Max Weber, by Wikipedia

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Re: Max Weber, by Wikipedia

Postby admin » Sun Jun 10, 2018 7:01 am

Part 1 of 2

The National State and Economic Policy (Freiburg Address)
by Max Weber
translated by Ben Fowkes
Economy and Society Volume 9 Number 4 November 1980
Inaugural lecture, Freiburg
May 1895



The title I have chosen promises much more than I can achieve today, or wish to achieve. What I intend is first of all this: to use a single example to make clear the role played by racial differences of a physical and psychological nature, as between nationalities, in the economic struggle for existence. I should then like to add some reflections on the situation of a state which rests on a national basis -– such as our own –- within the framework of a consideration of economic policy. I am choosing for my example a set of events which although they are occurring a long way from us have repeatedly come to the notice of the public in the last ten years. Allow me, then, to conduct you to the eastern marches of the Reich, to the open country of the Prussian province of West Prussia. This setting combines the character of a national borderland with some unusually sharp variations in the conditions of economic and social existence, and this recommends it for our purpose. Unfortunately I cannot avoid calling on your forebearance initially while I recite a series of dry data.

The rural areas of the province of West Prussia contain three different types of contrast, as follows: First, extraordinary variations in the quality of agricultural land. From the sugar-beet country of the Vistula plain to the sandy uplands of Cassubia the estimates of the gross tax yield vary in a ratio of 10 or 20 to 1. Even the average values at district level fluctuate between 4-3/4 and 33-2/3 marks per hectare.

Then there are contrasts in the social stratification of the population which cultivates this land. As in general in the East, the official statistics refer alongside the ‘rural parish’ (Landgemeinde) to a second form of communal unit, unknown to the South: the ‘estate district’ (Gutsbezirk). And, correspondingly, the estates of the nobility stand out in bold relief in the landscape between the villages of the peasants. These are the places of residence of the class which gives the East its social imprint -– the Junkers. Everywhere there are manor-houses, surrounded by the single-storey cottages the lord of the manor (Gutsherr) has allotted to the day-labourers, plus a few strips of arable land and pasture; these people are obliged to work on the manor the whole year round. The area of the province of West Prussia is divided between these two categories in roughly equal proportions. But in particular districts the share of the manorial estates can vary from a few per cent to two thirds of the whole area.

Finally, within this population which is subject to a twofold social stratification, there exists a third contrast; it is between the nationalities. And the national composition of the population of the individual communities also varies from region to region. It is this kind of variation which is of interest to us today. In the first place, the proportion of Poles is naturally greater as you approach the boundary of the Reich. But this proportion of Poles also increases as the quality of the soil deteriorates. Any language-map will show that. One will at first wish to explain this historically from the form taken by the German occupation of these lands, which initially spread over the fertile plain of the Vistula. And this would not be entirely incorrect. But let us now ask the further question: what social strata are the repositories of Germanism (Deutschtum) and Polonism (Polentum) in the country districts? In answer to this question, the figures of the most recently published population census (that of 1885) [1] present us with a curious picture. Admittedly we cannot directly extract the national composition of each parish from these figures, but we can do this indirectly, provided we are content to achieve only approximate accuracy. The intermediate step is the figure for religious affiliation, which, for the nationally mixed district we are concerned with, coincides to within a few per cent with nationality. If we separate the economic categories of the peasant village and the manorial estate in each district, by identifying them with the corresponding administrative units of the rural parish and the estate district, [2] we find that their national composition is related inversely to the quality of the soil; in the fertile districts the Catholics, i.e. the Poles, are relatively most numerous on the estates, and the Protestants, i.e. the Germans, are to be found in greater proportions in the villages. In districts where the soil is inferior the situation is precisely the opposite of this. For example, if we take the districts with an average net tax yield of under 5 marks per hectare, we find only 35.5 per cent Protestants in the villages and 50.2 per cent Protestants on the estates; if on the other hand we take the group of districts which provide an average of 10 to 15 marks per hectare, we find the proportion of Protestants rising to 60.7 per cent in the villages and falling to 42.1 per cent on the estates. Why is this? Why are the estates the reservoirs of Polonism on the plain, and the villages the reservoirs of Polonism in the hills? One thing is immediately evident: the Poles have a tendency to collect together in that stratus of the population which stands lowest both economically and socially. On the good soil, like that of the Vistula plain, the peasant’s standard of living has always been higher than that of the day-labourer on an estate; on the bad soil, which could only be rationally exploited on a large scale, the manorial estate (Rittergut) was the repository of civilization and hence of Germanism; there the miserable small peasants still live below the level of the day-labourers on the estates. If we did not know that anyway, the age-structure of the population would lead us to that presumption. If we look at the villages we find that as one rises from the plain to the hilltops, and as the quality of the soil deteriorates the proportion of children under 14 years old rises from 35-36 per cent to 40-41 per cent. If we compare the estates, we find that the proportion of children is higher on the plain than in the villages, that it increases as the height above sea-level increases, though more slowly than this happens in the villages, and finally that on the hilltops the proportion is lower than the proportion in the hilltop villages. As usual, a large number of children follows hard on the heels of a low standard of living, since this tends to obliterate any calculations of future welfare. Economic advance (wirtschaftliche Kultur), a relatively high standard of living and Germanism are in West Prussia identical.

