 16). Weber, being one of the renowned founding fathers of sociology and related human sciences, not only made thorough sociological analyses but also upheld sociological developments that were of chief importance in society. In his passion for the fate of humanity, Weber submitted significant analyses of capitalism, sociology, and modernism. During the nineteenth century, societies encountered profound transformations, most of which bore unprecedented intensity and dynamics. These transformations, which were immense, affected the key aspects of society: social, political, cultural, and economic. People of the likes of Weber birthed the triumph of modern science, which in turn propelled the centuries-long process of intellectualization and rationalization of the mentioned transformations (Bendix 108).
Weber, whose understanding of science was immense, adhered to a strict abstinence from value judgments. He understood that science could, in no way, work out the clashing of values but instead command order into the conflict by creating a practical platform for people to engage in conscious decision-making. According to Weber, the only guiding principles to modernity that remained ethical were responsibility and clarity. Weber was against the socialist, and he did not hesitate to raise any argument that would succeed in justifying capitalism. Sometimes though, Weber was left with no choice but to settle for bourgeois civilization; he found it undesirable yet inevitable (Breen 28).
In some texts that had immense significant during the twentieth century, Weber gives insightful yet radical and highly pessimistic critiques. One of his most memorable quotes is, “”Not summer’s bloom lies ahead…but, rather, a polar night of icy darkness and hardness, no matter which group may triumph externally now” (Breen 41). This statement, though seen to be highly pessimistic, depicts the passion with which it was spoken. Weber’s striking pessimism in his assessment of modernity is fueled by his refusal to be blinded or pacified by the illusions of the progress that was on going during the twentieth century. His critical view of capitalism and its facets was inseparable from this pessimism (Bendix 137).
Weber, being a person who carefully analyzed his thoughts before speaking them out, must have had intellectual reasons for uttering such a statement. First, his key consideration was the aspects between the means and the end. To him, the pursuit of riches and wealth had been stripped of all pleasure and sanity. Accordingly, this trend caused striving for wealth to be viewed as an end in itself to an extent of people finding it totally abnormal to desire and settle for happiness or utility. Acquisition of wealth had become the sole purpose in life instead of being viewed as one of the means of getting to a desired end – meeting and satisfying the essential needs of life.
Those whose temperament was spontaneous viewed Weber’s outlook as being a meaningless reversal of what is natural to every human being. However, to Weber, this view caused people to organize or arrange their lives in a way that would secure their personal happiness. In this arrangement, people lived for their jobs and businesses rather than the reverse happening. Nevertheless, despite the fact that Weber found such a system to be absurd and irrational, he admitted that, to some extent, the system had its own measure of impressive rationality. His remarks portrayed a deep sense of criticism towards such a capitalist system, which brought two structures of rationality in conflict (Bendix 143).
Secondly, Weber’s key consideration was the possibility of the society being imprisoned in a system they have created. Though this consideration relates intimately to the first, difference is that the first consideration is concerned with how people prioritize their lives and define success while the second is concerned with the possible decline of individual self-government and the loss of freedom. Weber considers the fact that the capitalist spirit’s triumph requires the erosion of the liberality of humanity. According to him, such an accomplishment of the modern capitalist would mean biding farewell to fullness and beauty of humanity. On the other hand, the rationality of the modern capitalist created a context that was constraining and coercive, in which the economic order determined not only the lives of those who directly engaged in it but also those who were innocently born into it. This constraint, according to Weber, was a form of a steel cage that was disguised as rational production yet it enclosed humanity (Breen 54).
Before speaking out the words under analysis here, Weber promised that he would disappoint most of his listeners, who expected him to do the obvious by taking a position on daily problems in society. However, he indicated that his focus would be on politics, but not from the broad perspective that politics comprises any independent leadership approach (Bendix 89). However, he would view it as a leadership approach that influences a political association, a society, or a state. Though Weber’s pessimism has its intellectual explanations, it led him to become fearful and suspicious of the ending of all ideals and value systems. He foresaw every ending as extending from the economic systems to all aspects of society: culture, politics, and justice systems.
Bendix, Reinhard. Max Weber: An Intellectual Portrait. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977. Print.
Breen, Keith. Under Weber’s Shadow: Modernity, Subjectivity, and Politics in Habermas, Arendt, and MacIntyre. Burlington: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2012. Print.