Caesarism, charisma and fate : historical sources and modern resonances in the work of Max WeberStaff Publications
AbstractHow do writers, marginalied by the authoritarian state in which they live, intervene in the political process? They cannot do so directly because they are not politicians. Other modes of engagement are possible, however. A writer may take up arms and become a revolutionary. Or, as Max Weber did, he may try to influence politics by playing the role of constitutional advisor, or by seeking to shape the dominant language in which his contemporaries think. Weber sought to reconstitute the political and social vocabulary of his day. Part I of Caesarism, Charisma and Fate examines a great writer's political passions and the linguistic creativity they generated. Specially, it is an analysis of the manner in which Weber reshaped the nineteenth century idea of "Caesarism," a term traditionally associated with the authoritarian populism of Napoleon III and Bismarck, and transmuted it into a concept that was either neutral or positive. The coup de grace of this alchemy was to make Caesarism reappear as charisma. In that transformation, a highly contentious political concept, suffused with disapproval and anxiety, was naturalied into an ideal type of universal value-free sociology. Part II augments Weber's ideas for the modem age. A recurrent preoccupation of Weber's writings was human "fate," a condition that evokes the pathos of choice, the political meaning of death, and the formation of national solidarity. Peter Baehr, marrying Weber and Durkheim, fashions a new concept, "community of fate," for sociological theory. Communities of fate--such as the Warsaw Ghetto or Hong Kong dealing with the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) crisis--are embattled social sites in which people face the prospect of collective death. They cohere because of an intense and broadly shared focus of attention on a common plight. Weber's work helps us grasp the nature of such communities, the mechanisms that produce them, and, not least, their dramatic consequences.
Citation InformationBaehr, P. (2008). Caesarism, charisma and fate: Historical sources and modern resonances in the work of Max Weber. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers.