Max Weber's Ethical Pedagogy for a Nihilistic Age

By Wendy Brown, UPS Foundation Professor in the School of Social Science:

"In 1917 and 1919, at the invitation of University of Munich students, Max Weber delivered two public lectures, 'Science as a Vocation' and 'Politics as a Vocation.' Why read these lectures today? What do they offer for navigating our own contemporary predicaments in knowledge and politics?

Weber was a dark thinker. This was not only a matter of his temperament or times. As important was his unrivaled appreciation of certain logics of modernity: its signature rationalities and forms of power; its generation of 'human machineries' with unprecedented capacities for domination; its simultaneous proliferation and depreciation of value and values (its reduction of morality to matters of taste); the incapacity of democracy to resist or transform these developments; and the great challenge of cultivating responsible teaching and political leadership amid them. In a world he viewed as choked by powers destructive of human spirit and freedom, as well as forthrightly dangerous, he sought to craft practices by which both scholars and political actors might hold back the dark with their work.

This is one reason for turning to him now. We need sober thinkers who refuse to submit to the lures of fatalism or apocalypticism, pipe dreams of total revolution or redemption by the progress of reason — yet aim to be more than Bartlebys or foot soldiers amid current orders of knowledge and politics."

Read more at The Chronicle of Higher Education.