Freedom and Responsibility in the Thought of Max Weber

Event Date: 
October 25, 2012 - 5:00pm - October 27, 2012 - 11:00pm

Grand Rapids, Michigan

Through a mixture of lectures and Socratic discussions, participants will focus on the moral, political, and economic thought of the great German sociologist and political theorist Max Weber. Along with the faculty, graduate students will analyze Weber’s writings on religion and capitalism, bureaucracy and institutions, and the power of politics and science in modernity. Weber characterized western modernity by the increasing rationalization of political institutions and patterns of life. The effect was an impersonal coercion over the lives of individuals by government and the market that threatened the freedom of persons and also robbed democratic life of humane meaning. The growth of bureaucratic control was, Weber contended, rendered even more problematic by the loss of religious faith and the existential strength this had engendered. Weber was skeptical about the possibility that these trends could be reversed, but he sought to understand how freedom and personal dignity might be preserved in an environment of impersonal control and bureaucracy. Moreover, certain authoritarian tendencies present in modern institutions that Weber identified have carried forward to present day. Thus, a careful study of his writings will help provide a foundational understanding of the rationalist processes that inform many modern economic and political institutions.

This conference, co-sponsored by Liberty Fund, Inc., is part of the Liberty and Markets series.