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Max Weber and Vilfredo Pareto

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Max Weber and Vilfredo Pareto are part of the sociological and philosophical field in which questions about politics arise.

In order to analyze the issue of policy, it was necessary to first question the issue of societal analysis. Man is a social being, it means that the fundamental stake and understanding of the relationships between individuals within society. Our modern societies confront us with another paradox: a society of individualities.

By taking an interest in the social being, one is interested in how it manages its relations with others. We can no longer separate the social from the political conditions in which it is managed. This makes it possible to understand how sociology leads us to political science. In political sociology, we are interested in the political behaviour of the individual.

Since Durkheim has posed the social fact and governmentality as a scientific postulate, we must question social regulation. The political dimension of society is omnipresent. In order to make society and produce a collective sense, we need to look at the way power is constructed and the notion of democracy.

Society means political organization. When we looked ahead of traditional societies, we could only see individuals without a political fact. Today, we know that every society has a political dimension, regardless of the nature of society. Thus, it can be admitted that politics organises societies.

The system of political organization is characterized by an interaction between the social and the political. However, there are societies in which the essence of politics disappears, and this happens to the benefit of another power by moving from a system of regulation to a system of relationships based on force and violence. From then on, we are led to question the political foundations of a society which are intended to establish relations in a coercive logic.

Based on this analysis, sociologists recognize that society is a politically based organization. It is therefore logical that from a sociological point of view we are interested in politics. We then understand why Max Weber and Vilfredo Pareto are going to interest us, because they question the forms of government of social groups and political behaviour.

Max Weber : 1864 - 1920[edit | edit source]

Max Weber's life[edit | edit source]

Weber comes from a family of capitalist entrepreneurs who have developed a cosmopolitan vision through the dimensions of law and economics. He studied law and economics and wrote a thesis on commercial companies in the Middle Ages in 1889.

He will articulate the question of politics and society by questioning Prussian society, which is structurally very rigid. Among other things, he taught law and political economy in Freiburg (1894) while his work was rebuilt around the question of entrepreneurship, which he placed as a fundamental value in economics in politics.

He publishes numerous studies of law and economics, but also history. In 1910, he participated in the German Society of Sociology. He will become a strong opponent of the Prussian regime and representative of a democratic movement. In 1918 he obtained the sociological flesh at the University of Munich. He died in 1920 at the age of 56.

Rationality and domination[edit | edit source]

Weber was to examine the question of power and domination in Économie et Société, published in 1921. Weber explains that the company operates rationally. To do this, he will elaborate a double query:

  • rationality: are political behaviours rational and what dictates them?
  • bureaucratic power: how is a modern state built and how does it need to set up a bureaucracy what? What is the link between politics and bureaucracy?

It is a political analysis on the question of power that allows it to distinguish three forms of legitimate domination:

  • statuary domination: one obeys the legally arrested order and the superiors it designates. The individual agrees to adhere to a device in a socially accepted order of rules of law. He postulates that we can build a common rational, impersonal base. The impersonality of order is a well-developed political form, because there are other much more important forms. These forms of domination are part of a socially accepted rational system that makes the system work. For example, in a democracy, a common basis for the acceptance of rules binds individuals against each other, confronting them with legal domination. Indeed, citizens vote to elect representatives who will be eliminated at the next vote if their performance is judged to be poor. Rationality is the construction of the impersonality of the collective order.
  • traditional domination: one obeys the person who holds power in the name of tradition. Tradition shapes and institutes the political system in which individuals are. In other words, domination is exercised by a person who holds power, such as a monarch, for example;
  • charismatic domination: the leader is obeyed by virtue of personal trust in his revelation, heroism or exemplary value. This societal system is built around a person at some point in time. In other words, individuals obey a person who does not necessarily have a legitimacy of the tradition. Charismatic domination is achieved by a person who embodies many virtues.

According to Weber, legal domination is an institutional system that reflects the very constitution and organization of society and the fact that both are intimately linked. Legal domination is based on the validity of the following concepts:

  1. any right can be rationally established by the covenant or grant: even in a rational system there is a subjectivity in public decision-making processes. He wonders about modes of domination, in particular legal domination, which refers to the domination of rationality;
  2. any right is in its essence in cosmos of abstract rules, normally intentionally decided;
  3. the legal holder of the power, when he rules, obeys for his part the impersonal order by which he directs his dispositions. What makes society is the contractualisation of relations. The one who gives an order does so on the basis of a relationship based on function and domination;
  4. The one who obeys only obeys as a member of the group, and only "to the right". Obey an order that fact in this system of collective management.

There needs to be bureaucratic administrative management so that these companies can issue technical regulations and standards. As an individual, one must integrate these norms to be part of and live within society.

The bureaucratic administrative management is composed of individual civil servants who have to fulfil a social function that must be assumed in a bureaucratic administrative system. To take on the mission, you have to depersonalize. Thus, civil servants are personally free, but they obey only the objective duties of their function in a hierarchy, with competences and under contract.

