The Perpetual and Tight Interweaving of Past and Present in Max Weber’s Sociology
Commentators have discussed Max Weber’s ‘view of history’ for over 100 years.
Agreement has been rare and quite contrary conclusions have been drawn.
Many interpreters insisted that Weber understood the course of history in
dichotomous terms. He described, according to this position, the distant past as an era of great charismatic ﬁgures standing occasionally in direct opposition to the
sheer weight of tradition. A different dichotomy reigned in the industrial epoch:
now heroic leaders placed their powerful personalities against rigid bureaucracies
(Mommsen 1974, 1989; Salomon 1935). Other commentators detected in Weber’s
writings a further dichotomy: persons prominently inﬂuenced by their emotions
and the grip of traditions inhabited earlier societies while in later societies a
predominance of means-end rational (Zweckrationales) action reigned (Alexander 1987).