Politics as a Vocation

Politics as a Vocation

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Politics as a Vocation (Politik als Beruf) is an essay by German
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 economist and sociologist Max Weber
Max Weber
Karl Emil Maximilian "Max" Weber was a German sociologist and political economist who profoundly influenced social theory, social research, and the discipline of sociology itself...

. It originated in a lecture he gave to the Free Students Union of Munich University
Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich
The Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich , commonly known as the University of Munich or LMU, is a university in Munich, Germany...

, in January 1919, during the German Revolution.

In his essay Weber states that politics is the art of compromise
To compromise is to make a deal where one person gives up part of his or her demand.In arguments, compromise is a concept of finding agreement through communication, through a mutual acceptance of terms—often involving variations from an original goal or desire.Extremism is often considered as...

 and decision
A decision is the selection between possible actions.A choice is the selection between two or more objects.The term decision may refer to:* Judgment , as the outcome of a legal case...

-making based on social benefits weighed against costs; in this respect, political action cannot be rooted only in conviction, since one's conviction can be another's social anathema. Using as an example Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

, seen as a core conviction, Weber affirms that a politician
A politician, political leader, or political figure is an individual who is involved in influencing public policy and decision making...

 cannot only be a man of "true Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 ethic" (understood in terms "turning the other cheek"). The political realm is no realm for saints. A politician should marry the ethic of ultimate end
Consequentialism is the class of normative ethical theories holding that the consequences of one's conduct are the ultimate basis for any judgment about the rightness of that conduct...

s with an ethic of responsibility
Moral responsibility
Moral responsibility usually refers to the idea that a person has moral obligations in certain situations. Disobeying moral obligations, then, becomes grounds for justified punishment. Deciding what justifies punishment, if anything, is a principle concern of ethics.People who have moral...

. The latter, which is the ultimate criterion for judging politicians, should take into account all that is at stake in making a political decision, namely all the convictions and the relative weight and moral importance. A politician must possess both passion for his vocation and the capacity to distance himself from the subject of his exertions (the governed).

The lecture introduces a definition of the state
State (polity)
A state is an organized political community, living under a government. States may be sovereign and may enjoy a monopoly on the legal initiation of force and are not dependent on, or subject to any other power or state. Many states are federated states which participate in a federal union...

 that has become pivotal to Western
Western world
The Western world, also known as the West and the Occident , is a term referring to the countries of Western Europe , the countries of the Americas, as well all countries of Northern and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand...

 social thought: that the state is that entity which claims a monopoly on violence
Monopoly on violence
The monopoly on violence is the conception of the state expounded by Max Weber in Politics as a Vocation. According to Weber, the state is that entity which claims a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence, which it may therefore elect to delegate as it sees fit...

, which it may therefore elect to delegate as it sees fit. Politics is to be understood as any activity in which the state might engage in order to influence the relative distribution of force. Politics thus comes to obtain two power
Power (sociology)
Power is a measurement of an entity's ability to control its environment, including the behavior of other entities. The term authority is often used for power perceived as legitimate by the social structure. Power can be seen as evil or unjust, but the exercise of power is accepted as endemic to...

-based concepts, to be understood as deriving of power.

Three grounds for legitimate rule

Weber defines politics as a form of "independent leadership activity". In this essay, the "state" serves as the placeholder for the analysis of political organizations. The grounds for the legitimate rule of these political organizations, according to Weber, fall into three major categories, or types:
Custom: The authority of "eternal past," based on habit. Weber defines custom as largely patriarchal
Originally a patriarch was a man who exercised autocratic authority as a pater familias over an extended family. The system of such rule of families by senior males is called patriarchy. This is a Greek word, a compound of πατριά , "lineage, descent", esp...

, patrimonial
Patrimonialism is a form of governance in which all power flows directly from the leader. This constitutes essentially the blending of the public and private sector. These regimes are autocratic or oligarchic and exclude the upper and middle classes from power. The leaders of these countries...

, and traditional in scope.
Gift of grace/charisma: The authority of the "revelations, heroism, or other leadership qualities of an individual". Associated with "charisma
The term charisma has two senses: 1) compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others, 2) a divinely conferred power or talent. For some theological usages the term is rendered charism, with a meaning the same as sense 2...

" of prophet
In religion, a prophet, from the Greek word προφήτης profitis meaning "foreteller", is an individual who is claimed to have been contacted by the supernatural or the divine, and serves as an intermediary with humanity, delivering this newfound knowledge from the supernatural entity to other people...

s, demagogues, and popular vote.
Statutes: Legality based on valid statute
A statute is a formal written enactment of a legislative authority that governs a state, city, or county. Typically, statutes command or prohibit something, or declare policy. The word is often used to distinguish law made by legislative bodies from case law, decided by courts, and regulations...

s. Based on rational competence and obedience of the "servant
Civil service
The term civil service has two distinct meanings:* A branch of governmental service in which individuals are employed on the basis of professional merit as proven by competitive examinations....

of the state".

The two forms of the state

Weber focuses his analysis on "political organizations", i.e. "states", and identifies two general forms of the state, supposedly encompassing all state forms at the most general level:
  1. The administrative staff beneath the ruler in status and power has its own means of administration separate from those of the ruler. This can include various forms of wealth and possessions, as well as means of production and control over labor. This administrative staff is essentially aristocratic, subdivided into distinct estates;
  2. The administrative staff is completely or partially separated from the actual tools of administration, i.e., how the proletariat is separated from the means of production. This staff become confidants without means in a patriarchal organization of deference and delegation.

Weber delineates two different ideas of the "state" based on the relationship between the administrators and their access to the actual means of administration. The second form of the state is considered to be modern; the administrators do not own the money, buildings, and organizations they direct but are in the process of becoming expropriated expropriators by the actions of the monarch or the higher ruling class. With this expropriation completed, the leaders are then free to invest all resources in what way they choose, executive decisions often remaining with the discretion of the highest representatives.

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