Sunday, November 22, 2020

Social Science vs the Humanities, Technocrats vs Lawyers.

Conlaw is literary interpretation. Rather than China alone, Weber was wrong about Jews, and the humanist tradition that was "dying a painful death".

Read the below with that in mind.

Stephen P. Turner, "Blind Spot? Weber’s Concept of Expertise and the Perplexing Case of China", in Max Weber Matters: Interweaving Past and Present, Edited By David Chalcraft, Fanon Howell, Marisol Lopez Menendez, Hector Vera, Routledge 2016 (orig. Ashgate 2008)

When Weber talked about the problem of the role of knowledge in society, he used a vocabulary in which the terms ‘experts’ (Experten) and ‘specialists’ (Spezialisten) are more or less interchangeable. His normative ideas on this subject were central to ‘Science as a Vocation’, where he argues that: 

only by strict specialization can the scientific worker become fully conscious, for once and perhaps never again in his lifetime, that he has achieved something that will endure. A really definitive and good accomplishment is today always a specialized accomplishment. And whoever lacks the capacity to put on blinders, so to speak, and to come up to the idea that the fate of his soul depends upon whether or not he makes the correct conjecture at this passage of the manuscript may as well stay away from science. ([1919]1946, 135) 

This reflected his attitude toward literary intellectuals peddling Weltanschauungen, but it was continuous with his hostility during the value-freedom debate in the Verein für Sozialpolitik (cf. Simey 1966, cited in Turner and Factor 1984, 57–58) toward the claim of the economists of the historical school to provide ‘scientific’ policy advice and his hostility to professorial prophets, both of whom, he claimed, mixed value choices, which were inherently non-rational, with the claims they could legitimately make as ‘scientists’. When these texts were written the ideal of universal knowledge and of intellectual leaders such as Goethe who could claim universal knowledge was dying a painful death. It was still upheld in literary circles and in the thought of such philosophers such as Heidegger. An underlying theme of these texts is scorn for literary intellectuals’ ambitions to be political guides. These struggles of his last decade provided the highly fraught context for Weber’s writing on China ([19201]1951). 

In Weber’s discussion of Confucianism in historical Chinese society, he was faced with a bureaucracy and a judiciary which was produced by a system of examinations on what he characterizes as literary subjects. His repeated use of the term ‘literary’ is revealing. In a sense, the Confucian tradition represents the fulfillment of the fantasies of his literary critics: a stable functioning order ruled by the literati on the basis of literary expertise. For Weber this model was necessarily one which could not achieve or eventuate in rationality, and the non-rational character of this tradition and of Chinese civilization became his theme in the text. There are many peculiar issues around his conclusion which raise questions about the status and meaning of the notion of expertise itself. The issues are whether the category of expertise and the category of expert knowledge are categories with a kind of universal significance or rather merely socially variable categories for which there are fundamental possible alternatives, and whether ‘specialist’ and ‘expert’ are interchangeable concepts. The Chinese case represents a powerful example through which these questions can be considered.

‘Western Rationality’

Weber, in the series of studies of which his book on China was a part, was concerned with the problem of the development of modern western capitalistic economic rationality that resulted in the rationalization of the world of work, which then carried over into the rest of life. There is, however, a strong element of circularity in Weber’s general account of this problem, because of his growing insistence in his last writings, especially his lectures on world economic history ([1927]1961), that the rational organization of works was a wholly distinctive historical phenomenon. Circularity arises because the various forms of rationalization that Weber argued are the conditions for modern capitalism are not quite what they might appear. 

In the last resort the factor which produced capitalism is the rational permanent enterprise, rational accounting, rational technology and rational law, but again not these alone. Necessary complementary factors were the rational spirit, the rationalization of the conduct of life in general, and a rationalistic economic ethic. ([1927]1961, 260)

But Weber speaks of them also as ‘the distinguishing characteristics of western capitalism’, and even follows this with ‘and its causes’ ([1927]1961, 232), thus confirming the muddle.

The issue, however, runs even deeper than this particular confusion over causes and definitions: it reappears at the core of his project, in relation to rationalism itself. In his late introductory essay to the Religionssoziologie, which Gerth and Mills titled ‘The Social Psychology of World Religions’ ([1915]1946), Weber wrote that the sources of modern rationality in the West turn out to be distinctive elements of rationality that were always there in the West and were either absent or very incompletely present (and consequently never fully developed) elsewhere (1958, 13–15). There is a strong sense that Weber in this project never in fact found the differentiating causes that led to western rationalism, but merely found fundamental differences reaching back to prior differences of more or less the same kind.

He could enumerate these differences, but not explain their appearance in history. It is striking that when he attempted to do so, he was caught up in problems over the rationality of the actions to be explained. His explanation of the relative unimportance of magic in the West, which is crucial to his comparison with China, was given in his discussion of ancient Judaism in the same series of studies. There he argued that more or less accidental peculiarities of the Jewish use of oracles resulted in the absence of magic and the development of ‘rational methods’:

The Levitical oracle required something quite different: the question had to be correctly put in order that the facts and God’s substantive will be determined simply by lot. Everything depended on the way that the question was put, thus, the Levite had to acquire a rational method to express problems to be placed before God in a form permitting answers of ‘yea’ and ‘nay’. Complicated preliminary questions had to be settled before they could be placed before God and, in many instances, this arrangement hardly left anything to be determined by oracle. ... Particularly for private needs, the oracle inevitably became less and less important as against the rational case study of sins, until the theological rationalism of Deuteronomy (18:9-15) in substance discredited lot casting altogether, or at least ceased to mention it. ... The oracle by lot is mentioned by Ezekiel (21:21) for Babylonia, but it had, as far as is known, long since disappeared from priestly technique. It was not replaced by rational Torah teaching but by the collection and systematization of the omina and by expert priestly interpretation. (1952, 179, 180)
The idea that small events have large consequences is not unique to Weber. But in this case the explanation seems to presuppose the rationality it purports to explain: Without a ‘rational’ or non-magical attitude to these rituals, in this case a kind of literal legalism, the Levites would not have ‘had to acquire a rational method to express problems’. Nor would they have extended the rituals in a non-magical way, and would not have excluded alternative ‘magical’ rituals from their religious practice, as they apparently did. So rationality comes first, before the thing that explains it, here and generally.
This becomes especially apparent in his discussion of China, in which one particular form of thought produces difficulties for Weber. The form is Confucianism, especially Confucianism in its role as the basis of the conduct of officials in the classical Chinese bureaucracy. In the face of this Weber was reduced to something that looked suspiciously like name calling with a series of references to nonrationality. Thus he says...
1 Original publication 1915. Gerth translation is of revised 1920 version.

I thought about adding a tag for Weber but many of the posts where his name appears are already over the limit for tags. For obvious reasons. 

I should probably add a discussion of this to the manuscript, but I'm just so tired of this shit.

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