Among the founders of classical German sociology, Ferdinand Tonnies is still relatively neglected. Many reasons are given, but the most widespread and the most damning is that Tonnies is a pessimist who wished, in the face of modernity, to return to the supposed Golden Age of rural Germany, when the community, ruled by patriarchs, gathered on the land. This interpretation is fundamentally flawed: although Tonnies wanted to describe the rootless, ruthless, calculating individuals of modern society, he wished to recall the (...) past primarily in order to develop a blueprint for the future, in which the so-called feminine traits of conscience, empathy, and care would govern the community. Rather than yearning for the past, Tonnies was a utopian who had a vision of the future and tried to make it a reality. (shrink)
Readers of The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism recognize that Weber attempts to provide an ideal account of development of modern rational capitalism. What readers apparently do not realize is that Weber believes that there is a political development that is parallel to this economic development. Weber believed that Luther’s passive theology and doctrine of two kingdoms lead to quiet resignation in earthly matters. Luther advises shunning politics and avoiding political confrontation. In contrast, Weber held that Calvin’s theology (...) of awe and his doctrine of predestination lead to active political stances and even imply a duty to resist tyranny. However, Weber rejects both Luther’s and Calvin’s political stances because both believed in a divinely ordered world and held that the consequences of their actions were ultimately left to God. Weber contends that only those people who have the proper understanding of the nature of power and have a real appreciation for the ‘diabolic’ nature of politics are suitable to be political actors. Thus, Weber insists that only those people who will take responsibility for their own political actions have the right to ‘stick their hands in the wheels of history’. (shrink)
Max Weber and Ernst Toller are regarded as political opposites with the former viewed as the responsible realist and the latter as an ethical idealist. I argue that this contrast between the two is not as great as is customarily thought.