Maria Victoria Crespo,"The Elusiveness of Meaning. FromMax Weber to Jürgen Habermas" in David Chalcraft (ed.)Max Weber Matters. London: Ashgate (forthcoming, 2007).
Maria Victoria Crespo
This paper deals with the problem of understanding meaning in Max Weber’s and Jürgen Habermas’ methodological enterprises. For
this purpose, it focuses on theinterrelations between interpretation, understanding and explanation in their respectivemethodological writings.
The objective of this inquiry is thus twofold. First, it aims atreinvigorating the debate on Weber’s and Habermas’ conceptions of explanation andunderstanding meaning and their respective role in the social sciences (Dallmayr,McCarthy 1977; Habermas 1980, 1988).
Such discussion intends to show thatunderstanding of meaning and textual interpretation have a secondary role in Weber’sand Habermas’ methodologies. Therefore, the task is to uncover the limitations ofdeveloping a sociological method for textual interpretation and understanding ofmeaning based on Weber’s and Habermas’ methodological enterprises. Second, thispaper seeks to assess Weber’s methodological influence on Habermas’ theory ofcommunicative action. It shows that the main assumptions underlying Habermas’theory of communicative action are rooted in Weber’s concept of rational action and hismethod of rational interpretation. Max Weber matters to Habermas, but both Weber and
I focus on Weber’s methodological essays, the conceptual framework of the first part of Vol. I of
Economy and Society
The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
. In the case of Habermas, Iconsider his
Theory of Communicative Action
and a selection of previous and complementary articles.
This question is motivated by the discussion that Habermas (1988) introduces in
On The Logic of theSocial Sciences
, where in the context of his dispute with Talcott Parsons he addresses the problem of themethodological primacy of explanation and understanding in Max Weber’s works. In this paper, thisHabermasian inquiry is not only applied to Weber but to Habermas himself.