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View Diary: The Ethic of (Ir)Responsibility (238 comments)

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  •  Good Lord! (2.60)
    When Americans start taking political science lessons from the Germans, we are headed down the wrong path.

    Madison is the man you want to read, not Weber.

    Americans are a revolutionary, not an evolutionary, people.  We reinvent ourselves every morning.  Look for new solutions.

    Politics is part science, part art.  Part discussing policy manuals, part making grandiose speeches.

    I love science, and even 8 years of graduate school haven't snuffed the love of political science out of me.  But politics is what makes my blood boil.

    •  the politics of reinvention (none)
      We're fascinated by reinvention, but it doesn't define our political life either historically or in the present.

      even the civil war in so far as it was about slavery was evolutionary --  a reinterpretation or working out of the concept that ALL men are created equal. the speeches were all evolultionary -- drawing on the past.

      and can't we at least give Weber a pass as an honorary American for identifying the Protestant work ethic?

    •  Come on now! (4.00)
      Don't discount solid philosophy based on national origin.  This the same type of thinking that lead Bush to his pre-emptive war doctrine.  Americans are a unique people and the US is a unique social experiment, but it doesn't mean we can't take wisdom from other sources.

      Max Weber, was clearly influenced by Kant, one greatest and smartest philosophers of all time in my opinion.  If you want to see the basis for much of this argument, read the Metaphysics of Morals. by Kant.  Although it's dense, in a simplistic sense it lays the the idea that moral action is dictated by one's intent and not the ends of one's action.  Weber extends this to say that a responsible ethic is one that considers the ends as part of the intent.

      A BLI (Black Liberal Intellectual)

      by shinsetsuguy on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 02:19:27 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  GRI (2.33)
        As a German-American, I'm a student of both National characters.

        I don't dislike Weber, I just think he's alien to American political culture and think its best that he stays that way.  Once you open up to German philosophy, where does it end?  Nietzche, that's where.

        It's Goethe I'm afraid of.

        •  slippery slope (4.00)
          yikes!!

          and the next thing you know we'll all be eating strudl, wearing lederhosen and frolicing in the black forest!!!!!
           

        •  German history is relevant to ours (4.00)
          and reading German philosphers is good for us.

          Ever read Nietzsche Contra Wagner?

          BTW, I think that Weber, writing in 1919, was probably thinking of Kaiser Bill a bit.

          Not a bad thing to consider, considering how similar he and Bush are in their irresponsibility sense of entitlement and isolation from everyone except for a small circle of sycophants.

          Besides, in some ways, Iraq is our Belgium, in that it was a military victory, but a moral defeat.

          "Extremism in the defence of liberty is no vice. Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue." AuH20

          by dabize on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 02:42:28 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  This has to be (3.70)
      When Americans start taking political science lessons from the Germans, we are headed down the wrong path.
      Madison is the man you want to read, not Weber.

      one of the shallowest, anti-intellectual statements ever posted at dKos.  And a perfect illustration of what is wrong with US culture and politics.

      "Learn from the mistakes of others. You can't live long enough to make them all yourself." -- Martin Vanbee

      by a gilas girl on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 02:26:37 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'M GERMAN (none)
        I read Goethe.  Auf Deutsche.

        But you're right.  I'm what's wrong with America.  Ask Ashcroft.

        •  Then I'm even more (none)
          disturbed to hear such an anti-intellectual statement, unless you meant it as a joke.  If the latter, then you'd need to signal it, because there are plenty of USers who would actually say and believe such a thing.

          BTW, I read Goethe auf deutsch, too.  But I prefer Habermas.  

          "Learn from the mistakes of others. You can't live long enough to make them all yourself." -- Martin Vanbee

          by a gilas girl on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 03:19:53 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Why is it anti-intellectual to reject an argument? (none)
            I think you are equating my rejection of Weber and his incrementalism with an exhortation to reject European philosophy, which is not at all what I said.

            Maybe "taking political science lessons from the Germans" was a bit trite, but let's face facts, their record is not a good one.

