Tag Archives: Max Weber

Radio Interview about The Dynamics of Transformation 

I did this two-hour radio interview on The Styxxoplix Show in Ft. Wayne, IN, in which we discussed my book The Dynamics of Transformation: Tracing an Emerging World View. It was a fascinating conversation ranging from Aristotle’s four causes and Jean Gebser’s five stages of consciousness to the qualitative nature of time, the exponential acceleration of technology, and the novel world view that seems currently to be emerging.

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How Old Were Philosophers When They Published Their First Major Works?

Hegel_portrait_by_Schlesinger_1831

I’ll be turning 35 in January, so I’ve been doing some thinking about age in relation to the trajectory of my career. I’m in the final stages of preparing my first book, How Does It Feel?: Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and the Philosophy of Rock and Roll, for publication, and I’m well into my second book, a straight work of philosophy. With these considerations in mind, I decided to look at how old my favorite philosophers (and a few psychologists and a stray scientist and sociologist) were when they published their first major works and some of their best known works thereafter. I haven’t tried to be comprehensive, so please don’t be offended if I’ve left out one of your favorite books or thinkers. Rather, I’ve given a subjectively chosen selection of works merely sufficient to answer my question. To make a long story short, the conclusion I’ve drawn is that we philosophers are doing just fine if we publish our first book by our late forties. Philosophy is clearly not a vocation for those seeking instant gratification.

One caveat: the ages I’ve listed are approximations based solely on the years, not the months, of birth and publication, so there’s essentially a one year margin of error. I could take the time to recheck all the numbers, but you get the idea, and I need to get back to writing my book.

William James

48 – The Principles of Psychology

55 – The Will to Believe

60 – The Varieties of Religious Experience

65 – Pragmatism

67 – A Pluralistic Universe

Henri Bergson

30 – Time and Free Will

37 – Matter and Memory

48 – Creative Evolution

Alfred North Whitehead

49 – Principia Mathematica

64 – Science and the Modern World

68 – Process and Reality

72 – Adventures of Ideas

77 – Modes of Thought

C.G. Jung

37 – Psychology of the Unconscious

46 – Psychological Types

59 – The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious

69 – Psychology and Alchemy

77 – Synchronicity

87 – Memories, Dreams, Reflections

Jean Gebser

44 – The Ever-Present Origin

Richard Tarnas

41 – The Passion of the Western Mind

56 – Cosmos and Psyche

G.W.F. Hegel

37 – The Phenomenology of Spirit

42 – The Science of Logic

Thomas Kuhn

35 – The Copernican Revolution

40 – The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

James Hillman

34 – Emotion

38 – Suicide and the Soul

49 – Re-Visioning Psychology

Sigmund Freud

44 – The Interpretation of Dreams

48 – The Psychopathology of Everyday Life

57 – Totem and Taboo

74 – Civilization and Its Discontents

83 – Moses and Monotheism

Charles Darwin

50 – On the Origin of Species

62 – The Descent of Man

Max Weber

41 – The Protestant Ethic and the “Spirit” of Capitalism

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Affect and Rationality in Max Weber

Max_Weber_1917

In his Protestant Ethic and the ‘Spirit’ of Capitalism, Max Weber traces the development of the rationalized quality characteristic of Western free market capitalism through the subtle permutations of the main Protestant denominations, which he presents as an ascendancy within that relatively late-emerging religious stream of the modes characteristic of science and technology. Through the long mediating process of this compromise formation between the old enemies, science and religion, the rational mode of thought, constituted in “a conceptual simplification and ordering” (27), was ingrained into the predominant sectors of Western culture with the pervasive and unparalleled intimacy that religion can provide. Tracing this “rationalization process” (26) through the complex interactions of the main lines of Protestantism, Weber finds a growing tension between what he describes as “the unrestrained vitality of instinctive action” in Lutheranism and a “constant self-examination and thus . . . systematic regimentation of one’s own life” (86) in Calvinism. Furthermore, Weber sees the latter, rational mode as having come to dominate Western capitalist societies on all levels of organization, down to those societies’ “fundamental attitude” (26-27), even as this “systematic regimentation” of life progressively decoupled itself from the religious communities and practices in which it had long incubated.

Whereas medieval Catholicism and earlier forms of religious dispensation generally appear to have approached the world in a prerational mode, or at least a mode that saw rationality as secondary to more intuitive ways of approaching experience, the nearly simultaneous birth of Protestantism and science beginning in the sixteenth century ultimately led, through the many labyrinthine discursive and material trajectories of the intervening centuries, to the implicit privileging of rationality in many domains of experience, from the most public to the most private, an insight that Weber articulated for modern Western society at the beginning of the twentieth century. As Weber understood, the dual practices of science and capitalism had so pervaded Western culture by this point that it had become difficult to see the world through any other lens than these, or at least to articulate these other ways of constructing reality in the predominant cultural discourse.

Furthermore, Weber describes this ascendancy of rationalism as concomitant with the repression and othering of instinctual animality, with “the religious ‘state of grace’ as a status that separates man from the depravity of the creaturely” (Weber 104). As Weber presents it, through the process of Protestant religious practice, the modern West forged a new relationship to the world as embodied in the relation to what they considered the divine in all its polyvalence, though the temporary result of this trajectory was the secular, rationalized, technological capitalism that has largely characterized late modern experience, effectively repressing attention to and awareness of instinctual, intuitive, affective physicality as vulgar, sinful, and even inhuman. Thus, through centuries of focus on a rational God who pervaded all areas of life, a focus that ultimately seems to have produced the Nietzschean “death of God” just a few decades before Weber’s foundational text was published, the rationalized “spirit of capitalism” became the “god” implicitly worshipped in the West, even as the Christian religion continued to transform itself, becoming a vocal minority in contrast to the increasingly predominant secular culture, particularly in the religion’s “fundamentalist” permutations. This “whole new kind of human being, that in practice absorbed this whole process of development” of the “modern conduct of life” (Weber 316-17), living in the rationalized world prominently decried by religious fundamentalists at the conservative extreme as well as a stream of thought running from the Romantics and the Idealists through the existentialists and the beats to the sixties counterculture at the progressive end of the spectrum, appears to have been the precondition for the reemergence of older forms of engagement with experience that the rational mode had effectively superseded by the mid-twentieth century.

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