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2023 | OriginalPaper | Buchkapitel

7. Max Weber: Science, Technology and Vocation

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Abstract

Weber considered that instrumental rationality is a product of modern science and constitutes a distinctive sign of Western society, with the complexity of technological progress as its most developed expression. He considered that the expansion of instrumental rationality would lead to the divorce of the worker from the means of production, generating a bureaucratization of society as a whole (iron cage). The last few decades have witnessed an increasing separation of the dynamics of science and technology, which calls into question the traditional theory of knowledge and the motivation of scientific staff. This autonomous dynamic of technology has allowed the proliferation of explanations according to which technological transformations unilaterally determine the evolution of economic and social forms. Weber had already suggested an interdependence between the logic of technological rationality, the instrumental mastery of reality and the social forms that the economy takes. In this sense, Weber’s thought represents an opportunity to identify the objective conditions that determine those economic forms, as well as to establish the extent to which individual action gives meaning to the logic that makes these forms present themselves as they do, or the degree in which the subject is guided by a sense of purpose (vocation) or by an objectivity created by the action itself, which is imposed on the consciousness. Answering these Weberian questions will help us obtain a more accurate picture of the current role of technology, of the relationship between science and values, and of the epistemological and ethical problems associated with these transformations.

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Fußnoten
1
Since the eighteenth century, natural theology, also known as rational theology or clerical naturalism, had been very much in vogue as a reaction to the scientific revolution. It provided a method for finding evidence of God’s existence without resorting to supernatural revelation, and therefore differed from revealed theology, which had been prevalent before, and was based on the holy scriptures and on religious experiences. In general, clerical naturalism tried to prove God’s existence through the study of nature. God, according to this school, manifested himself through the works of his creation. In that sense, the universe could only be the work of a supreme being. Scientists like Newton or Boyle, or Malthus himself, belonged to that school of thought.
 
2
Similarly to Vico and Comte, Weber thought that rationalization was a basic feature of humankind since its origins, which was used to dominate nature. For instance, if there was a persistent drought, people prayed to the divinity, asking for rain. But during the scientific revolution, things started to change and did so substantially. Traditional practices were marginalized and rational calculation began to govern most social activities in an inflexible manner.
 
3
It is clear that Weber’s reflections greatly influenced subsequent discussions on the philosophy of science (Kuhn, 2012).
 
4
However, in the current period, which is characterized by a crisis of values as social relationships (Postone, 1993), values are no longer able to mediate between freedom and non-agency for the whole of society, and their vindication is presently limited to the ideology of the progressive middle classes. As a result, new forms of normativity, such as pragmatism, duty or virtue, have irrupted and are conquering an ever-widening territory. While pragmatism drains the collectivity of normative content and serves the competitive individualism of the neoliberal period, duty replaces values among the population seeking protection in community forms with stronger bonds (including the family, the neighborhood or ethnic or religious associations), and virtue does the same among the population having enough resources to cover their basic needs (in the form of civil movements, volunteerism or environmental associations). In brief, the new forms of normativity reflect the evolution of capitalism, and the gradual acceptance of the increasing loss of individual freedom and the exacerbated absence of agency in the contemporary world.
 
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Metadaten
Titel
Max Weber: Science, Technology and Vocation
verfasst von
Alfredo Macías Vázquez
Copyright-Jahr
2023
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-40139-8_7