Max Weber on the Relation between Power Politics and Political Ideals

Marcus Llanque
Max Weber had an enormous theoretical impact on the development of political realism. His famous definition of politics – “striving for a share of power or for influence on the distribution of power”1 – seems to express clearly his understanding of all politics in terms of power politics. But to what extent was Weber himself a realist? Was he a realist in the sense that he opposed idealistic thinking? Or was he rather trying to integrate political ideals, even utopian ones, into a realistic framework of political understanding? The conclusion of this essay will suggest an answer along the latter lines. The main question here seems to concern the connection of liberalism to democracy and the still current problem of political elitism and mass democracy. Weber’s theory links two fields of politics that are often disconnected in political science today: international relations and democratic theory. In both fields political realism is particularly relevant: in international relations realism is firmly established, and it is also established – though somewhat less clearly – in democratic theory, where different labels are given to the same terms (realistic, competitive, elitist, empirical).2 In both subfields, realism is a reaction to the alleged failures of idealism. Although both approaches can be traced back to ancient Greece (with Thucydides on the one side and Aristotle on the other), both have gone through substantial revisions, such as neo-realism for example. The period between the world wars was crucial to the formation of both schools of thought, and especially for two of their founding fathers: Hans Morgenthau and Joseph Schumpeter.3 Morgenthau reacted to the breakdown of the League of Nations and the debate in western democracies about totalitarian systems: binding international law failed to maintain peace; moreover, it made democracies more vulnerable by tying their actions. Schumpeter reacted to the concern that the classical model of democracy, based on the people’s will and self-government, did not correspond to the real shape of democracy in the twentieth century. While there are few points of contact between these two branches of political realism, some noteworthy connections exist. Significantly, Weber’s work had a decisive influence on both.4 Morgenthau’s concept of power as well as his concept of the national interest rest firmly on an analysis of Weber’s theory, although Morgenthau often seems to misunderstand Weber’s point of view.5 Weber’s influence on Joseph Schumpeter is even clearer.6 For Schumpeter democracy is not a normative idea that must be followed for its own sake and means popular participation, but consists, as it does for Weber, in the struggle for power among competing elites. Moreover both theorists were influenced by Weber’s general concept of the political. For Weber a realistic concept of the political is mainly a question of realistic
Constellations Volume 14, No 4, 2007. C The Author. Journal compilation C Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA.

these aspects of Weber’s political thought cannot be seen as evidence for his unambiguous affiliation with political realism if realism is understood in opposition to idealism. He disapproved of attempts to fulfill the will of the people by means of direct democracy. Number 4. is incomplete. Weber reproached pacifism for its political irrationalism (359–64). Journal compilation C 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. public political negotiations might endanger peace.7 In addition. success in politics depends on establishing a sense for realities. According to Weber. 2007 politicians.484 Constellations Volume 14. He did not support idealistic Kantian ideas like the demand that international negotiations be made public. which he considered naive. leading him to favor a strongly personalized and even elitist model of political leadership. a power-focused understanding of politics. judgement. However. or the League of Nations. a sense of responsibility. which he opposed to the norms and ideals of an ethics of conviction (359). he could see the effectiveness of ideals in politics. Members of the realist school of politics all show considerable interest in Weber’s political ethics. But he also suggests that what is possible can often be achieved only by reaching for what seems to be impossible. Weber was known for his criticism of the shortcomings of idealism in political thinking. His alleged promotion of an ethics of responsibility. stick to the facts and consider what is possible. Weber tried to integrate political ideals into his concept of realism rather than exclude them. facing the realities of power politics without forgetting their ideals. For Weber the general task was to secure that liberalism was able to C 2007 The Author. The same word (“Sache”) is related to what is usually seen as the characteristics of the realistic approach: to keep calm. In Weber’s opinion. This follows from his belief that public opinion and irrational forces would undermine objective deliberation in foreign affairs (186). which was the result of a life-long debate with liberalism in transition to the modern age. seems to reveal his affiliation to realism most clearly.9 Max Weber’s reflections on political ideals were closely connected to his general understanding of politics. to the god or demon who commands that cause” (352–53). to the contrary. As a sociologist.8 According to Weber the accomplished politician requires “passion. as under so-called R¨ atedemokratie (council democracy). one that does not take into account the determining influence of ideals on power politics. For him. Public discussion does not necessarily serve the truth. He thought himself a liberal but distanced himself from the traditional idealistic branch of liberalism whose aim was to bring the state under the dominance of abstract principles and ideals which often turned out to be influenced more by wishful thinking than by a realistic analysis of what was possible at the moment. He mentions in this connection Bismarck’s famous definition of politics as the art of the possible (Kunst des M¨ oglichen). it might instead be an obstacle to truth and rationality (359). . Finally. Weber feared that German liberals tended to hide behind the walls of authoritarian rule instead of standing the course. that international treaties be published.” Amazingly Weber’s demand for passion links two different aspects: “passion in the sense of concern for the thing itself [Sachlichkeit]” and “the passionate commitment to a ‘cause’ [Sache]. and on the other hand Weber speaks of “Sache” in the way it is used in the idealistic approach: the implementation of ideals is motivated by conviction.

