Max Weber: Introducing Principles through the Back Door


. . . [It] has been repeatedly stressed that the arbitrariness of method did not degenerate into complete irrelevance of scientific production, because the pressure of theoretical traditions remained a determining factor in the selection of materials and problems.

This pressure, one might say, was erected by Weber into a principle. The three volumes, for instance, of his sociology of religion threw a massive bulk of more or less clearly seen verities about human and social order into the debate about the structure of reality. By pointing to the undisputable fact that verities about order were factors in the order of reality—and not perhaps only lust for power and wealth or fear and fraud—a tentative objectivity of science could be regained, even though the principles had to be introduced by the back door of "beliefs" in competition, and in rationally insoluble conflict, with Weber's contemporary "values."

Again, Weber ignored the theoretical difficulties into which this procedure involved him. If the "objective" study of historical processes showed that, for instance, the materialistic interpretation of history was wrong, then obviously there existed a standard of objectivity in science that precluded the constitution of the object of science by "referring" facts and problems to the "value" of a Marxist; or—without methodological jargon—a scholar could not be a Marxist. But if critical objectivity made it impossible for a scholar to be a Marxist, could then any man be a Marxist without surrendering the standards of critical objectivity that he would be obliged to observe as a responsible human being? There are no answers to such questions in Weber's work. . . .

The time had not yet come to state flatly that "historical materialism" is not a theory but a falsification of history or that a "materialistic" interpreter of politics is an ignoramus who had better bone up on elementary facts. As a second component in the "demonism" of values there begins to emerge, not acknowledged as such by Weber, a goodly portion of ignorance. And the political intellectual who "demonically" decides himself for his "value" begins to look suspiciously like a megalomaniac ignoramus. It would seem that "demonism" is a quality that a man possesses in inverse proportion to the radius of his relevant knowledge.

CW VOL 5,
The New Science of Politics
Introduction,
§3 pp 101-102.
[U.Chicago ed., p 18-19]

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