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Weber’s Conceptions of the Roles of Two Types of Individuals: the Politician vs. the Scientist

Weber’s Conceptions of the Roles of Two Types of Individuals: the Politician vs. the Scientist

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Published by Jason Wong
This paper is primarily interested in the great sociologist and philosopher Max Weber’s account of the characteristics of the politician and the scientist and the contributions each has made to modernity.
This paper is primarily interested in the great sociologist and philosopher Max Weber’s account of the characteristics of the politician and the scientist and the contributions each has made to modernity.

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Published by: Jason Wong on Apr 06, 2008
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05/08/2014

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 Jason WongPage 1 of 13
Weber’s Conceptions of the Roles of Two Types of Individuals: thePolitician vs. the Scientist
 This paper is primarily interested in the great sociologist andphilosopher Max Weber’s account of the characteristics of the politician andthe scientist and the contributions each has made to modernity. In order toplace Weber’s discussions on the roles of the politician and scientist in theirproper context, we must briefly discuss the rise of the bureaucratic order of the Weberian society. We begin with Weber’s sobering idea that modernsociety is headed toward a colorless, completely rational and bureaucraticorder, which Weber indicated was the “disenchantment of the world.” Wethen discuss the roles and characteristics of the politician and scientistthemselves, and critically examine Weber’s claim that the politician plays abigger and more irreplaceable role in modern society than the scientist. Weevaluate this idea and attempt to look at historical and current examples tosupport and discredit this claim, primarily focusing on the role of the scientistin modern society. Finally, I come up with my own modified analysis of theroles of the politician and the scientist. I indicate that, considering theiroverarching tendency to promote social progress and the overall goals of society, the roles, characteristics, and contributions of the politician and thescientist are not as mutually exclusive as Weber believed. I conclude withthe thought that because politicians and scientists can contribute to societyin a way that Weber may not have considered, then modern society may notbe as depressing as Weber believed.
 
 Jason WongPage 2 of 13
Max Weber was fascinated by the issue of modernity. Weber’sprognosis of what will result from modern society, however, was verydiscouraging. One of Weber’s most famous quotes reads, “The fate of ourtimes is characterized by rationalization and intellectualization and, aboveall, by the ‘disenchantment of the world.’” (Weber, Science as a Vocation, p.155) Weber believed that the defining characteristic of the modern statewas the increasing reliance on rationalization and bureaucratization, whichhad a negative effect on society by taking away some of the magical effectsof the natural world. Weber dismally wrote, “No summer’s bloom lies aheadof us, but rather a polar night of icy darkness and hardness, no matter whichgroup may triumph externally now.” (Weber, Politics as a Vocation, p. 128)For Weber, the future brought ‘darkness and hardness’ because therationalization of society brought on by the ascent of bureaucratic order wasall but assured through the rise of democratic societies. This is becausebureaucratic societies are the most effective means to level socialstratification, one of the major goals of democratic order. On this idea,Weber wrote about how bureaucracies encourage equality:“Bureaucracy inevitably accompanies modern
mass democracy 
in contrast to the democratic self-government of smallhomogeneous units. This results from the characteristic principleof bureaucracy: the abstract regularity of the execution of authority, which is a result of the demand for ‘equality before thelaw’ in the personal and functional sense—hence, of the horror of ‘privilege,’ and the principled rejection of doing business ‘fromcase to case.’ Such regularity also follows from the socialpreconditions of the origin of bureaucracies.” (Weber,Bureaucracy, p. 224)
 
 Jason WongPage 3 of 13
 Two types of individuals loomed large in Weber’s account of modernity andthe rise of bureaucracy: the politician and the scientist. Weber, as apreeminent sociologist, was particularly interested in studying the patternsof social relationships and interaction among and between the scientist andthe politician. Furthermore, he investigated their effects on the modernsocial state, which we just described as increasingly rational, intellectualized,and disenchanted.For Weber, the politician and the scientist both play key roles in thehighly bureaucratic modern society. In his analysis, Weber has mostly givenup on the ability of either of these two types of individuals to bring backromantic and inspiring notions of humanity and enchantment into socialorder. Weber overall held a low opinion of scientists. He described theculture of science as a “predominance of mediocrity” because in his mindrandom chance, rather than naturally endowed and/or developed ability,played a larger role in the process of academic selection. In his lecture
Science as a Vocation
Weber wrote: The fact that hazard rather than ability plays so large a role is notalone or even predominantly owing to the ‘human, all too human’factors, which naturally occur in the process of academicselection as in any other selection. […] The predominance of mediocrity is rather due to the laws of human co-operation,especially the co-operation of several bodies, and, in this case,co-operation of the faculties who recommend and of theministries of education. (Weber, Science as a Vocation, p. 132)Weber argues that networking and other “human, all too human” factors playtoo large a role when scientists achieve academic recognition and/or

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