Tag Archives: Max Weber

Notes on Power, Love, and Science: From Agony to Max Weber

DRAFT — Handwritten Notes added in Italics

Notes on Power, Love, and Science:

—From Agony to Max Weber —


1. Preliminary Notes: Why dig up Weber this late?

2. Texts by Weber, analysis/interpretation.

[“Religious Rejections of the World And Their Direction” (Gerth and Mill).

“The Relationship of Religion to Politics, Economics, Sexuality, and Art” (Fischoff)

My intention is to read these texts as if they included “Science” in the title “Religion”]

3. Love Science Possible?

—Being Rational and Becoming Wise —


I. Preliminary Notes: Why dig up Weber this late?

1-1. How I came to read “good old” Weber again?

Weber’s works are the classics in sociology. One might say Weber started “Social Science” and presumably all social scientists have read Weber, just as every physicist reads Newtonian Mechanics.

Yet, in listening to social scientists in a North American setting, I used to notice that their works do not seem to reflect their knowing of Weber’s works. By and large, Weber is forgotten or ignored. I knew Marxists do not like Weber. But most of social scientists in North America are not Marxists and would deny that they have an “ideological bias”. So that was not the reason.

I thought perhaps Weber has become obsolete. Sociology in recent times has had sophistication surpassing Weber, particularly in “scientific” methodology. Weber’s works might be thought as belonging to the “pre-science” level of Sociology. For one thing Weber did not take Statistics on questionnaires and thus is “out of style” in the modern Sociology.

[In contrast, every physicist today would say that Newton’s Mechanics was superseded by Relativity and Quantum Mechanics. They even say Newtonian Mechanics is “wrong”. Yet, they do still read and even use it. That it was “proved” to be wrong, does not make Newton “obsolete”. Physics is “co-operative” and “constructive” in that sense. It is built on the works in the past. Even mistakes are not wasted.

The attitude of social scientists seems to be “competitive” and “arrogant” in this respect. They have too much of Oedipus Complex?]

But my friends did not suggest me any reason why they discarded Weber.

I even suspected racial prejudice against Germans. Although British American academics do exhibit anti-continental bias, that did not seem to be sufficient.

I have been puzzled about this curious social phenomenon in sociology. In order to find out what has happened to Weber’s work, I picked up a few books and read a few pages. [1] To my surprise, it was I myself who had forgotten Weber! I found Weber in despair, and defeated into “Power Science”. Yet his yearning and struggle for “Love Science” are evident. To my interest in the possibility of “Love Science”, Weber provides a nice text/material, though his conclusion is negative. I intend to analyze why (how) Weber came to the negative verdict.

[Weber reached his negative conclusion, because he started with an axiomatic proposition that “Rationality” is born out of the World View that basic human relation is conflict/strife. And consequently he would not get out of the world of conflict/strife where Love can only be “irrational”, “insanity”. To overcome the conflict/strife among and enforce any control over irrational fighters, a stronger force (violence) is needed. That leads society to Nation-State which is the ultimate violence. “Rationality” is the justification of the ultimate violence. And European Science is based on “Rationality” as such. I shall discus this further in part 2 and 3.]

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full use of it.]

But, it is “Right that is more popular word/notion among north Americans and Scholars of the time. they were not quite out of the McCarthyism. In the Cold War climate, there was a subtle anxiety as to talking of certain subjects. Not that academics liked McCarthy nor did they necessarily support Cold War Ideology, but they appeared to have exercised “avoiding troubles” and “choosing rewarding topics”. They were,  in general “defensive”. That is how “The Universe of Discourse” among scientists then was formed.

Even today, I sense that North American Social Scientists are “defensive”. They talk of Human Right, but not much about the Dynamics of Power. Talks of Power actually presuppose existence of Power or Power Structure in which “Right” appears as “resistance” and “protection”. But in the rhetoric of talking about “Right”, “Power” is implicit, not direct target of attention. The rhetoric does let people to have a discourse on problems of power in a sense of “reacting to” them, but it avoids directing the discourse to the essence of Power question of how the Power exists and is maintained in the first place. The “Human Right” rhetoric  covertly makes the Power and its violence “acceptable,” say like, “It is there and one cannot do anything about its existence itself” or “Power is a part of the Given Social Condition which cannot easily be changed and hence one ought not to attempt to change. And since one is not going to change it, it ought not be talked about.”