The result was an ideology born of realism called Realpolitik. Realpolitik: Wilhelmine Political Discourse Weber’s special position between realist and idealist political theory was the result of his lifelong struggle with the political culture of the German Empire. The unification of Germany was rather the result of power politics in the form of several wars of unification.12 By the end of the nineteenth century this thought became the political ideology of liberalism.14 However. was the spokesman of this school. had been achieved by non-liberal means. Journal compilation C 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. certain people should devote their lives to politics and be trained to deal with its realities.13 On Treitschke’s view power politics should be restricted to heroic figures who could make tough decisions. In his youth Max Weber witnessed the debates of German liberals on their relationship to power politics. there was also a branch of liberalism striving for a closer contact to reality without leaving liberal ideals behind. Liberals had been forced to admit that their highest ambition.11 In the German discourse of the time. rather. Thus. Realpolitik was the result of liberal debates over how to deal with power politics. The purpose here is to discuss Weber’s peculiar model of an “idealist realist. . the creation of a nation-state. His letters to Baumgarten show that he opposed the ideology of Realpolitik. German Liberalism: A Self-Criticism.16 In his 1919 lecture “Politics as a Vocation” Weber analyzed Baumgarten’s 1866 demand as a complete transformation of the structure of political C 2007 The Author. From a modern point of view this concept belongs to the older tradition of “reason of state” and is now understood as a corner-stone of modern political realism. In 1853 the liberal Ludwig von Rochau concluded from the failure of 1848 that it was necessary to change from a primarily idealistic to a predominantly realistic policy. Baumgarten’s ideas had considerable impact on the development of Weber’s political thought. he rather admitted their importance – a fact that should not be underestimated by realists. where the concept of Realpolitik played a central role. the liberal middle classes demanded political leadership and the implementation of liberal ideals. Weber did not reject utopian or idealistic aims in politics. not least through the efforts of Otto von Bismarck. In the nineteenth century. the relationship between liberalism and power politics needed to be redefined.Weber on Power Politics and Political Ideals: Marcus Llanque 485 accept the rationale of power politics without leaving the ideals of liberalism behind. amateurs and mandarins should no longer pursue politics in their spare time. I.10 Weber regarded the way German liberalism dealt with the problems of modern society as a failure. But this required to understand and to accept the influence of democratization on the political system. the brother-in-law of Max Weber’s mother.” Being a realist. but the bourgeois revolution of 1848 failed.15 To achieve this. Baumgarten claimed that liberalism had to learn to accommodate the usages of political power. In his famous 1866 essay. however. Heinrich von Treitschke gave the idea of Realpolitik its contemporary meaning when he claimed that the essence of the state was power and nothing but power. Hermann Baumgarten.

demagogues the place of representatives (181–82). Caesarism is highly unstable because it depends entirely on the personal abilities of the leader. Since only a bureaucratic administration can satisfy the needs of the masses.19 This is the consequence of conflating different conceptions Weber developed to describe the role of personality in modern politics. Emotionalization. It regularly fails because of the question of succession. thus allowing it to avoid parliament and the usual procedures of lawmaking. On Weber’s view. Weber distinguished the Caesarist politician from the charismatic type. competing with parliament. On the other hand.17 Weber complained about German liberals’ willingness to surrender their ideals in the name of Realpolitik. and both of these from political leadership. leads to a new. democratization has three main political effects in mass societies: bureaucratization. whereas rational and continuous policy requires institutions like parliament and parties (138). Democratization means that the wishes and needs of the mass of the people have to be taken into account by politicians: stable politics requires the trust of the masses. For Weber this smacked of opportunism. parliamentarism and democracy often represent an institutional contradiction. In Weber’s eyes. On the other hand. Politicians have to secure the consent of the masses. while the C 2007 The Author. however. the Caesarist politician may serve as a remedy against bureaucracy. as well as the fact that the mass electorate can only be reached by publicity. but at the same time establishes new bureaucratic elites. Public appeals take the place of rational parliamentary deliberation. the “charismatic politician” by his special abilities. and a Caesaristic selection of political leaders (220). democratization can occur even in the absence of constitutionally established democratic institutions. to represent the rule of the political genius. As a type of rule. 2007 parties. emotionalization. by direct appeal to the people. Caesarist type of a politician. Caesarism pretends.18 On this definition. . The majority of the newly-founded National Liberal Party had supported Bismarck in his fight against the Roman Catholic Church and the socialists. Mass Democracy and Elites: Oligarchy or Aristocracy? Weber called democratization the political outcome of the emergence of mass society. For Weber. legitimized by the appeal to the mass electorate. Weber called democratization the political outcome of the emergence of mass society. by making his followers believe him already having been chosen. Much of the secondary literature equates Weber’s understanding of politics with his concept of the charismatic leader.486 Constellations Volume 14. The Caesarist acquires power through plebiscitarian power politics. the ideology of Realpolitik was nothing but camouflage for liberalism’s betrayal of its own ideals. democracy overcomes paternalistic and authoritarian rule. liberalism was unable to accept the reality of a changing social structure and its effect on politics. increasing the importance of the public for the formation of political opinion but also leading to an emotionalization of politics. Journal compilation C 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Number 4. Weber therefore accused Bismarck of having introduced voting rights for men in the Empire only in order to avoid parliamentarian opposition.