If bureaucratic domination is to be achieved, a dominant principle of appointment of public servants must be established. Contract appointment, therefore open selection, is essential to modern bureaucracy. In the bureaucracy, the scope of professional qualifications is constantly growing. Fixed remuneration is normal: reflects on the remuneration of civil servants so that they perform their duties in the most optimal way possible. For the bureaucratic civil servant, function is the main profession.

The bureaucratico-monocratic administration is a form of bureaucratic domination that encourages characteristic behaviour. The trend is that of levelling off in the interest of universal recruitment of those who are the most qualified in their specialty. On the other hand, there is a tendency towards plutocratization in the interests of the longest possible specialized training, but there is a clear risk of concentration of power. It is a system in which the most formalistic impersonality dominates.

Protestant Ethics and Capitalism[edit | edit source]

Die protestantische Ethik und der 'Geist' des Kapitalismus original cover.

Weber attributes a central role to religious facts in the constitution of civilizations and in the genealogy of western rationality. It attempts to show the process of functionalization of societies. Thus he admits that the functionalization of society is at the origin of contemporary Western societies. It imprints the whole of our existence, the complexity of social life leading the State to manage society further and further. It is an extension of rationality agreed to manage the growing challenges facing society. The intensity of management systems is extensive and unlimited.

In The Protestant Ethics and the Spirit of Capitalism (1904-1905), Weber questions the relationship between rationality and religion. It attempts to establish whether and to what extent religious influences have been involved in the qualitative development and quantitative expansion of the spirit of capitalism and in the construction of political systems. It seeks to understand how overall effects influence society. Thus, he hypothesizes that religion would be a thought of rationality, it would be two things at the same time: an obstacle and a stimulus.

Basically, capitalism is a logic of territorial investment in order to generate value. It would be a disposition of men to conduct their existence according to specific ways that stems from a rational process. For Weber capitalism needed religion because, according to his thesis, without religion capitalism could not have existed. It will focus on the relationship between religion and capitalism, focusing on Protestantism as a religious doctrine and its link to capitalism.

For Weber, the "Calvinist doctrine of predestination" is based on the theory of the chosen, it is the idea that there are those who are recognized by God and the damned who are reproved. It emanates a problem from Calvinist theory, which is a dimension of the unbearable, since during the individual's lifetime it is impossible for him to know whether he is recognized or reproved. In this inevitability of the election, there is that part of the unbearable which pushes Man to find his own ways of achieving his recognition.

To solve this problem of the unbearable, Man must give himself the subjective illusion of his own subjection. He has to build an anticipation that involves behaviour.

In Calvinist Protestantism, Man must work a lot because it is a positive value that reflects the ability to work for God. Work does not ensure salvation, but professional activity will give the feeling of being able to buy one's salvation. The more the individual works for his salvation, the more likely he is not to be reproved.

This leads to a fact of society that manufactures a type of behavior that gives work a value allowing it to save itself within the framework of an ascetic logic. The production of capitalist value is reinvested in the system. Thus the making of a society of rationality would thus be structured on the basis of a religious interpretation which is Protestantism resulting in a significant enrichment, not personal, but towards God.

This theory is constructed in opposition to the concept of enjoyment. By engaging in the work of producing value, the individual creates and accumulates capital in addition to having a puritanical approach to existence that makes it possible to encounter God. What is interesting is that this demonstration is credible in its determination process.

The political profession[edit | edit source]

Max Weber in 1917.

In Politik als Beruf published in 1919, Weber distinguishes between two ways of doing politics, namely "for" the politics that "the purpose of his life", the "for" has a self-giving dimension and "from" politics as a source of income, is to live through politics. This nuance is fundamental, because these two ways of doing politics do not necessarily coincide. If we live off politics, an ethical dimension collapses. This opposition confronts an existential goal with a utilitarian goal.

Weber questions the function of the politician in modern societies. Ideally, politicians should be economically independent of the income that political activity could generate.

Basically, any democratic system is fundamentally complicated because obviously the political system works on rules and standards by opposing those who can make politics from what cannot make politics. It is a paradox that allows only the rich to engage in politics, so politicians are recruited in a "plutocratic" way (from the Greek "ploutos": wealth). Politics must be made by people with significant capital to devote themselves to politics.

He also wonders how to build a non-money-based recruitment. For this he postulates that politics must be a remuneration space. On the one hand, there is the risk of plutocracy; on the other hand, there is the danger of the politician turning politics into a profession.

Knowing whether politics is a profession is a central question for Weber. He thus points out the difficulty of politics, i. e. that it is a set of rivalries that weakens democracy. If politics is a profession, it leads to a combination of knowledge and competence. The problem is the institutionalisation of politics when the basis of democracy is the people. One of the main dangers is to make the political party an inherent structure of society.

