Max Weber's New Tone of Sadness


Thus far the work of Weber can be characterized as a succesful attempt to disengage politcal science from the irrelevances of methodology and to restore it to theoretical order. The new theory toward which he was moving, however, could not become explicit because he religiously observed the positivistic taboo on metaphysics. Instead, something else became explicit; for Weber wanted to be explicit on his principles, as a theorist should be. Throughout his work he struggled with an explication of his theory under the title of construction of "types." The various phases through which this struggle passed cannot be considered on this occasion.

In the last phase he used types of "rational action" as the standard types and constructed the other types as deviations from rationality. The procedure suggested itself because Weber understood history as an evolution toward rationality and his own age as the hitherto highest point of "rational self-determination" of man. In various degrees of completeness he carried this idea out for economic, political, and religious history, most completely for the history of music. The general conception obviously derived from Comte's philosophy of history; and Weber's own interpretation of history might justly be understood as the last of the great positivistic systems.

In Weber's execution of the plan, however, there can be sensed a new tone. The evolution of mankind toward the rationality of positive science was for Comte a distinctly progressive development; for Weber it was a process of disenchantment ( Entzauberung ) and de-divinization ( Entgöttlichung ) of the world. By the overtones of his regret that divine enchantment had seeped out of the world, by his resignation to rationalism as a fate to be borne but not desired, by the occasional complaint that his soul was not attuned to the divine ( religiös unmusikalisch ], he rather betrayed his brotherhood in the sufferings of Nietzsche—though, in spite of his confession, his soul was sufficiently attuned to the divine not to follow Nietzsche into his tragic revolt. He knew what he wanted but somehow could not break through to it. He saw the promised land but was not permitted to enter it.

CW VOL 5,
The New Science of Politics
Introduction,
§3 pp 104-105.
[U.Chicago ed., p 21-22]

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