but Weber asserts that in its pure form charisma can only prevail in periods of transition. Under the conditions of mass democracy. As a sociologist. In reality. Weber also mentions cabinet government under parliamentarism. leading to hierarchy and bureaucracy. government is composed of different kinds of personal rule. and this had to be acknowledged by liberal C 2007 The Author. an insight he took from the organizational sociology of his day. ceased to exist for me years ago. the charismatic politician is only a borderline case of political leadership. “leader” is the term for all politicians who have the abilities to win acceptance for policy decisions and compete with others. not at all the ideal one. were not charismatic figures nor was the entire leadership of the Social Democratic Party (171). but for the courage he proved during the period of prosecution in the 1880s (349). The question is not whether Weber had a personal preference for the outstanding position of such leaders. one of the most modern parties of that time. this must be read as a sociological statement and not as a political one.” These findings were the starting point for Weber’s realistic theory of democracy.25 This is what Michels called the iron law of oligarchy. especially in revolutionary moments. Charisma is seen by Weber as a revolutionary power that has the political energy to break through the routine of a bureaucratic apparatus.23 In his correspondence with Michels. he thought that modern mass democracy inevitably caused the emergence of elites. Michels’ investigations of the Social Democratic Party of Germany. which mixes charismatic with bureaucratic rule. Weber’s examples among the liberals. incorporating the insights of Moisei Ostrogorski. It is a highly emotional type of leadership that cannot be generalized. they are fictions. Hence. A born political leader is not necessarily a charismatic personality. In Weber’s terminology. for it does not obey rules.21 Weber’s focus on political elites was shared in large part by the political sociology of his time.22 These thinkers of political elitism are generally considered enemies of democracy. who had put a considerable damper on optimism about democracy. . for he is not able to lay the grounds for continuity.”24 However.Weber on Power Politics and Political Ideals: Marcus Llanque 487 “leader” is simply the most general and neutral description of a politician. direct self-government on a national level was no longer possible: the masses had to be organized. was highly esteemed by the working masses not for his charisma or for his moderate intellectual abilities. for instance. showed that it tended to build hierarchies and self-perpetuating elites. Charismatic power is not lasting.20 According to Weber. the party leader for many years. a similar mixture can be seen in modern political parties. it is a sociological fact that only a small number of people determine the fate of a nation. Weber called the idea of the will of the people fictional: “Such notions as the ‘will of the people. where the top positions in the bureaucratic administration are occupied by party leaders. which regarded itself as the spearhead of German parties.26 The conclusions of organizational sociology showed that democracy – with regard to the actual development of the society – could no longer be explained by what Schumpeter called the “classical model. and frequently also by Robert Michels. Journal compilation C 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. August Bebel for example. especially by the Italian authors Gaetano Mosca and Vilfredo Pareto.’ the true will of the people.

. Power is produced either by a congruence of interests (self-interest) or by coercion (survival). the acquisition and retention of power. He characterized Bismarck by his ability to maintain the primacy of contingent political decision-making against economic and military imperatives. the question is how well these elites meet the task of leadership.” whose outstanding feature is the quality of “political leadership” (109). Journal compilation C 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Through his personal style of rule. Oligarchy is the classical term for the rule of the few who care only for their own interests.34 As a matter of course. are important factors in questions of power. .32 This tradition was familiar to Weber from his early readings of Thucydides and Machiavelli.29 Weber. 2007 politicians. literally.” an aristocracy in the “political meaning of the word.. and Alexis de Tocqueville. Weber esteemed Bismarck’s ability to make decisions for purely practical political reasons regardless of national feelings.” Rather.27 In Weber’s analysis. Can a “new aristocracy” be recognized in Michel’s oligarchies? Here one has to take the concepts of Greek political science. . Similar efforts to develop a theory of political aristocracy can be found in the work of Jacob Burckhardt. but also for an exemplary realism. But there are other ways of establishing durable power. What interested Weber most was voluntary obedience. In contrast.33 But as a sociologist Weber was interested in the whole spectrum of rationality in politics. Weber was in search of a “real aristocracy. On the other hand. acts to realize the interest of the people. is reluctant to characterize a politician’s work as “rational. He prevented parliament from being a place of education for younger politicians by depriving it of power. especially Aristotle.488 Constellations Volume 14. accustomed to assume that the great statesman at the head of the nation would take care of political matters for them” (144). Bismarck is Weber’s prototype of an exemplary realist politician.31 a tradition some realists unsatisfied with the neo-realist turn toward economics are now trying to revive. Number 4. But not every kind of elite can claim to be legitimate. stands in the tradition of reason of state. in contrast. Bismarck stands not only for a new Caesarist type of politician. Bismarck “left behind a nation entirely lacking any kind of political education.28 Political realism can be understood as the effort to eliminate irrational factors from political analysis. money. Weber assumed that instrumental rational interests. Aristocracy in this sense is not a hereditary nobility.30 Rationality as a focus on the central elements of politics. he discussed different forms of rationality extensively and analyzed their political effectiveness. a nation entirely without any political will. John Stuart Mill. to establish a framework for the rational calculation of interests and powers. Morgenthau’s attempt to establish “rational politics” or Schumpeter’s protoeconomic theory of democracy can be seen as examples. privileges as well as prestige. and praised his will to assert the priority of political decisions to the logics of warfare and for his ability not to conflate different forms of political rationality. aristocracy describes the rule of an elite which. which he roughly divided into instrumental rationality and value rationality. Bismarck’s strategy of circumventing parliament by public acclamation was clear evidence of demagoguery for Weber. for the most part. including influence. It was Bismarck who had suppressed the emergence of an elite worthy of the name. which requires belief in the rightness of the reasons and aims C 2007 The Author.

