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A Cynical Turn

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   A Cynical Turn: Max Weber and Hannah Arendt on Value, Domination and Political Economy Steven Klein Department of Political Science, University of Chicago Draft: Please do not cite or circulate without permission. Comments welcome at stevenklein@uchicago.edu. Abstract: Max Weber and Hannah Arendt are usually read together as theorists of the political, attacking the modern assimilation of politics to economics. They are taken to differ only in how they conceive the political: Weber, as domination, and Arendt, as action. This paper argues that readers have missed relevant differences in their thought because they have not compared Weber’s neo-Kantian philosophy of value with Arendt’s phenomenological method. Through such a comparison, this paper advances two claims. First, it argues that Arendt, unlike Weber, is a theorist not of the political but rather of the possibility of non-subsumptive relationships  between politics and the economic. Second, it argues that Arendt has a more nuanced view of domination than either her admirers or critics admit. Against Weber’s charismatic politics of the extraordinary, Arendt thus opens space for a radical democratic critique of political economy, even if she does not always pursue the implications of her insights. Prepared for delivery at the 2013 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, August 29-September 1, 2013. © Copyright by the American Political Science Association   1 Introduction Max Weber and Hannah Arendt are both often taken to argue for the distinctiveness of the political as a domain of human activity, one that is threatened in modernity by the encroachment of the economic. Against the liberal and Marxist reduction of politics to the laws of political economy, Weber and Arendt thus open up an authentic theory of the political. Typically, though, that is where the affinity between their thought is seen to end. While Weber defines the political as essentially constituted by domination, Arendt’s theory of politics opposes action in concert to the traditional reduction of politics to rule. Their reception in political theory has been marked by attempts to bring their theories of the political into closer proximity. Surely, Arendt’s readers note, Weber is correct that politics must involve some moment of domination and violence. 1  Similarly, even sympathetic commentators insist that Weber underestimates the scope for Arendtian popular participation in political life. 2  These critical responses, while understandable, leave untouched the assumption that Arendt and Weber are unified by their attempt to conceptualize the political as a self-contained sphere, and so that they share a similar diagnosis of the modern subsumption of politics into economics. But what if this srcinal premise is flawed, distorting the relationship between Weber and Arendt and of both to contemporary political concerns? This paper pursues such a line of reasoning through an analysis of the divergent ways Weber and Arendt conceptualize the 1 For the classic expression of this criticism, see Jürgen Habermas, Hannah Arendt: On the Concept of Power, in  Philosophical-Political Profiles  (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1983); for a more recent iteration, Alan Keenan,  Democracy in Question: Democratic Openness in a Time of Political Closure  (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003), Chapter Two. For a defense of Arendt against such criticisms, one which presents her as an anti-teleological thinker, see Dana Villa,  Arendt and Heidegger: The Fate of the  Political   (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995). 2  See, for instance, Peter Breiner,  Max Weber and Democratic Politics  (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1996); Andreas Kalyvas,  Democracy and the Politics of the Extraordinary: Max Weber, Carl Schmitt, and Hannah Arendt   (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008); Tamsin Shaw, Max Weber on Democracy: Can the People Have Political Power in Modern States?, Constellations  15, no. 1 (2008).   2 economic, rather than through their different theories of the political. It is in their analyses of the economic, further, that the contrasting influences of Weber’s neo-Kantian philosophy of value and Arendt’s phenomenological method are most visible. I begin by situating Weber and Arendt’s thought in early twentieth-century German debates about the status of the cultural sciences, debates that form the backdrop for their respective thinking about the economic. Next, I turn to Weber’s analysis of political economy. Reflecting the cynical turn of bourgeois consciousness, Weber rejects any attempt to find immanent justifications for domination within  political economy—legitimating values are, rather, traced to the extraordinary domain of charisma. 3  As a result, his theory does indeed rest on a categorical division between the economic, which Weber also calls the everyday (  Alltäglichkeit  ), and the domain of value, culture, and politics, which Weber collects underneath the notion of the extraordinary (  Außeralltäglichkeit).  Yet, far from reducing the political to instrumental rationality, Weber  posits such stark conceptual divides precisely because, following his neo-Kantian influences, he conceptualizes value only in terms of non-instrumentality. Arendt challenges this premise through her phenomenological analysis of the economic domain. By theorizing value as neither instrumentality nor non-instrumentality but as a manner of appearance, Arendt shifts the terms of the debate: not how to protect the political, understood as the domain of value, from the instrumentality of the economic, but how to organize the economic such that it can sustain and enlarge individuals’ concern for how the world appears. This means, finally, that Weber, despite his rhetoric to the contrary, tends to tie domination to the economic and position both outside of the political, while Arendt fruitfully shows that 3  I draw the notion of bourgeois consciousness turning cynical from Habermas, for whom it marks the limit of Marxian ideology critique. Jürgen Habermas, Further Reflections on the Public Sphere, in Craig J. Calhoun, ed.  Habermas and the Public Sphere  (Cambridge, MA: MIT press, 1992), 442.     3 domination, properly understood, is what can sustain the openness of the political and the economic to each other. From the Philosophy of Value to Phenomenology Among the most instructive but presently unexplored points of contact between Weber and Arendt’s thought is their shared roots in the Southwestern neo-Kantianism of Wilhelm Windelband and Heinrich Rickert. I begin with these debates about the status of the cultural sciences, as they help to set the conceptual terms of Weber and Arendt’s analysis of modern  political economy and of the relationship between the political and the economic. For Weber, the neo-Kantian philosophy of value was crucial in his attempt to establish the autonomy of sociology as a cultural science, delineating sociology both from the Hegelian statism of the older generation of historical economists as well as the economic reductionism of both Marxism and the new marginalist economics. The Southwest neo-Kantian tradition, especially as represented  by Rickert, insisted on the autonomy of historical science as a form of knowledge focused on the unique and particular historical individuals, the categories of which are transcendentally grounded in value-relations [ Wertbeziehung  ]. And while the focus of the neo-Kantians was epistemological, Weber astutely develops the normative and existential implications of their defense of the dignity of the cultural sciences. Arendt’s relationship to Southwestern neo-Kantianism, while indirect, is no less significant. Martin Heidegger wrote his dissertation with Rickert and his early philosophical efforts were immersed in the neo-Kantian tradition. 4  With  Being and Time , however, Heidegger  broke with the core framework of his neo-Kantian upbringing while still retaining many of the central concerns of that tradition. Most important for our purposes, Heidegger relentlessly attacks 3  Ingo Farin, Early Heidegger's Concept of History in Light of the Neo-Kantians,  Journal of the  Philosophy of History  3, no. 4 (2009); Theodore J. Kisiel, The Genesis of Heidegger's Being and Time    (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995).
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