History Notes > University Of Cambridge History Notes > History of Political Thought (1890-Present) Notes
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'"Democratisation" in the sense that the structure of social estates is being levelled by the state run by officials, is a fact' (Suffrage and Democracy in Germany). What followed from this fact for Weber?
The citation deployed in the question title alludes to Max Weber's concept of modernity. For Weber modernity as a phenomenon posed a multitude of difficulties in the sphere of government and politics. At the forefront of his thinking are the particular obstacles encountered during his own lifetime in his native Germany; a period of unification, incredible economic expansion, social metamorphosis, defeat, and rehabilitation at the conclusion of the First World War. Max Weber was a sociologist who vehemently stressed the primacy of politics, and the quality of politicking, in modern society. He questioned the nature of political authority and obedience. Ultimately however, his main concern was how it would be possible to construct, given the insatiable wave of 'democratisation' that characterised the modern age, a political system in Germany that would accommodate her potential as a powerful nation-state with world-wide influence; a 'Machtstaat'. Weber, in his The Nation State and Economic Policy (NSEP), designates himself an 'economic nationalist' and as such should be regarded as a thinker of political economy, it is a worthy to note that he was concerned with more than politics in isolation. It is possible to visualise a subtlety in Weber's writing that not only spans all of the social sciences but highlights the fundamental conflict in human nature that is invariably translated into politics. Therefore, in the political realm Weber sought to elucidate 'the enduring power, the political interests of the nation' (NSEP), while ultimately his most telling theme resides in his examination 'those characteristics which we think of as constituting the human greatness and nobility of our nature' (NSEP). Despite Weber's attempts to distance himself from the traditionally German liberal notion of historical progression, he certainty saw modernity and 'democratisation' as synonymous and in terms of a developing state of affairs from which politics could neither escape nor ignore. Before examining what Weber meant by 'democratisation' and its implications it is firstly necessary to isolate his basic understanding of what Weber meant by 'modern political science' (staatswissenschaft). For Weber humans are primarily political beings driven by the desire to acquire political power and are thus essentially self-interested. In correction to Marx however this conviction to accumulate power and influence never results in satisfaction or fulfilment; there is no prescribed conclusion to the pursuit. Such a pursuit is inevitably ubiquitous and induces conflict with others. Whereas Marx envisages a struggle (Kampf) between classes in modern society, Weber reduces the political conflict to that singularly between individuals. Classes and political parties contravene the ideal political machine. In his Economy and Society (ES) Weber depicts 'the rule (Herrschaft) of man over man' as inescapable. In other words it is in the nature of politics that some men rule, while others are ruled. Weber was chiefly concerned with how the relationship between ruler and ruled is formulated. Power politics is entirely autonomous and the principle objective of all human beings. The Marxist notion of a world where no such conflict exists is mere 'Utopia'. In Weber's words all humans are engaged in an 'eternal struggle to preserve and raise the quality of our national species' (NSEP). Consequently Weber also raises such a struggle to the international level between nations. The state itself will impose its will upon its constituents using the threat of physical violence. The state of politics in the modern world forms the crux of his thesis. Modernity is defined as the 'disenchantment of the world' in Weber's Parliament and Government in Germany under the New Order. Weber developed the theory of his colleague, Georg Jellinek, at Heidelberg University into three ideal types of legitimate authority that do not exist exclusively in reality. In medieval times the 'patrimonial' or 'patriarchal' ideal dominated government. This ideal is built upon what Weber terms 'traditional authority'; the right to rule is derived from custom and recent history. This form of government can be seen in feudal kingship. In the state of disenchanted or 'rationalised' modernity however two ideal forms of authority have emerged: legalistic or bureaucratic rule and charismatic rule. The penetration of capitalist principles into the field of politics and the emergence of mass populations has created the need for a new form of government; patriarchal government is no longer sufficient. It is this bureaucratisation that Weber refers to as the 'democratisation' that is deployed in the question title. One aspect of the new bureaucracies in modern politics is mass
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