From this perspective. but rather strive for a peace among equals without any cessions of C 2007 The Author. by which he meant the ability to deal with conflict in an appropriate way. struggle is not a term Weber exclusively associates with politics but is used for all social life. Weber assumed that the form of rationality practiced in economic and military matters can conflict with prudence and sound judgment. More generally. then its evaluation is independent of its results. maintaining the primacy of politics. the famous inventor of the General Staff. majority decisions will not raise doubts even when they harm private interests. If those are dissatisfying. If they assess the alliance according to value rational principles. By conflict Weber did not mean to promote struggle as an irrational aspect of social life. the procedures itself may be rejected. The crushing defeat of the Austrian army showed the army officers.” he is influenced by vitalism or social Darwinism. insisted that Prussia should not take undue advantage of the military success. for example.35 Ideals have a specific role in creating legitimacy.36 since an actor who supports a certain form of government will doubt its authority when it no longer serves his wishes and interests. it will fail when those interests differ. on the contrary. everything military power could achieve. In other words. which led to the foundation of the German national state. on the other hand. Bismarck.38 One of Weber’s favorite examples for the advantages of the primacy of politics was Bismarck’s policy after Prussia’s victory over Austria at K¨ oniggr¨ atz in 1866. people are predominantly interested in its results. or invading Vienna were discussed. On his view “Augenmaß” (perceptiveness. ranging from the economy to love. where competition takes the role of selection – on this point Weber has frequently been criticized for being influenced by Nietzsche. which should be used in the political realm. To be sure. . Considering the place of rationality in politics. Weber was interested in legitimacy. Weber doubted whether bureaucratic rationality was appropriate for a nation’s vital questions. If. may be evaluated on an instrumental-rational basis. when he calls all politics “struggle. If states assess an alliance only according to a material understanding of their national interests. All kinds of scenarios about cessions of territory. Similar considerations can be applied to foreign policy. and he believed that conflicts could be solved by compromise. If people support the majority principle for mostly value-rational reasons.37 However. even political realists must be interested in voluntary obedience because legitimacy produces stability. especially Helmuth von Moltke. it will be much more robust when the common interest and national interests conflict. The difference between Herrschaft (usually translated as domination) and Macht (power) indeed marks the central problem of Weber’s theory of legitimation. it has intrinsic validity. power based on instrumental-rational considerations is less stable than power founded on value rationality.Weber on Power Politics and Political Ideals: Marcus Llanque 489 of political power or is based on shared political ideals. Alliances decline much more easily if the link between member-states is based on instrumental rationality alone. Journal compilation C 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. As Weber emphasized. the majority principle is given its own importance. The majority principle. smashing the Austrian army. a sense of judgment) was the first quality of the ideal politician. And his picture of the leader-politician is not far from Schumpeter’s elitist theory of democracy.

Weber followed Bismarck’s definition of politics as the art of the possible and completed it by adding. or security specialists often extends only to the limits of their fields. German mistakes during the war clearly showed that the political elite did not emulate Bismarck’s rational political judgment. To Weber it is clear that interests do dominate the actions of politicians. Journal compilation C 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Weber complained about German debates during the war about a so-called Siegfrieden (dictating peace) and fantastic dreams of territorial gains. military. but material and ideal interests. he was able to use the icon of national liberalism to argue for his own. determined the tracks along which action has been moved by C 2007 The Author. it is without regard to the consequences for other areas. but nevertheless the definition of interest is determined by the actor’s ideals: “Not ideas. which showed how much liberals trusted in military power. “and what is preferable in the long run. It was only through continuous threats to resign that he succeeded in influencing the Emperor. The situational opportunities and short-term advantages seized upon by power politics must be balanced with long-term alliances. In saying this. and anticipate the postwar period. directly govern men’s conduct. Yet very frequently the ‘world images’ which have been created by ‘ideas’ have. succumbing to the illusions of crude power politics. The expertise of fiscal. Weber discussed Nikolsburg as a model for a peace agreement during World War I. which provoked the entry of the United States into the war. Number 4. demographic. To outline a strategy that gives all these fields a common direction in order to achieve political aims exceeds the horizon of experts. Power and Responsibility For Weber power is only a means for realizing political ideals. .39 In Weber’s eyes the problem of the predominance of military logic in wartime exemplified a far more basic problem.490 Constellations Volume 14.”40 But according to Weber the analysis of what is possible in politics must include political ideals and even utopian goals. Weber did not identify power with national interest as it was later the case with Morgenthau’s realism. II. Discussions of military strategies were left entirely to military logic. that political criteria have to determine strategic questions. Political compromises are the prerequisite for lasting peace. Military expertise should not replace political judgment. 2007 territory. Although Bismarck was a national hero. The intended effect was to secure Austria’s approval to the already-planned German unification. instead of trying to attract allies. consider the interests of the various parties. When power becomes the only goal without ideals being involved it lacks the decisive component of controlling and restricting its use. namely the relationship between politics and expertise. most disastrously concerning the question of unlimited submarine war. Weber’s discussion of Bismarck went beyond mere admiration. like switchmen. By declaring Bismarck the authority for his own model. The predominance of political decision-making means that civilian politicians have to decide on questions of war. more moderate position against the dogmas of power-realism. but also in peace negotiations with Bolshevik Russia. Whatever feasible action an expert may recommend. making the moderate peace of Nikolsburg possible.