Weber questions these contradictions by pointing out the risk of demagoguery. Since democracies have existed, the "demagogue" has been the type of political leader in the West. Modern demagoguery makes use of the discourse it skillfully handles, especially electoral discourses.

These policy strategies emphasize the establishment of practices to retain power, called spoil-system. In the spoil-system, all federal positions are allocated to supporters of the winning candidate. Parties oppose each other and build a platform for each election campaign based on electoral opportunities.

However, in order to be a politician, however, you have to demonstrate essential qualities such as passion, a sense of responsibility and a glance.

In politics which can be both a vocation and a profession, Weber looks for alternatives and to determine the relationship that could exist between ethics and politics. He wonders about ethics in politics. Politics is violence, so it requires ethics, i. e. moral behaviour. Ethics is the ability to behave with a high moral value.

It distinguishes between two ethics that coexist, but oppose each other:

  • the ethics of conviction: it is irrational; I act by conviction; the action must be committed by conviction, which itself guarantees the goal and success. It is on the side of faith, it is a form of irrationality.
  • the ethics of responsibility: it stems from rational behaviour, it is my responsibility to engage and guide my action. The consequences of my actions are attributable to my own action. I am responsible for the rationality of my actions. Acting in the name of responsibility requires rational decisions.

In everyday life in modern societies we all find ourselves at a given moment in a decision-making process. Eichmann to exonerate himself used the argument of his function in order to evade any responsibility because he had only obeyed orders.

Thus, Weber sees a number of ethical limits depending on the purpose:

  • ethics of conviction: a form of irrationality (my conviction, my faith) thus according to the adage of "the end justifies the means";
  • ethical responsibility: rational form; I can jeopardize the salvation of my soul. I can take measures in the name of rationality that may go against morality and reason.

Ethical stakes show that whatever the mechanism of action, we must first of all think about its action, we must make choices in conscience and start from consciousness. Pure rationality cannot be acceptable. Ethics is an individual choice and cannot be reduced to collective thought and choices.

Vilfredo Pareto : 1848 - 1923[edit | edit source]

Vilfredo Pareto.

The life of Vilfredo Pareto[edit | edit source]

Vilfredo Pareto was director of the Compagnie des Chemins de Fer de Rome in 1890, then he decided to devote the rest of his life to writing, reading and social sciences. Pareto then embarked on a solitary crusade against the state and statism. In 1893, he succeeded Léon Walras as professor of political economy at the University of Lausanne.

Société et histoire[edit | edit source]

In his 1916 Treatise on General Sociology, Pareto postulates that "the history of human societies is, to a large extent, the history of the succession of aristocracies". It is a system based on a set of hierarchical actors and social organizations.

It distinguishes three broad "classes of facts" that are associated:

  • the crisis of religious sentiment;
  • the decadence of the ancient aristocracy;
  • the emergence of a new aristocracy.

For Pareto, society is not homogeneous and is egalitarian only in appearance. For him, it persists because of the fact that a social hierarchy persists (social heterogeneity). Society is therefore in an unstable equilibrium and based on anarchic and complex social relations.

Pareto is interested in fundamental changes affecting modern society and democracy. He observes several symptoms that generate contradictions between the actors:

  • the weakening of central sovereignty and the renunciation of anarchic factors;
  • the rapid progression of the "cycle of demagogic plutocracy"[1].

Elites and power[edit | edit source]

The concept of elite still exists, but the fundamental problem is that the richest want to retain power while the poorest enter into conflict with the richest. A demagogic mode of governance is instituted in order to carry out populist policies to appease the masses.

According to Pareto, the political organization is always and necessarily hierarchical divided between ruling classes and governed class. The function of politics is to manage this relationship between the ruling class and the ruling class.

The definition of the elite according to Pareto is anyone who succeeds in any branch. The individuals who form the elite constitute themselves as a privileged class alien to any principle of equality, as this would run counter to the management of their power and interests.

It also distinguishes a more subtle dichotomy within the elite itself, which is separated between the non-governmental and government elites.

The concept of political elite is postulated by the ruling class according to three criteria:

  • ability to take power: the way in which the process of gaining access to power is constructed
  • Ability to legitimize: constructing legitimacy through ideology, the implementation of myths, by appealing to morality and religion in order to elaborate a concept of mobilization.
  • ability to retain power

Thus, the elite do not organize themselves on the principle of equality, but on the principle of domination, which they seek to perpetuate through processes of passions and alliances. The ruling class is marked by the principle of empowerment, i. e. by the concept of network. There is then a political temperament that seeks to acquire the means of power. In any case, the conquest of power remains a test of strength.

By questioning the social fact, Pareto explores the behaviours and policies that make it possible to reinterview society.

Annexes[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Vilfredo Pareto (1891-1929), MYTHES ET IDÉOLOGIES url(texte complet): http://classiques.uqac.ca/classiques/pareto_wilfredo/mythes_ideologies/mythes_ideologies.pdf