Talks of “Human Right”, (“Property Right”, etc.) do not intend to deny the “Right” of a “Sovereign Nation-State” of exercising its violence such as declaring War, imprisoning and quarantining people. “Right” is technological “moderations — “sugar coating” — of the fundamental violence. It does not intend to eliminate violence, but “justify under conditions”, specify the procedures, and the manner of violence. But, of course, it may be thought as “the best one can”, given that humans are aggressive beasts.

That is not what I am concerned. The problem comes when the technology of “the best one can” becomes the foundation of “Rationality” and hence “Science”. Love is then excluded from Ratinality and Science. That is the problem. And modern social scientists do not question their metaphysical assumption that “humans are fundamentally aggressive,

Weber talked about “Legality” in Wirtschaft and Gesellschaft. Woody might be interested in this. America, our schools in general ignore “Rechtssociologie”.

“Right” refers to what is permitted by and within a given power structure. For Native Americans to be granted the “Right” to hunt and fish is not the same thing as having “Power” to do the same. When we come to consider “Love and Nature” as a part of Native Science, we shall have further complications–you see why I am stuck!

violent”. “Right” is a compromise between fighting beasts.

*See also: Wirtschaft and Gesellschaft for “Law”/ Niklas Luhmann Rechtssociologie

Radical left scholars who followed the orthodox Marxist belief in “Power Struggle” did not wish to talk critically about Power either. They see Power is the instrument to be used by the “Vanguard of the History” (i.e. Communist Elite) for the construction of the Proletariat Utopia. But, at the same time, they appeared to have had a “gut feeling” that Power is fundamentally “Irrational”, despite their rationalization.

Hume said “Reason is, and ought only to be, a Slave to Passion”, If so, then “Science” as something about “The Means” is not competent to deal with the “Passion” (Will, Desire, Value, etc.) that exercises Power. And Scientists and Scholars are, then nothing more than technical “assistants” at their best to the “Sovereign Power Being”. Prostitutes have a better position in that they might touch the Passion of the Sovereign Power Being. By some reason, Scientists and Scholars, at least in their pretense, talked as if dealing with “Passion” is below their intellectual dignity. [Kissinger was merely “honest” in this respect.]

Weber became, in effect, a persona non grata, because of the “defensiveness” of Scientists and Scholars.

1-2. Weber’s personal struggle in Power and Love.

Weber characterizes “Power” as “that which forces people to do what they do not otherwise do”. And it was placed as the fundamental element of every human relation, upon which Social Relations were considered to be built. Weber did recognize “Love/Eros/Affinity” in human relations, but he concluded that they are “irrational” and unfit as foundation of social institutions — may they be “marriage”, “economy”, “legal”, “religions” or “politics” —.

Ironically, Weber’s writings betray an inordinate internal struggle with regard to the question of Power and Love. It is as if Weber wanted some sensitive souls to sense that what he formally announced in his “Science” were quite opposite of his internal feeling. In the name of “Science”, he had to say what he said. But at the same time, he had apparent pain in obeying the “Norm” of Science, which he himself imposed on his works. He advocated “scientific objectivity” and “Rationality” in the strongest argument that he could find. But then he turned around and cried in the pain that “Iron Cage” of science gave him. [See Mitzman. “Iron Cage”.]

It is well known that Weber had difficulties with his “Junker” father and “religious” mother. He could not respect “philistine” father. Nor could he accept “spiritualist” mother. He went to military school and became an army officer. He engaged in “duels” and at one time got his face cut. It is said that his mother slapped him for that. He disliked “stupid” military, but at the same time he took pleasure in displaying “machismo” and was a proud officer. He had an affair with a girl and then married another, which bothered him a great deal later on. He had many nervous breakdowns. He had to fight with his own conditions of mind alternating between “high excitement and deep depression” which were out of his control. In short, Weber was a huge bundle of inner contradictions.

[See the introduction to From Max Weber by H.H. Gerth and C.W. Mills. Galaxy Books. 1958. H38 W36.]

His intense search of “Science” (Rational Intelligence) was not just for “academic” interest nor accidental. He was searching for a salvation of his soul in the quest of “Science”. I admire Weber for this. At least, his “Science” was not for “academic prestige/promotion”, “salary increments”, which he advocated in his “Science As A Vocation”. He was dead serious.

1-3. The Inner Conflict/Strife of Modern European Intellectuals.