In Weber’s formula for an ideal politician cited C 2007 The Author. . so that in the end an unconditional peace may bring about the next war (359). Weber tries to connect ultimate ends with power politics. advertise. ideals and interests are more or less in a tense way related to each other. The politician can learn to deal reasonably with political ideals only by the burden of power itself. Weber was not alone in his skepticism about how easily democratic publics could be manipulated by demagogues. Nevertheless. canvass. In the US Walter Lippmann’s experiences during the war led him to drop the idea of a naturally reasonable public opinion and the public sphere as a place of deliberation. as could be seen during World War I. A pacifist. but also to woo. and to deny this fact would be not only naive but dangerously idealistic. No one’s ethics ever follow exclusively from either the principle of responsibility or the principle of conviction. for a compromise between power and idealism is unavoidable. Unlike Morgenthau. Every case shows varying parts of both aspects. 330). Consequently. “is conflict. He is not entirely in favor of ethics of responsibility. According to Weber. allowing parties and causes to acquire followers and allies. marking poles of a spectrum of possible ways to act morally. expressed through democratic elections. Publicity always holds the danger of demagogy or propaganda. among them the supporters of Realpolitik.42 But public debate on ideals is an essential part of politics. Weber is famous for his distinction between ethics of responsibility and ethics of conviction. The public sphere is the place to discuss ideals. Ethics concern the attitude of a politician towards the problem of dealing morally with power. politics stand for power.Weber on Power Politics and Political Ideals: Marcus Llanque 491 the dynamism of interests. By Werbung in domestic policy politicians try to win a stable community of followers and the consent of the people. In foreign affairs it serves the search for allies. as authors from the realist school often suggest. Journal compilation C 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. “The essence of all politics. the recruitment [Werbung] of allies and voluntary following” (173). In German Werbung or werben does not only mean recruit. this is why the modern politician has a special responsibility for what is said in public (204. political power has to be seen in connection with ideals. The effect of the real world of politics is to moderate the extent to which a politician can try to realize ideals. for example. who desires nothing more than peace. Dealing with ideals is not primarily a question of ethics. the socialists unsurprisingly turned increasingly ideological. As they were kept away from power. In democracies werben takes place in the media.”41 To this extent. or seek publicity.” Weber writes. A politician who is unfamiliar with power politics can cause unintended results that undermine his own ideals.43 Both ethics are rather ideal types. The question is whether publicity opens the door for emotions or allows the rational discussion of ideals. act irresponsibly when they drop their ideals just for the sake of power. the ideologists of power. presenting a dilemma that can never be solved satisfactorily. Only a politician entrusted with power must prove his ideals in the material world and not only in the world of public opinion. But an unjust peace will only give rise to a desire for revenge. may – for honorable reasons – accept a peace agreement at all costs.

but later crossed out the word “power” and replaced it with “responsibility. then politics is nothing but a “frivolous intellectual game. This is Weber’s liberal credo.”44 In his discussion of ethical questions. 2007 above. along with “lack of objectivity. the sense of responsibility does not only cover personal responsibility for the immediate consequences of one’s actions. Weber lists possible contents of such a cause. Journal compilation C 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. betraying one’s own ideals. The notes for his lecture “Politics as a Vocation” show that Weber originally intended to speak of an opposition between ethics of “power” and ethics of conviction.” The commitment to a cause protects the politician from the temptations of pure power politics. he has to resign. it is valid. “Responsibility for that cause becomes the decisive lodestar of all action” (353).492 Constellations Volume 14. The possibility of the free choice of ideals is the last refuge of freedom in a more and more regulated world. A politician intoxicated by power becomes unsachlich (in the double sense of Weber’s usage of the term). ideals motivate the wish to be responsible. If a politician does not act out of conviction. Much earlier and more frequent he used the pair “power and responsibility.45 Interests motivate the wish to be powerful. commitment. The nature of the cause one selects as the lodestar of one’s actions is a question of “faith” (355). which is referred to in connection with political ethics. Thus. But he points out that it also has to be seen in the light of idealistic commitment and that shows his intentions to connect both aspects of political thinking. once trespassed. irresponsibility. The modern age increasingly restricts the liberties of lifestyle. for the progress of rationalization and bureaucratization produces a tight net of norms and regulations in what Weber calls the “iron cage.” which meant to describe the political understanding he preferred. but rather for the sake of a cause for which he feels responsible. no longer committed to the cause. Whether the cause turns out to be a ‘realistic’ aim is not a question scientists can answer. the ethos or obligation that underlies commitment. Responsibility refers to a “cause” or a political aim. It marks the border of his responsibility. Weber’s formula “power and responsibility” describes the peculiarity of a professional politician who does not administer political questions like a bureaucrat and also does not seek power out of personal or material interest. the use of the word “responsibility” came relatively late. Surprisingly. the passionate commitment to a ‘cause’ [Sache]” (353). but responsibility for the ideals one wants to realize by means of power. As long as there is personal belief in the validity of the chosen cause. if the intellectual insight into the rightness of a political opinion is not matched by a corresponding inner attitude. or striving for power for the sake of power itself. and dedication to a cause. Weber wants to unite responsibility for ideals and accountability for deeds. The “cause” cannot be exchanged arbitrarily.”46 No matter whether one C 2007 The Author. . something a professional politician feels obliged to. Number 4. changing the reason and the aim of his actions. beginning with the national interest and ending with the interests of the whole of humanity.” is one of the two deadly sins of politics (354). For an appeal to Sachlichkeit in the only meaning of objectivity would indicate that Weber favoured the realistic approach. Weber connects objectivity to passion: “Passion in the sense of concern for the thing itself [Sachlichkeit which also means objectivity].

