Violence and politics: Reconsidering Weber’s ‘Politics as a Vocation’

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Today, more than ever, consideration of politics requires reflection on the role of violence and the ethical conduct of leaders. These and associated issues are central in Weber’s ‘Politics as a vocation’, published 100 years ago. While frequently cited, Weber’s definitions of politics and the state, and his understanding of the vocation of politics, are seldom subject to close examination. In the present article Weber’s treatment of the state and politics in terms of the means of violence is shown to be inadequate and misleading. The extra-territoriality of the modern state, necessary in war-making and international intrigue, is continuous with its means of violence, but curiously ignored in ‘Politics as a vocation’. Finally, Weber’s account of morality in the political vocation is shown to have high polemical resonance but low analytic value.

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Journal Article

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