chapter  10
25 Pages

Nietzsche, Weber and the Devaluation of Politics: the Problem of State Legitimacy

The so-called problem of social order, specifically the Hobbesian problem of order, has often been regarded as the formative issue of classical sociology. The search for the ultimate roots of social consensus and societal integration has dominated many branches of sociological theory, particularly functionalism, since the publication of Talcott Parsons’ The Structure of Social Action (1949). The nature of social order is, of course, not an issue which is peculiar to sociology, since the question of obligation has provided a perennial focus of political philosophy in the long history of rejoinders to Hobbes’ theory of social contract (Shea 1968). In sociology, however, the analysis of the grounds of social and political order often appears to be constitutive of the discipline itself. Again, following the intellectual dominance which Parsons has enjoyed within this field, the history of sociology is characteristically written as the history of theoretical solutions to the question of how society is possible. The founding fathers have been routinely pressed into providing solutions which, in Parsonian terminology, ‘converge’ on the crucial role of common values, internalized beliefs and social approval (Parsons 1951).