a special type of professional politician is required: realists.47 Although Weber focused on political leadership. The example of Social Democratic politicians – very often manual workers with no higher education – was used by Weber to demonstrate how democracies could generate a new kind of leadership personnel.48 To weigh these kinds of decisions. Many liberals feared the effects of democratic suffrage on the parliament. In parliament politicians can support ideals publicly and can be held responsible for the results of their politics at the same time. In the foundation period of the Weimar Republic Weber was naturally thinking of parliament as a place for fundamental political decisions: socialism versus liberalism. At the same time parliament combines power with accountability for the results of using power. Obviously. Journal compilation C 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. thus encouraging appeals to the people as a strategy to bypass parliament. The universal suffrage was mostly an invention that followed the war experience (in Germany. who have kept their sense for political vision. On the other hand Weber claimed that one advantage of democracy was its openness to new elites. in France unchanged without women’s suffrage until 1944). this model is based on the example of the British parliamentary system. For it is the public platform to pursue ideals as well as the working place for legislation. or socialism. But Weber also saw that mass democracy was prone to demagoguery as public opinion played an important role. in spite of all changes caused by mass democracy parliament was still the place that combined best accountability for deeds with responsibility for ideals (222). It is difficult to achieve a compromise of different political ideals. parliamentary democracy versus R¨ ate-republic. in Great Britain at first with some restrictions for women.Weber on Power Politics and Political Ideals: Marcus Llanque 493 strives for human rights democracy. the debate on ideals with the expertise of administration and political parties. for this would mean betraying one’s ideals. international labor movement versus middle-class nation – what long-term ideal had to be pursued? This discussion continued the debate during World War I on what the nation-states were fighting for and why they were sacrificing so much human life. According to Weber. which from a normative point of view do not tolerate compromise. Weber accepted the democratic tendency for a personal leadership appealing to the public but tried to combine it with the daily work on legislation in cooperation. who are able to put vital questions on the agenda against the resistance of routine and the power apparatus. Weber applied his idea of his political ethics to parliamentary theory by transferring the argument from the personal to the institutional dimension. he didn’t refer to the American presidential system. Ideals motivate legislation and in turn legislation transforms ideals into interests. In his view parliamentarism can connect the commitment to ideals with a realistic view on power by giving space for both. Weber was deeply convinced that fundamental questions could not be solved by means of instrumental rationality but by a value-rational decision. the demands of political leadership remain the same. . Deciding such questions requires the independence and C 2007 The Author. and at the same time unshaken by arguments that their ideals appeared to be inaccessible at first. In Weber’s times liberal parliamentarism didn’t appreciate democracy without resentment.

Apart from the fact that Weber’s model is embedded in the historical feature of German liberal discourse it provides the ongoing debate between idealistic and realistic approaches with an interesting solution. The way Weber combined idealism and realism was a reaction to certain developments in German liberalism and to a specific perception of the impact of the democratic society on the political system. C 2007 The Author. for utopia always determines action and is preferable to mere power politics or bureaucratic administration. His support for parliamentarism was not based on dogmatic grounds but on his ideas about political leadership. Number 4. This system wasn’t Weber’s invention.494 Constellations Volume 14. Weber tried to avoid the failure of the experiment to establish a democratic republic and feared a reaction back towards autocracy. For instance. Journal compilation C 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Weber came to an orthodox conclusion in an unorthodox way. the driving force behind the drafting of the new constitution in 1919. Thus. utopia.e. This change was not significant for Weber’s usual institutional preference but for his understanding of democratic politics and his claim that political leadership should prevail against bureaucratic tendencies – both in administrations and in parties. So unsurprisingly he was pessimistic about the chances of a reform of liberalism according to the lines Weber felt necessary. but without the realistic judgement how the implementation of this idea should take place. Here we return to our starting point. if one doesn’t reach for what is impossible in this world again and again” (369). Shortly after his lecture on “Politics as Vision” in January 1919 he discovered that the traditional liberal party elites returned into the parliament of the young republic. . the relationship of the art of possibility to the efforts to reach the impossible in politics. So. When parliamentarians seemed to be unable to keep the balance between bureaucracy and leadership – and the tendency to prevent a specific personality from candidacy for parliament was in Weber’s eyes a clear sign for that tendency – he was quick to look for new institutional models and found it in the system of dual executive consisting of parliament cabinet government and presidency which was about to be installed. in fact it was proposed by Hugo Preuss. In this situation Weber published the article “The President of the Reich” in February 1919 in which he advocated Hugo Preuss’ idea of a presidency that should be independent from parliament. a fear not merely the product of his times. His own candidacy for parliament had been avoided by the party bureaucracy despite of the strong support Weber had in the electorate. i. “Politics as a Vocation” ends: “what is possible can’t be achieved. the idea is exposed to failure not because of its inferior value but because of the overestimation of its impact on politics. 2007 judgment of politicians who have experience in dealing with fundamental questions. Weber thought that these liberals were incapable of understanding the nature of politics in a democratic surrounding. democracy itself can be seen as an ideal and its spreading may be seen as the natural strategy of foreign affairs. where the expertise of administrations is useless: Weber was convinced that administrations like all bureaucracies could only start when questions of polity are already settled. Weber the realist included even utopian ideals into the process of politics.

