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Modernity, Meaning, and Cultural Pessimism in Max Weber

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Modernity, Meaning, and Cultural Pessimism in Max Weber

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Beginning from the assumption that classical works retain a contemporary intellectual importance, this paper examines Weber’s views on modernity and the problem of meaning. The paper argues that although Weber maintained that neither religion nor science yields belief systems of a socially unifying nature, he did not subscribe to the one-dimensional antimodernism of cultural pessimists or the existentialist dilemma of an absurd existence. Weber’s perspective on modernity is shown to be a liberal version of value pluralism and decisionism.

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... In particular, it is argued that the politicization of American public administration broadens the range of conflicting values that must be considered in public administration and thereby helps to check bureaucratic power. Fully recognizing that any "interpretations of Weber's political thought are bound to be controversial" (Lassman, 2011, p. 30), in addition to drawing on Weber's own writings, this article will also draw in significant part on the writings of contemporary political and social theorists who have examined the relationship between Weber's ideas and value pluralism (see, for example, Gane, 2002;Lassman, 2011;Seidman, 1983;Warren, 1988). ...
... 194). Steven Seidman (1983) argues likewise that in opposition to the antimodernists, Weber believed that the other side to the loss of transcendent faith and sociocultural unity was the expansion of personal freedom-in the sense of personal choice and responsibility. Without recourse to [an] absolutist metaphysics the modern individual is compelled personally to choose and legitimate values. ...
... (p. 18) Seidman (1983) notes similarly, that for Weber, "tensions and conflicts between institutional spheres and competing powers enhance the freedom of movement by protecting the individual from absolute control by any one institutional sphere or power" (p. 275). ...
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Although Max Weber was pessimistic regarding the effects of rationalization and bureaucracy on human life and freedom, he saw the disenchantment of the world that results from the ascent of science and rationalism and the decline of religious and mystical interpretations of human experience as expanding the capacity for human freedom and moral responsibility. Moreover, he saw agonistic politics as checking the power of bureaucracy. Consequently, despite the conflict between the politicized character of American public administration and Weber's views on the role of public administrators, his ideas on value pluralism and politics have important implications for American public administration.
... In this sense, Weber is not a cultural pessimist. 39 Unlike a Tönnies or a Horkheimer, he is not sentimentally longing for a return to the 'beautiful totality' (Hegel's schöne Totalität) of the ethical world of a closed community. No, he wants the individual to be free to act responsibly, to take the heroic stand of the overman, and to infuse the world with meaning. ...
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Max Weber and George Simmel are considered as ideal-typical founders of sociology. Whereas Simmel pleaded for a large conception of sociology, which would include the epistemological and metaphysical issues as well, Max Weber explicitly excluded philosophical questions from the domain of sociology. A philosophical reading of Max Weber’s sociology, which uncovers his philosophy in the margins of his sociological texts, shows, however, that his sociology is predicated on a disenchanted Weltanschauung, a decisionistic ideology and a nominalist epistemology.
... Linked to the ontological region of religiosity, modernity is described as being secularized 6 and "disenchanted" (Gog, 2007;Weber in Michel, 1997), i.e. completely petrified, mechanic and devoid of meaning (Saler, 2006;Seidman, 1983). The vast majority of authoritative socio-anthropological sources in the field of religion and secularization (Berger, Martin, Fenn, Parsons, Bellah in Tschannen, 1991;Wilson, 1981) assume that all references towards the supernatural, the sacred and the divine will dissipate at the conscious level of the social actor (Dobbelaere, 1981), as the modernization process comes to an end and as society achieves an increasingly complex and differentiated state (Durkheim, 1965). ...
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In line with socio-anthropological theories meant to deconstruct the secularization teleology (Berger, 1997; Luckmann, 1967; Shah, 2015), this paper aims to document recent transformations in the field of Spirituality and Religion. Inheriting the analytical dichotomy between neo-liberal and anti-capitalist forms of spirituality, introduced by Carette and King (2005), I aim to emphasize both the common points and the ruptures between the subjectification technologies used within transformative self-development and self-help programmes, on the one hand, and a form of alternative Neo-Pagan spirituality, which opposes the capitalist way of organizing social, economic, political and cultural life, on the other hand. The rupture between anti-capitalist and neo-liberal forms of spirituality rests on identifying the extent to which the spiritual domain is colonized by an economically mundane ideology, in which the subject is invited to look upon spirituality as an internal resource meant to satisfy all the tropes of the neo-liberal economic imagery: optimization, efficiency, amplified productivity, abundance and prosperity. In addition to the ethnographic justification of this theoretical construct that supports the existence of two opposed poles of constituting a spiritual self, I will adjoin the cultural relationship between spirituality and capitalism to the wider problem of secularization, by arguing that spirituality is a byproduct of late modernity and a leitmotif of the power technologies through which the neo-liberal subject is produced.
... They get relocated in modern political ideologies but cease to be effective in developing a sense of personal identity. Individuals, however, assimilate values in the occupation goals that are pursued within the institutional context of everyday life (Seidman, 1983). Durkheim's analysis of modernity revolves around twin concerns of weakening of collective sentiments and consequent rise in the incidence of anomie and suicide, and spread of contractual relationships. ...
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