*+ “Modernity or Modernism? Weber + contemporary social theory in lash.

One can see the same “conflict” in the modern intellectual movements in Germany, say in Kant, Fichte, Hegel, Nietzsche, Goethe, Marx, Freud, Mannheim, Marcuse, Habermas, et al. In the 19th century, the “Peasant” Germany was trying to respond to the “industrial Revolution”, which invaded her. It set a peculiar tradition for German intellectuals. Germans were asking questions to themselves. Adapt “Science” and survive? Resist it? Make it acceptable? Fight and win the race to the modern scientific/intellectual hegemony? They were apprehensive about “Science-Technology” and at the same time they were trying to “Modernize” Germany. To them, “Science” was an enigma and hope.

[as to the “cultural/intellectual” history, see P. Ricoeur Lectures On Ideology And Utopia. Columbia U Press 1986.]

The intellectual turmoil in historical Germany has a good parallel with what Weber had to go through in personal sense. And in European Intellectual Tradition, the sharp, conflict, confrontation, crisis, were the well-spring of intellectual achievements. Marx’s sense of “Dialectics of Class Struggle” and Freud’s sense of “Oedipus Complex” are cases in point. “Strife” is the trademark of European Intellectuality. From the European standard, Oriental “attitudes” such as Zen and Tao are not “Intellectual”, let alone “Scientific”. Marx called it “Asiatic” in a sense of contempt.

I add here that Native Americans and Intelligentsia in “Colonial countries” have the same trouble as Germans had in the 19th century, in their confrontation with invading “European Science/Technology/Rationality”.

[See V. Deloria God Is Red.

E.W. Said Orientalism.

Pantheon Books 1978. DS12 524.

(This is from an Islamic point of view)

Nathan Reigold. Scientific Colonialism.

Smithsonian Inst. Press 1987.]

There is also a parallel in “Feminist Science”.

[See Evelyn Fox Keller. Reflections On Gender And Science.

Yale Univ. Press 1985.

Hilary Rose and Steven Rose. Ideology Of/In The Natural Sciences. G.K. Hall & Co. 1979.

Mary Field Belenky. Women’s Ways of Knowing. Basic Books 1986.]

1-4. The Epistemology of the Oppressed.

I had some interest in “Native Science” that a small group of Native American scholars in my locality was doing. I soon came to realize that the central issue in the research is “Power of Knowledge; European versus Native”.

The “Power of Knowledge” became an important issue, because the overt physical violence used by “Conquistador” was replaced by a more effective means of repression, which is the control by “Science/Knowledge”. We have now “Epistemological Oppression”.

The typical everyday example of “Epistemological Oppression” is that the oppressed people have “no voice”. It is not that the oppressed did not complain. They do. But they are not “heard”. The reason is simple. The intellectuals in the position to effect social scale communication regard the “Voice of the Victims” as not “scientific”, “Objective”, “Rational”, “Inarticulate” etc. That is, the poor people have no “authority” nor “legitimacy” to command listening. They are denied the access to the communication.

[See Bishop Remi De Roo. Cries of Victims, Voice Of God. Novalis. 1986.]

And it is more tragic that the people themselves have the tendency of worshiping “intellectual heroes”. I observed that people, and academics  alike, tend to listen and “believe” big name “scientists” such as Carl Sagan. Suppose a child suggested to them that, say, “Universe may be like an Infinite Series of Images made of two parallel mirrors”, nobody would pay any attention. They have to be told by Big Name Scientists and get “impressed”. Not that they do not know fallacy of “Hero Worship” in Science. In fact they complain against the discrimination. But the statement from a child is not “quotable” in academic communication, whereas the same sentence from a Big Name Scientist has a “quoting value”. And the very people who complain that “nobody listens to me” do not in general listen to children or their own close friends. The discrimination has a “One-Way” hierarchical structure. It is tragic when that happens to ethnic minorities. In a mutual contempt, they deny their own access to the “grassroots support” that their community could provide. “Power Science” enforces such a tendency among the oppressed and silenced.

We note here that “knowing” in the professional sense has little to do with a scholar’s living, other than in the sense of job security and winning the competition for prestige and power positions. If a statement is not “quotable”, it is useless for “publication” on which they depend their life. Their “Knowledge Acquisition” (they call “Knowledge Production” in a megalomaniac conceit) is “Alienated Work”.

It would be quite a different story, if the “knowing” has to do with actual life — say, asking where the bathroom is in an urgent need —. Even a child can be a great help. Scholars and Scientists would appreciate the value and thank the child. But in the formal sense of “knowing” (science), “helpful communication” as such does not count.

The “knowing” in formal, institutional Science is primarily for “Knowledge Claim”, not for “helping people”. And if the Scientists and Scholars wish to have “Immortality” in their Knowledge Claim, they have to “register” the claim. The helpful communication that ordinary people provide for each other is not “Immortal” but “Ephemeral”. It helps and disappears. Scientists and Scholars, as “professionals” in the Knowledge Claim competition could not afford to waste their mind on “insignificant” statements of little children or people with no “authority”.

And even in ordinary conversations, we often engage in “Knowledge Competition”. Whoever utters a “New Knowledge,” say, read from newspapers or new books — win their game. The primary aim of talks as such is “Display of Knowledge” in the “One-Upmanship” game. It matters very little that what was said helps nobody. One tries to sound “smart” and gain”admiration”. Suppose one tries to help one’s friend by offering a comment that touches on an important problem in the friend’s life; it is most likely resented. Unless one is confident in the degree of “intimacy” with the person, one must regard offering a “too personal comment” is unwelcome offense, and it is not good “etiquette”.

We do know the disgusting habit of “righteously superior” people to offer “free advices” unsolicited. They are not “polite”. Even to our own children, we try to control our impulse to offer “free advice”. We should be careful! People could be offended by offer of help. I wonder in what degree even Lovers tolerate mutual help. Rather the game of “news” is relatively innocent.

Weber had something to say about this. He thought that intellectual discourse is fundamentally a “Power Struggle”. He suggested that even Lovers cannot avoid “dominating”, “subjugating” and thereby “exploiting” in mental sense. To him, the propensity of women to submit themselves to the intellectual domination of males and become “willing victims” is “Irrational”, yet that seemed the only “practical” way the Love Relation can be maintained. However, in his despair he did suggest the possibility of “Grace” — he used this word only once in the entire book —, but did not say any more than using the word. [I shall come back to this point later.]

But, that tell us that we do not “communicate”. We do not like to listen, even if it is really helpful. We resent precisely because “helpful communication” is “real”. And we do not wish to know other people’s troubles, because we have our own and we might be embarrassed to realize that we have no ability to help So we stay in “pleasant” exchanges of superficial greeting, such as “good morning”. When we say “How are you?,
we do not really mean to say that we are interested.

In this way, people with low social status are denied of the access to social scale communication. The Native Scientists know that well, for they suffer the very same “discrimination” and they talk about “Silenced People” in the History. Yet, it seems that they are not aware that they themselves do the same to the “Powerless”.

[Subnote 1-4. Example of mutual disrespect among the oppressed.

It is well known that even unionized Laborers vote for the Conservative Politicians. Not that workers trust the politician, but they do not trust themselves. Weber would point out that “Power” could not exist without the “Dependency” of the subjugated.

We might go to a small town and observe how the town council makes decisions, say on the basis of “Expert Recommendation”. There may be oppositions from townspeople and they might make a presentation to the town council. The typical attitude of the councilors is to say “Whose opinion do we believe?” Obviously the councilmen have no ability to “think” for themselves and have to depend on “Experts” from a Consultant Firm in a Big City. The town pays several hundred thousand dollars to the experts and ask for “Scientific Research”. Having paid for it, they cannot now listen to townspeople, who are “obviously” uneducated, ignorant, and, worse, “emotional”. That is to say, the councilmen do not believe that townspeople can be “intelligent”. It is logically understandable. As far as the councilmen are concerned they represent the best of the town’s intelligence otherwise they would not be elected. But since they do not know, they have to believe that nobody in town knows. That is the reason why they asked the Consultants. And that is what Weber discussed under the terms of “Legitimacy” and “Authority”. From that “Ought”, one can easily slip to “Is” of the fact.

It used to be said “If you are so smart, how come you are not rich (and powerful)”. One can sympathize with such sayings and understand that the issue of “Credibility” is important — for the most cases in politics have to do with “unknowns” and the community has to “gamble” on the basis of incomplete set of information —. The real issue is not the “Fact” which belongs to the Past, but “Trust” in the Future sense. We do not make important decisions by opinions of anybody whose past record does not impress us. But that is not because the Past Record is relevant. An opinion at a particular time expressed in a statement is not actually the issue. The issue is “With Whom One Feels Like Risking Life?” Certainly, we do not go into a venture with “Losers”. We look for “Winner/Hero — i.e. Authority, The Power —.

If the National Leader says “Let us fight a War”, you follow. Suppose your wife says do not like War. You say to her and to yourself “That is irrational. I cannot and ought not follow women’s intuition”, Besides, following wife’s instinct is below man’s intellectual dignity. It hurts your pride in “manhood”. That is why we go to wars. Needless to say, there are plenty of “Rational arguments” why you have to fight. In our history, there was no war that was not intellectually “justified” and “rationalized”.

Such cases make us question as to why we “repress” our feelings hinder “intellect – just like colonial officers suppress colonized people and that is the problem of “Power Knowledge” that I would like to discuss in this note.

[See also:

Max Weber. The Sociology of Religion. (19220 (Tr) E. Fishoff. Beacon Press 1956. BL 60 W433.

Arthur Mitzman.  The Iron Cage. A.Knopf 1970. Hm22 G3 W455

S. Lash and S. Whimster (ed) Max Weber, Rationality And Modernity. Alen & Unwin 1987 . JM22 83 W454735.

E.W. Said. “Foucault and the Imagination of Power”. in D.C. Hoy (ed). Foucault: A Critical Leader. Blackwell 1986.]

1-6. Asiatic Sense of Knowing

Weber is a European Scientist. His sense of Knowing and Intellect is distinctively European. There are, however, non-European sense of Knowing and Intellect.

The first thing Confucius said in the Analects — which is the most important text of all Confucian teaching — is that:

“Is it not pleasure to learn and in times recall what one has learned and fondle them. It is like having an old friend visiting from afar. If people around me does not know this pleasure, it is nothing to warm up about. (Pleasure is mine)”.

Of course the above is my translation. When I was taught Confucius, my teachers did not offer such a translation. Rather, my teachers and scholars alike hurriedly passed the first paragraph and went into the “technology” of how to maintain ritual orders etc. I hated Confucius. But by a chance I came to read the text again, I noticed that in the first paragraph Confucius was stating the Purpose of Learning. The purpose was “Pleasure”. One studies in order to know “Friend”. Confucius did care about pragmatics of rituals for the good of society. But “Knowing” was not for the “utilitarian value” nor the “Moral Cords”. It was simply the pleasure of having Friend.

Such “Knowledge”, if it is called knowledge, has nothing what so ever to do with “Power”. Just as it is absurd to “Claim Friend”, the “Knowledge of Friend” is not claimable. In this, Confucius was much like Taoists and Zen Learners.

I mention this as an example of Non-European sense of Knowing. It is a “Sensual Pleasure” that the Knowledge is cherished.

To be sure, even in Europe, there is “Knowing the Sensual Pleasure”. Knowing Art, Music, and Poetry is of that kind. But that is definitely outside the sense of Knowing of European Science. It is not “Rational” from European sense of Epistemology.

We open any European text books on Epistemology, and read a few paragraphs. We would notice that the preoccupation of “Philosophers” in Epistemology is “Justifying the Power/Authority of Claimed Knowledge”.

In the Oriental sense, no Justification is needed.

You say “That is Irrational”? If you say so, I agree. For the term “Rational/Irrational” is defined in the context of having conflicts and power struggles as to knowledge claim. (It came from Religious Inquisition, where “right or wrong,” was a deadly serious matter that People were often burned on stake or stoned. Socrates was pre-Christian. But even then the “Truth” of knowledge Claim was a serious matter in which “wrong” was punishable by death. That is far different from the “Sensual Pleasure” of Tao, Zen or Confucius.

I am interested and proposing to look at Weber from Non-Authoritarian view of Knowing. I note that Weber went into despair because he could not resolve “conflict” even between Lovers. The reason is his European Intellect stood on Power Conflict. Using such an Intellect/Rationality, he naturally could not resolve the Conflict of Sexes.

Confucius would have recommended to have “Proper Ritual of Mutual Respect” between Sexes. That would be “practical”. Weber, however, sensed that Sex (Erotic Relation) has “Religious” significance. That is: Sex (Eros) is something “Sacred” to Weber. Therefore, he would not go along with Confucius. To that I rather take Weber’s side.

Nonetheless, Confucius offers a perspective from which one can see what Weber was thinking/feeling. As such I value Confucius.