Weber: What Is Politics
  • Weber, M. 1918. "What Is Politics?" from "Politics as a Vocation." (114-116)
  1. You want me to talk about actual contemporary political positions, but I won't. This talk is about the general idea of politics as a vocation.
  2. What we mean by politik (policy) is leading, influencing the leadership of, a "political association, hence today, of a state" (114.5).
  3. Sociological definition of state is based on means, not ends (these can vary too much), namely physical force.
  4. States claim "monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory" (115.1).
  5. The "political" is about power. Either as a means or for its own sake. (115.3)
  6. State is about domination supported by "legitimate" violence. What is basis therefore?
  7. Traditional justification of the "eternal yesterday" (115.5)
  8. Charismatic individual (115.6)
  9. Legality (115.7)
  10. Though it can be described in terms of hopes and fears, the LEGITIMACY can be seen under these three types.

This selection omits a lot of the good material in this lecture. An important take-away from this and its companion lecture, "Science as a Vocation," is the idea that there are two fundamental "ethics" according to which one can orient one's activity. One is the ethic of ultimate ends — sometimes called the ethic of "conviction" — action is based on fundamental beliefs and a commitment to bring about certain states of affairs. The other is the "ethic of responsibility" — one cannot simply "do what is right" without regard for consequences.

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