And yet the two nationalities have competed for centuries on the same soil, and with essentially the same opportunities. What then is the basis of the distinction? One is immediately tempted to believe that the two nationalities differ in their ability to adapt to different economic and social conditions of existence. And this is in fact so –- as is proved by the tendency of development revealed by shifts in the population and changes in its national composition. This also allows us to perceive how fateful that difference in the ability to adapt is for the Germanism of the East.

It is true that we only have at our disposal the figures of 1871 and 1885 for a comparative examination of the displacements which have occurred in the individual parishes, and these figures allow us to perceive only the indistinct beginnings of a development which has since then, according to all indications, been extraordinarily reinforced. Apart from this, the clarity of the numerical picture naturally suffers under the enforced but not entirely correct assumption of an identity between religious affiliation and nationality on one side, and administrative subdivisions and social structure on the other. Despite all this, we can still gain a clear enough view of the relevant changes. The rural population of West Prussia, like that of large parts of the whole of eastern Germany, showed a tendency to fall during the period between 1880 and 1885; this fall amounted to 12,700 people, i.e. there was a decline of 1-1/4 per cent, while the overall population of the German Reich was increasing by about 3-1/2 per cent. This phenomenon, like the phenomena we have already discussed, also occurred unevenly: in some districts there was actually an increase in the rural population. And indeed the manner in which these phenomena were distributed is highly characteristic. If we take first the different soil qualities, one would normally assume that the decline hit the worst land hardest, for there the pressure of falling prices would be first to render the margin of subsistence too narrow. If one looks at the figures, however, one sees that the reverse is the case: precisely the most well-favoured districts, such as Stuhm and Marienwerder, with an average net yield of around 15-17 marks, experienced the greatest population loss, a loss of 7-8 per cent, whereas in the hilly country the district of Konitz and Tuchel, with a net yield of 5-6 marks, experienced the biggest increase, an increase which had been going on since 1871. One looks for an explanation, and one asks first: from which social strata did the population loss originate, and which social strata gained from the increase? Let us look at the districts where the figures demonstrate a great reduction in population: Stuhm, Marienwerder, Rosenberg. These are without exception districts where large-scale landownership predominates particularly strongly, and if we take the estate districts of the whole province together, we find that although in 1880 they exhibited a total population two thirds smaller than the villages (on the same area of land) their share in the fall of the rural population between 1880 and 1885 comes to over 9,000 people, which is almost three quarters of the tital reduction over the whole province: the population of the estate districts has fallen by about 3-3/4 per cent. But this fall in population is also distributed unevenly within the category referred to: in some places the population actually increased, and when one isolates the areas where the population was sharply reduced, one find that it was precisely the estates on good soil which experienced a particularly severe loss of population.

