The Vocation of Reason

Studies in Critical Theory and Social Science in the Age of Max Weber


This book addresses, and at the same time reflects, the impact of Max Weber on both the social sciences and on critical theory’s critique of the social sciences. Weber’s conception of ‘vocation’ is a guiding thread unifying concerns about the nature, scope and limits of theoretical thinking among social scientists, whether supportive or critical of Weber. Not surprisingly, the source of many of these concerns, whether intended or unintended, biographical or situational, is the ambiguous legacy of Weber himself. Wilson’s interrogation of Weber’s thought in articles and essays over the past 30 years, supplemented by Kemple’s insights, makes a strong case for the claim that we do indeed live in ‘the age of Weber’.

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H.T. Wilson, Ph.D. (1968) is a Professor at York University, Toronto. His most recent works include No Ivory Tower (Voyageur,1999), Bureaucratic Representation (Brill, 2001) and Capitalism after Postmodernism (Brill, 2002). His present work addresses the impact of spatial and temporal values on social, political and economic institutions and practices. Thomas M. Kemple, Ph.D. (1992) in Social and Political Thought, York University, Toronto. He has published on classical sociology and contemporary cultural theory, including Reading Marx Writing: Melodrama, the Market, and the 'Grundrisse' (Stanford University Press, 1995).
Acknowledgements List of Tables and Figures Editor’s Foreword – The age of Weber, by THomas M. Kemple Author’s Introduction – The Ambivalence of Reason: Max Weber’s Analysis of Western Modernity PART ONE. THE LIMITS OF ‘RATIONALITY’: FROM TRADITIONAL TO CRITICAL SOCIAL THEORY Editor’s note on Part I I. Reading Max Weber: Critical Theory and the Limits of Sociology II. Critical Theory in America, 1938-1978: A Case of Intellectual Innovation and its Reception III. Critical Theory and Social Science: Episodes in a Changing Problematic from Adorno to Habermas IV. Functional Rationality and ‘Sense of Function’: Critical Comments on an Ideological Distortion V. Use Value and Substantive Rationality: Marx and Weber on Dichotomization in Modern Social Theory PART TWO. RECONSTRUCTING SOCIAL SCIENCE: FROM SOCIAL THEORIZING TO REFLEXIVE PRAXIS Editor’s note on Part II VI. Technocracy as Late Capitalist Ideology: Between Spectre and Myth VII. Communication, Deprivation and Mobilization: Notes on the Achievement of Communicative Action and Related Difficulties VIII. Science, Technology, and Innovation: Reflections on Capital and Common Sense IX. Essential Process of Modernity: A Critical Analysis of Social Science Research Practices and an Alternative X. Time, Space and Value: Recovering the Public Sphere Index
For readers interested in the legacy of Max Weber and other classical sociologists, the Frankfurt School of critical social theory, the history and importance of the social sciences in the 20th century [See also Prof. Wilson's answer to this question].