            But further, let's explore the depth of German influence on American political thought.  Marx?  Virtually none.  Weber?  Americans are, at best, disinterested.  The greatest influence appears to be an economist who's name escapes me right now but who had a profound impact on Alexander Hamilton.  German political thought is alien to American political thought.

            And yes, I do believe in American exceptionalism.  More because of the New Frontier and a Place Called Hope than the City on the Hill, but I do believe in it.  Call me naive.

            •  Influence is Great (none)
              Do you know who translated and edited the collection from which that essay is drawn?

              C. Wright Mills.

              Last time I checked, he was credited with having a little bit of influence over the new left.

              The emigres' from fascism who came to the US and influenced American thought, such as Arendt, Neumann, Marcuse, Fromm, Critical Theory, American historians like Peter Gay, H. Stuart Hughes, George Mosse, Raul Hilberg, social scientists like Parsons, Wolfe, and others...the list goes on and on.

              Weber has had a HUGE influence over American social thought and theory.  

            •  I"m equating (4.00)
              intellectual nationalism with anti-intellectualism, which is what your opening statement indicates to me.

              I have no trouble with your argument (if it is that Madison is the more appropriate theorist).  I disagree, but wouldn't find that anti-intellectual.

              The presumption that only an American theorist can be applicable to the American political context is screamingly anti-intellectual because it completely misses the value of intellectual work.  

              "Learn from the mistakes of others. You can't live long enough to make them all yourself." -- Martin Vanbee

              by a gilas girl on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 03:40:06 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  Taking lessons (none)
              Maybe "taking political science lessons from the Germans" was a bit trite, but let's face facts, their record is not a good one.

              I'd say that "taking political science lessons" from anyone is a useless exercise as political science is a useless endeavor (my own intellectual biases, which I gladly reveal and acknowledge). ;) But taking sociological or philosophical lessons from Germans is certainly not a bad path to follow, as many many truly brilliant thinkers have demonstrated.

              And, the fact that the German nation(s) have had such a "not good" political record, as you suggest, is in fact, a very good argument for taking their scholarship seriously, since, in a true intellectual tradition, examining the failures is the best way to understand how stuff works.  In an intellectually honest environment failure of a system is the best reason to listen to the intellectuals raised in that system, they have had the best laboratory for learning about the pheonomena.  

              "Learn from the mistakes of others. You can't live long enough to make them all yourself." -- Martin Vanbee

              by a gilas girl on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 03:46:14 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

    •  Why not? (none)
      Weber is perhaps one the most brilliant sociological commentators you can read. To dismiss his analysis because he was German and not American is silly and short-sighted.

      By this standard, we should not read Rousseau and Tocqueville (French guys...what can they tell us about America) or Locke or Mill (English...we fought a war of independence against them, you know).

      •  Ah... (none)
        But I didn't say don't read him.  I said don't buy into his arguments about trivializing everything into little rational bits that can be solved.

        To show that I am not a know-nothing, I would advocate reading Locke and Hobbes.  Or, even, Dostoevsky, who knows a thing or two about responsibility.

        Bush is far more Machiavelli than Weber.  I daresay he couldn't even say Weber.  But Rove could.

        •  Huh? (none)
          But I didn't say don't read him.  I said don't buy into his arguments about trivializing everything into little rational bits that can be solved.

          You said nothing of the sort (and what on earth does that mean, anyway in the context of Weber..."trivializing everything into little rational bits that can be solved"?). You wrote:

          When Americans start taking political science lessons from the Germans, we are headed down the wrong path.

          Madison is the man you want to read, not Weber.

          It certainly sounds to me like you are saying "don't read Weber because a German guy can't tell us anything useful for the analysis of American politics," which is clearly false.

          I also doubt that Bush has any idea who Max Weber was (or that he could correctly pronounce his name), but that's entirely irrelevant to DH's argument, since the claim isn't that Bush is following some Weberian political prescription, but rather that Nader fails to live up to Weber's notion of what kind of politician is good for democracy.

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