Weber, progress and the fin de siècle

Winchester, Nik (1999). Weber, progress and the fin de siècle. In: British Sociological Association Max Weber Conference, 12-14 Sep 1999, University of Derby.



Within the contemporary theoretical terrain (this fin-de-siècle) there is a clear problematisation, even outright rejection, of the notion of progress, in particular its Enlightenment forms. Yet the problem of progress itself continues to surface. This paper investigates the possibilities of approaching (or reproaching) a Weberian account of progress. Whether it is possible to think anew, to re-interrogate, the concept of progress through the Weberian eye.

In Roscher and Knies Weber explicitly rejects the notion of progress. We argue that this dismissal is only of a particular account, one which does not erase the concept itself . Therefore we produce a minimal account of the term 'progress' that enables the re-opening of lines of theoretical thought. Through this account utilise Weberian elements as interstitial moments with which to achieve an initial move into treating progress: the concept of personality; the question of fragmentation, the 'moral achievement' and limits of science, and the question of ethics. Although these moments do not provide a complete account of progress, or indeed one without significant problems, the questioning of progress, in the fin de siècle, acquires an initiating step through Weber.

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