134–37. and intro.H. International Encyclopedia of Government and Politics (London/Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn. John Medearis. Angewendet auf die staatlichen Zust¨ ande Deutschlands (1853/1869). 3e (Wiesbaden: VS. 5. John Medearis. 1994). ed. and Democracy (New York: Harper and Brothers. “Der Sinn der ‘Wertfreiheit’ der soziologischen und o ¨ konomischen Wissenschaften” (1917). David Held. and intro. MA: Harvard University Press. 2006). Joseph Schumpeter’s Two Theories of Democracy (Cambridge: Harvard University Press. “Why Ideas Matter in International Relations: Hans Morgenthau. Hans J. 168–78. Cornilecius ed.. Reconstructing Realism: Between Power Politics and Cosmopolitan Ethics (Edinburgh: Keele University Press. 183–246. 2001).” in Aufs¨ atze. 2. Joachim Radkau. Realist Thought from Weber to Kissinger. 1948).” 10.. 2001). Smith. 2002). Sheehan. 4. Models of Democracy. James J. (Bern: Peter Lang. Mommsen. 91.139–44.Weber on Power Politics and Political Ideals: Marcus Llanque NOTES 495 1. Realist Thought from Weber to Kissinger. Michael Joseph Smith. Max Weber and the Dispute over Reason and Value (London: Routledge. 2005).. Max Weber and His Contemporaries (London: Unwin Hyman. Morgenthau. 7. Steven P. Williams. Ibid. No Virtue like Necessity: Realist Thought in International Relations since Machiavelli (New Haven: Yale University Press. 1951). Schmidt. 514. Political Realism and Political Idealism (Chicago: Chicago University Press. German Liberalism in the 19th Century (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Max Weber. Socialism. An Ethic of Responsibility in International Relations (Boulder: Lynne Rienner. 1978). 86. Classical Realism. Heinrich von Treitschke. a sense of responsibility. Significantly. 1987). 311. in Weber. 1991).” otherwise translated as “ethics of ultimate ends”: Weber. Joseph Schumpeter’s Two Theories of Democracy (Cambridge.. 71 14.” International Organization 58 (2004): 633–65. Reden und Briefe. Max Weber. Turner (London: Taylor & Francis. Grunds¨ atze der Realpolitik. new preface by Brian S. Berlin. 13. Paul Madden. From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. C 2007 The Author. Max Weber: An Intellectual Biography (Chicago: Chicago University Press.. 120. 178–97. Williams. “Bundesstaat und Einheitsstaat. “Ethics of conviction” or “ethics of principle conviction. vol. On realism: Jonathan Haslam. Joseph A.’ to the god or demon who is its overlord. 1996). (Frankfurt/M. Wright Mills eds. This means passion in the sense of matter-of-factness. 1942). Journal compilation C 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 1. Turner and Regis A. Johannes Winckelmann. 6e (T¨ ubingen: Mohr. 143–64. Max Weber: Political Writings.. 1985). Alastair J. . 9. 3. A different analysis is made by Daniel Warner.. 115: “Passion. 1987) 121–38. 1997). 48–53. 12. Ludwig August von Rochau. of passionate devotion to a ‘cause. “Robert Michels and Max Weber: Moral Conviction versus the Politics of Responsibility” in Mommsen and J¨ urgen Osterhammel. Held. Schumpeter.” in Frank N. Factor. Morgenthau. The Realist Tradition and the Limits of International Relations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 2005) 181–84. Demokratietheorien. John Herz. 6. Realist Thought from Weber to Kissinger (Baton Rouge: Louisiana University State Press. 11. “Realpolitik. 23–53. Vienna: Klostermann. 1920). 110–14. Christoph Frei. Hans J. Magill. Murray. Die Leidenschaft des Denkens (Munich: Carl Hanser. Fritz Ringer. Peter Lassman and Ronald Speirs eds. 2005). Politics among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace (New York: Knopf. Smith.H. Gerth and C. hereafter cited parenthetically. M. Capitalism. 2002). 1145–47. Wolfgang J. we find other translations struggling to make Weber’s formula comprehensible: Weber. 1991). 184. and the Moral Construction of Power Politics. Eine intellektuelle Biographie. From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology. 1986). Manfred G. 3 (Leipzig. 8. and a sense of proportion. Hans-Ulrich Wehler ed. 2e. 1984).. Michael C. Gesammelte Aufs¨ atze zur Wissenschaftslehre. eds. ed. Michael C. H. Models of Democracy (Stanford: Stanford University Press. 1972).

Rationality and Modernity (London. and Weber: A Historical Comparison. 139–58. quoted Mommsen.496 Constellations Volume 14. Winckelmann. “Bismarcks Außenpolitik und die Gegenwart.. 2 vols. 1973. 1915. Max Weber. cf. 85. Max Weber. John Stuart Mill. Nachtr¨ age zur Biographie des Werks (T¨ ubingen 2003). Often Herrschaft is translated with “domination” (ES 53. 1995). “Der Sinn der ‘Wertfreiheit’. Hans J. (Frankfurt/M. Stephen Kalberg. 175–76.Y. Max Weber. 1880–1920. The Anti-Democratic Sources of Elite Theory: Pareto. Political Parties: A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracy tr. 27. Robert Michels. 17. Alan S. 1973). Weber. eds. “Constitutional Caesarism: Weber’s Politics in their German Context. 17. in Wolfgang J. Morgenthau. 5e (New York: Knopf. Diss. “Deutschland unter den europ¨ aischen Großm¨ achten” (1916). Guenther Roth and Claus Wittich.” 513. 1987). 1964). 34. 28. There are different opinions concerning the question whether value-rationality can claim to be a separate type of rationality: cf. Max Weber and His Contemporaries (London: Unwin Hyman. 125. tr. 1984). 247–55. 395. “From Political Economy to Political Sociology. 22. An Intellectual Portrait (Garden City/N. Weber. 25 Dec. ed. Jahrhundert. 1959). ed. 112–29. Werk und Person: Dokumente (T¨ ubingen: Mohr. Max Weber. Pareto. Nye. Michels (London: Sage.. More recent efforts prefer “rule” (PW). Max Weber and the Dispute over Reason and Value. 25. Max Weber und Thukydides. Sven Elliaeson. Max Weber. 21. Lawrence A. A. Ein biographischer Beitrag zur Kl¨ arung der Ideenwelt des deutschen politischen Liberalismus im 19.: Anchor C 2007 The Author. eds. Birke ed. 19. Economy and Society. Hermann Baumgarten. Aristocratic liberalism: The social and political thought of Jacob Burckhardt. Elites against Democracy. Letter to Michels of 4 Aug. 31. Johannes Winckelmann. 2007 15. 1968). Scaff. “Der deutsche Liberalismus. Weber. 1977). Max Weber’s Political Sociology: A Pessimistic Vision of a Rationalized World (London: Westport. Cornerstones for the Analysis of Rationalization in History”. 29. Leadership Ideals in Bourgeois Political Thought in Germany 1890–1933 (Princeton: Princeton University Press. 1987).” Frankfurter Zeitung. Sam Whimster and Scott Lash. 220. 1969). 984–986. Haslam. Greg Russell. Robert A. An Ethic of Responsibility in International Relations (Boulder: Lynne Rienner. Politics Among Nations. Hyland is critical of this in his Democratic Theory: The Philosophical Foundations (Manchester: Manchester University Press. Erlangen-N¨ urnberg. 1984). Hermann Baumgarten – 1825–1893. Journal compilation C 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. in Gesammelte Politische Schriften. Morgenthau and the Ethics of American Statecraft (Baton Rouge: Louisiana University State Press. “Max Weber’s Types of Rationality. Economy and Society. 1990). The Cambridge Companion to Max Weber (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Political Writings.. Max Weber and German Politics. 26. 24. These problems are discussed in Reinhard Bendix. Glassman and Vatro Murvar. Number 4. Mosca. Wolfgang J. Economy and Society. 600. Eine Selbstkritik.M. Michael Steinberg (Chicago: Chicago University Press. 127. Daniel Warner. Walter Struve. ed. 1974). Max Weber’s Early Writings” in Ronald M. Political Elites (London: Allen and Unwin. Max Weber and German Politics. Esser 2003. 17–88. 5e (T¨ ubingen: Mohr. 1973). 1908. 1988). 18. Wilhelm Hennis. This distinction also creates problems of translation. Political Writings. Breiner 1991). 33. 1991)... Cf. 1992). 219–20. 16. . in Americal Journal of Sociology 85 (1980): 1145–1179. Kahan. 30. (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. Hans J. Eduard Baumgarten. 5.” Preußische Jahrb¨ ucher 18 (1866): 455–515 and 575–629. Max Weber. Political Writings.. 261. 41–48. 134–39. James L. and Alexis de Tocqueville (New York: Oxford University Press. 1880–1920. Max Weber. 20. Mosca. No Virtue like Necessity: Realist Thought in International Relations since Machiavelli. Wolfgang Heinrich Stark. 35. Geraint Parry. 32. 67.” in Stephen Turner. Mommsen and J¨ urgen Osterhammel. David Beetham. Eden and Cedar Paul (New York: Dover. eds. 2000). in Gesammelte Politische Schriften. 189. Brubaker 1984. Mommsen. 23. Turner and Factor. eds.

