Merleau-Ponty’s Use of the Weberian Example: Avoiding Totalizing Meanings in History
Max Weber and Thorstein Veblen appear to be scientific adversaries. In their narratives concerning the construction and fate of the 'bourgeois subject', Veblen and Weber arrive at remarkably similar conclusions; leading these political adversaries to corresponding calculations of the probable arc of modern pecuniary culture, and to commensurate theories about its consequence for the structures of the self. For both Veblen and Weber, the cloak of the bourgeois subject became the cage of the acquisitive machine. The individualism that emerged from a handicraft economy in which the self stood as its own center became the consumptive individualism of a society bound together through standards of competitive decency. Modern consumptive individualism's pursuit of symbolic prestige in the form of individual pecuniary achievement simultaneously legitimates and supports the continued function of post-modern capitalism. Conspicuous consumption is driven by the demand for recognition; and in the post-modern context, as in the modern context, these two drives become fused within the self.