ABSTRACT

When Weber talked about the problem of the role of knowledge in society, he used a vocabulary in which the terms “experts” (Experten) and “specialists” (Spezialisten) are more or less interchangeable. His normative ideas on this subject were central to “Science as a Vocation,” where he argues that:

only by strict specialization can the scientifi c worker become fully conscious, for once and perhaps never again in his lifetime, that he has achieved something that will endure. A really defi nitive and good accomplishment is today always a specialized accomplishment. And whoever lacks the capacity to put on blinders, so to speak, and to come up to the idea that the fate of his soul depends upon whether or not he makes the correct conjecture at this passage of the manuscript may as well stay away from science. ([1919] 1946: 135)

This refl ected his attitude toward literary intellectuals peddling Weltanschauungen, but it was continuous with his hostility during the valuefreedom debate in the Verein für Sozialpolitik (cf. Simey 1966, cited in S. Turner and Factor 1984: 57-58) toward the claim of the economists of the historical school to provide “scientifi c” policy advice and his hostility to professorial prophets, both of whom, he claimed, mixed value choices, which were inherently non-rational, with the claims they could legitimately make as “scientists.” When these texts were written the ideal of universal knowledge and of intellectual leaders such as Goethe, who could claim universal knowledge, was dying a painful death. It was still upheld in literary circles and in the thought of philosophers such as Heidegger. An underlying theme of these texts is scorn for literary intellectuals’ ambitions to be political guides. These struggles of his last decade provided the highly fraught context for Weber’s writing on China ([1920] 1951).1