Why Should We Read Max Weber? The case of Wissenschaft

A- A A+

ghoshMax Weber Lecture


Peter Ghosh, University of Oxford,

15 October 2014, 17:00-18:30, Badia, Refettorio

Max Weber was born 150 years ago on the 21st of April, 1864. To mark his upcoming anniversary, the Max Weber Programme is organizing a special Max Weber Lecture to celebrate Weber’s intellectual legacy. On 15 October 2014 Peter Ghosh of the University of Oxford, and the author of a recent definitive study of Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, will provide an opportunity to discuss his work as a social scientist and theorist of capitalism and liberal democracy starting from the question: Why Should We Read Max Weber in 2014?.


In 1964 this question was open and was passionately debated, but in 2014 Weber’s canonical position is so secure that it seems superfluous.  Nonetheless, the question should be asked, because if it is not, then any view of Max Weber as an integral thinker recedes into the distance, and he dissolves into a series of specialized fragments.  The lecture suggests that Weber is perhaps unique in his identity as a universalist thinker capable of operating under modern conditions, such as specialization and cultural difference, which are radically hostile to universalist thought.  To answer this question, we should consider, first, the more obviously universalist areas of his thought (academic “science” or Wissenschaft, religion, law) and then one that is not (politics).  However, this is matter for four lectures at least.  So here we shall begin at the beginning: with Wissenschaft.