In contrast to this, the increase of population which took place on the bad soils of the uplands worked chiefly in favour of the villages, and indeed this was most pronounced in the villages on bad soils, as opposed to the villages of the plain. The tendency which emerges from these figures is therefore towards a decrease in the numbers of day-labourers on the estates situated on the best land, and an increase in the number of peasants on land of inferior quality. What is at stake here, and how the phenomenon is to be explained, becomes clear when one finally asks how the nationalities are affected by these shifts in population.

In the first half of the century the Polish element appeared to be in retreat, slowly but continuously. However, since the 1860s, as is well known, it has just as continuously, and just as slowly, been advancing. Despite their inadequate basis, the language data for West Prussia make the latter point extremely plain. Now a shift in the boundary between two nationalities can occur in two ways, which are fundamentally distinct. It may on the one hand happen that the language and customs of the majority gradually impose themselves on national minorities in a nationally mixed region, that these minorities get ‘soaked up.’ This phenomenon can be found as well in eastern Germany: the process is statistically demonstrable in the case of Germans of the Catholic confession. Here the ecclesiastical bond is stronger than the national one, memories of the Kulturkampf also play their part, and the lack of a German-educated clergy means that the German Catholics are lost to the cultural community of the nation. But the second form of nationality-displacement is more important, and more relevant for us: economic extrusion. And this is how it is in the present case. If one examines the changes in the proportion of adherents of the two faiths in the rural parish units between 1871 and 1885, one sees this: the migration of day-labourers away from the estates is in the lowlands regularly associated with a relative decline of Protestantism, while in the hills the increase of the village population is associated with a relative increase of Catholicism. [3] It is chiefly German day-labourers who move out of the districts of progressive cultivation; it is chiefly Polish peasants who multiply in the districts where cultivation is on a low level.

But both processes –- here emigration, there increase in numbers –- lead back ultimately to one and the same reason: a lower expectation of living standards, in part physical, in part mental, which the Slav race either possesses as a gift from nature or has acquired through breeding in the course of its past history. This is what has helped it to victory.

Why do the German day-labourers move out? Not for material reasons: the movement of emigration does not draw its recruits from districts with low levels of pay or from categories of worker who are badly paid. Materially there is hardly a more secure situation than that of agricultural labourer on the East German estates. Nor is it the much-bruited longing for the diversions of the big city. This is a reason for the planless wandering off of the younger generation, but not for the emigration of long-serving families of day-labourers. Moreover, why would such a longing arise precisely among the people on the big estates? Why is it that the emigration of the day-labourers demonstrably falls off in proportion as the peasant village comes to dominate the physiognomy of the landscape? The reason is as follows: there are only masters and servants, and nothing else, on the estates of his homeland for the day-labourer, and the prospect for his family, down to the most distant of his progeny, is to slave away on someone else’s land from one chime of the estate-bell to the next. In this deep, half-conscious impulse towards the distant horizon there lies hidden an element of primitive idealism. He who cannot decipher this does not know the magic of freedom. Indeed, the spirit of freedom seldom touches us today in the stillness of the study. The naïve youthful ideas of freedom are faded, and some of us have grown prematurely old and all too wise, and believe that one of the most elemental impulses of the human breast has been borne to its grave along with the slogans of a dying conception of politics and economic policy.

We have here an occurrence of a mass-psychological character: the Germany agricultural labourers can no longer adjust themselves to the social conditions of life in their homeland. We have reports of West Prussian landowners complaining about their labourers’ ‘self-assertiveness.’ The old patriarchal relationship between lord and vassal is disappearing. But this is what attached the day-labourer directly to the interests of the agricultural producers as a small cultivator with a right to a share in the produce. Seasonal labour in the beet-growing districts requires seasonal workers and payment in money. They are faced with a purely proletarian existence, but without the possibility of that energetic advance to economic independence which gives added self-confidence to the industrial proletarians who live cheek by jowl in the cities of the West. Those who replace the Germans on the estates of the East are better able to submit to these conditions of existence: I mean the itinerant Polish workers, troops of nomads recruited by agents in Russia, who cross the frontier in tens of thousands in spring, and leave again in autumn. They first emerge in attendance upon the sugar-beet, a crop which turns agriculture into a seasonal trade, then they are everywhere, because one can save on workers’ dwellings, on poor rates, on social obligations by using them, and further became they are in a precarious position as foreigners and therefore in the hands of the landowners. These are accompanying circumstances of the economic death-struggle of Old Prussian Junkerdom. On the sugar-beet estates a stratum of industrial businessmen steps into the shoes of the patriarchally ruling lord of the manor, while in the uplands the lands of the manorial estates crumble away under the pressure of the crisis in the agrarian economy. Tenants of small parcels and colonies of small peasants arise on their outfields. The economic foundations of the power of the old landed nobility vanish, and the nobility itself becomes something other than what it was.