46. Die Gesammelten Werke (Berlin: Stollberg. 44. 110–114. 176. Thompson. 481–482. 48. Gustav Schmidt. 1924–35). 1922). 222. 1992). 287. Marcus Llanque. Berlin.1962). Glassman and Vatro Murvar. Wissenschaft als Beruf / Politik als Beruf . Walter Lippmann. Economy and Society. Murray. 31. Max Weber and the Dispute over Reason and Value. 1986. Fleeing the Iron Cage: Culture. 7.H. An American Approach to Foreign Policy (Princeton: Princeton University Press. Otto von Bismarck. most recently Politische Theorie und Ideengeschichte and Bedrohungen der Demokratie (both 2007). 1964). Demokratisches Denken in der Weimarer Republik (Baden-Baden: Nomos.” 127. Lawrence Scaff. Economy and Society. Weber. Weber. From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology. 334. 152. See Weber’s original notes in Max Weber.. Bruun. 3. 111–17. 1960). 39. 2000).Weber on Power Politics and Political Ideals: Marcus Llanque 497 Books. Die deutsche Debatte im Ersten Weltkrieg (2002) and co-editor of several volumes. 251. 169. Political Realism and the Crisis of World Politics. Herz. 280. The Realist Tradition and the Limits of International Relations. Foucault and the Ambiguity of Reason (London: Routledge. vol. 41. 242. Untersuchungen zu den politischen Gedanken von Meinecke. 1989).. Weber. 399. 289–95. Weber. Regis and Factor. Smith. 36. Politics. 26. Troeltsch. “‘Der Sinn der Wertfreiheit’. Weber. 40. “Bismarcks Erbe in der Reichsverfassung. “Bismarcks Außenpolitik und die Gegenwart. who stresses the mutual character of Herrschaft. as a motto for one of his books on realism: Kenneth W.” 517. 38–70. vol. eds. Marcus Llanque teaches political and social theory at Humboldt University. Weber. David Owen. Weber. Deutscher Historismus und der Ubergang zur parlamentarischen Demokratie. ed. I’m following H. eds. Political Realism and Political Idealism. 9. 1972). which is seen as a social relationship: the will to govern is matched by a will to comply.“ in Gesammelte Politische Schriften. 48–53. Kenneth Thompson used this citation. Realist Thought from Weber to Kissinger. Maturity and Modernity: Nietzsche. He is the author of Demokratisches Denken im Krieg. 38. in a slightly different translation. Science. Max Weber’s Political Sociology: A Pessimistic Vision of a Rationalized World (Westport: Greenwood.” in Christoph Gusy. Reconstructing Realism: Between Power Politics and Cosmopolitan Ethics. 37. 43. Mark Warren. 1984).” American Political Science Review 82 (1990): 31–50. ¨ 47. Wolfgang J. Ronald M. 1994). 184. Williams. Mommsen/Wolfgang Schluchter. (T¨ ubingen: Mohr. Values and Politics in Max Weber’s Methodology (Copenhagen: Munksgaard. 42. . C 2007 The Author. 45. “Massendemokratie zwischen Kaiserreich und westlicher Demokratie. Max Weber (L¨ ubeck: Hamburg. Public Opinion (London: Allen and Unwin. Journal compilation C 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. “Max Weber’s Liberalism for a Nietzschean World. and Modernity in the Thought of Max Weber (Berkeley: University of California Press.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful