Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Max Weber: The original SPA kid

Max Weber is well… kind of a nonce. He doesn’t really understand that when you provide a lecture paper the idea is to argue a thesis. You know, a point you want to investigate. Well Max forgot this point. Rather he wrote “Maxie’s short history of politics” and then he got to his point…after more on the cult of personality. Weber was correct in his analysis of political organizations. Yes feudal societies developed into modern states with the rise of directly employed civil servants. I’m sure Louis the XIV’s attendant’s could tell ya that. Centralizing the state requires a middling class dependant on state patronage. Soon enough the merchant class wants the bureaucrats to work for them and blah blah blah. We know the story, probably because Weber’s ideas have permeated much of our notions about politics. However, Weber could put a crack addled shemale prostitute to sleep with this language.

Anyway I think I should spend proper time on the last 15 pages of his lecture, aka the thesis. Weber’s thesis isn’t very well put. His language is wavering and indecisive. Unsurprising since his ideal of politics is wavering and indecisive. Weber is the liberal ideal, a quivering pile of academic goo, able to engage in complex thoughts, but unable to really ever come up with a grand vision or a strong political will. Heaven forbid we have ambition, for to do so would lead to charismatic leaders, and fanciful “revolution.” Politics will never provide us with any kind of real transformative change. Weber rather has consigned himself to a masochistic quest for the mediocre, urging on the political individual to push forward with the morals of conviction but the tactics of responsibility. This is a tried and true political position, it’s known as pragmatism.

This is the problem with Weber, he’s the typical AU SPA student. In fact, he’s the original SPA student, the Adam and Eve of silly liberal bureaucrats, technocrats, democrats, and a whole lot of other crats. Instrumentalist in his logic, he only sees the world as it is in front of him. He cannot imagine political possibilities outside of what is considered common “human nature.” Thus, he descends into an impoverished discourse, attempting to minimize damage rather than optimize potential. As I stated above, those who try and optimize are uniformly dismissed as charismatic leaders, out to take power and loot. You can see these assumptions at work in any Govt at au. Students of the SPA variety are inevitably trapped into a cage of illogic. They become extremely skilled in matters pertaining to the cage, but they are still in the cage. Their Machiavellian realpolitik only serves to make our lives worse as they fight with each other over regulations and parliamentary procedure.

Why does Weber fall into this trap? Well, I think a pretty good clue is in the title. “Vocation” is not something one associates with a transformative social program. He does not see politics as a matter of social justice and redistribute power, but as a skill you learn, like a mechanic or a painter, or a skill you’re born with like a math genius. If politics is a skill, then it no longer is a collective endeavor. It falls to the realm of talented individuals. If politics is the realm of talented individuals, it is cursed to a sad existence. A sick sport they play while the rest of us are killed by the penalty kicks, for any sport is only played by those who wish to play and those who despise power and conquest are unlikely the play the game. Even those individuals who are good hearted, will be ground out by a system constructed by many others already obsessed and intoxicated with power.

That said, I think there is a long history of politics not as a vocation but as an exercise in collective self transformation. When illiterate peasants gathered each Friday in a barn to have philosophy read to them that was anti-vocational politics. When black liberation groups organized free breakfast programs that was transformative politics. And yes, when the KPD organized worker’s councils it was transformative politics-no wonder Weber didn’t like em. Politics organized at the base, and managed at the base, takes it out of the realm of vocation and into something completely different. That is if you don’t mind the inevitable repression, self defense training and pitched street battles.

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