And why is it the Polish peasants who are gaining the land? Is it their superior economic intelligence, or their greater supply of capital? It is rather the opposite of both these factors. Under a climate, and on a soil, which favour the growing of cereals and potatoes above all, alongside extensive cattle-raising, the person who is least threatened by an unfavourable market is the one who brings his products to the place where they are least devalued by a collapse in prices: his own stomach. This is the person who produces for his own requirements. And once again, the person who can set his own requirements at the lowest level, the person who makes the smallest physical and mental demands for the maintenance of his life, is the one with the advantage. The small Polish peasant in East Germany is a type far removed from the bustling peasant owner of a dwarf property, whom one may see here in the well-favoured valley of the Rhine as he forges links with the towns via greenhouse cultivation and market-gardening. The small Polish peasant gains more land, because he as it were eats the very grass from off of it, he gains not despite but on account of the low level of his physical and intellectual habits of life.

We therefore seem to see a process of selection unfolding. Both nationalities have for a long time been embedded in the same conditions of existence. The consequence of this has not been what vulgar materialists might have imagined, that they took on the same physical and psychological qualities, but rather that one yielded the ground to the other, that victory went to the nationality which possessed the greater ability to adapt itself to the given economic and social conditions of existence.

This difference in the ability to adapt seems to be present ready-made, as a fixed magnitude. The nations’ respective abilities to adapt might perhaps undergo further shifts in the course of many generations, through the millennial process of breeding which no doubt originally produced the difference, but for any reflections on the present situation it is a factor with which we have to reckon, as given. [4]

The free play of the forces of selection does not always work out, as the optimists among us think, in favour of the nationality which is more highly developed or more gifted economically. We have just seen this. Human history does not lack examples of the victory of less developed types of humanity and the extinction of fine flowers of intellectual and emotional life, when the human community which was their repository lost its ability to adapt to the conditions of existence, either by reason of its social organization or its racial characteristics. In our case it is the transformation of the forms of agricultural enterprise and the tremendous crisis in agriculture which is bringing to victory the less economically developed nationality. The rise of sugar-beet cultivation and the unprofitability of cereal production for the market are developments running parallel and in the same direction: the first breeds the Polish seasonal worker, the second the small Polish peasant.

Man of the Future

There are days when I may find myself unduly pessimistic about the future of man. Indeed, I will confess that there have been occasions when I swore I would never again make the study of time a profession. My walls are lined with books expounding its mysteries, my hands have been split and raw with grubbing into the quicklime of its waste bins and hidden crevices. I have stared so much at death that I can recognize the lingering personalities in the faces of skulls and feel accompanying affinities and repulsions.

One such skull lies in the lockers of a great metropolitan museum. It is labeled simply: Strandlooper, South Africa. I have never looked longer into any human face than I have upon the features of that skull. I come there often, drawn in spite of myself. It is a face that would lend reality to the fantastic tales of our childhood. There is a hint of Wells's Time Machine folk in it -- those pathetic, childlike people whom Wells pictures as haunting earth's autumnal cities in the far future of the dying planet.

Yet this skull has not been spirited back to us through future eras by a time machine. It is a thing, instead, of the millennial past. It is a caricature of modern man, not by reason of its primitiveness but, startlingly, because of a modernity outreaching his own. It constitutes, in fact, a mysterious prophecy and warning. For at the very moment in which students of humanity have been sketching their concept of the man of the future, that being has already come, and lived, and passed away.

We men of today are insatiably curious about ourselves and desperately in need of reassurance. Beneath our boisterous self-confidence is fear -- a growing fear of the future we are in the process of creating. In such a mood we turn the pages of our favorite magazine and, like as not, come straight upon a description of the man of the future.

The descriptions are never pessimistic; they always, with sublime confidence, involve just one variety of mankind -- our own -- and they are always subtly flattering. In fact, a distinguished colleague of mine who was adept at this kind of prophecy once allowed a somewhat etherealized version of his own lofty brow to be used as an illustration of what the man of the future was to look like. Even the bald spot didn't matter -- all the men of the future were to be bald, anyway.

Occasionally I show this picture to students. They find it highly comforting. Somebody with a lot of brains will save humanity at the proper moment. "It's all right," they say, looking at my friend's picture labeled "Man of the Future." "It's O.K. Somebody's keeping an eye on things. Our heads are getting bigger and our teeth are getting smaller. Look!"

Their voices ring with youthful confidence, the confidence engendered by my persuasive colleagues and myself. At times I glow a little with their reflected enthusiasm. I should like to regain that confidence, that warmth. I should like to but ...

There's just one thing we haven't quite dared to mention. It's this, and you won't believe it. It's all happened already. Back there in the past, ten thousand years ago. The man of the future, with the big brain, the small teeth.

Where did it get him? Nowhere. Maybe there isn't any future. Or, if there is, maybe it's only what you can find in a little heap of bones on a certain South African beach.

Many of you who read this belong to the white race. We like to think about this man of the future as being white. It flatters our ego. But the man of the future in the past I'm talking about was not white. He lived in Africa. His brain was bigger than your brain. His face was straight and small, almost a child's face. He was the end evolutionary product in a direction quite similar to the one anthropologists tell us is the road down which we are traveling.

-- The Immense Journey, by Loren Eiseley

On looking back at the facts presented here, I am in no position, as I shall willingly concede, to develop theoretically the significance of the various general points which may be derived from them. The immensely difficult question, certainly insoluble at present, of where to place the limit of the variability of physical and psychological qualities in a population under the influence of its given conditions of existence is something I shall not even venture to touch on.

Instead of this, everyone will automatically want to ask, above all else: what can and should be done in this situation?

You will however permit me to abstain from an exhaustive discussion of this on the present occasion, and to content myself with briefly indicating the two demands which in my view should be posed from the standpoint of Germanism, and are in fact being posed with growing unanimity. The first is the demand for the closing of the Eastern frontier. This was accomplished under Prince Bismarck, and then reversed after his resignation in 1890: permanent settlement remained forbidden to the aliens, but they were permitted entry as migratory workers. A ‘class-conscious’ land-owner at the head of the Prussian government excluded them in the interests of the maintenance of our nationality, and the hated opponent of the Agrarians [Caprivil] let them in, in the interests of the big landowners, who are the only people to gain from this influx. This demonstrates that the ‘economic class-standpoint’ is not always decisive in matters of economic policy –- here it was the circumstance the the helm of the ship of state fell from a strong hand into a weaker one. The other demand is for a policy of systematic land purchase on the part of the state, i.e. the extension of crown lands on the one hand, and systematic colonization by German peasants on suitable land, particularly on suitable crown land, on the other hand. Large-scale enterprises which can only be preserved at the expense of Germanism deserve from the point of view of the nation to go down to destruction. To leave them as they are without assistance means to allow unviable Slav hunger colonies to arise by way of gradual fragmentation of the estates into small parcels. And it is not only our interest in stemming the Slav flood which requires the transfer of considerable parts of the land of eastern Germany into the hands of the state, but also the annihilating criticism the big landowners themselves have made of the continued existence of their private property by demanding the removal of the risk they run, their personal responsibility for their own property, which is its sole justification. I refer to the proposal for the introduction of a corn monopoly [the Kanitz proposal of 1894 for a state monopoly on the import of corn into Germany] and the granting of a state contribution of half a billion marks a year. [5]

But, as I said earlier, I would prefer not to discuss this practical question of Prussian agrarian policy today. I would rather start from the fact that such a question arises at all, the fact that we all consider the German character of the East to be something that should be protected, and that the economic policy of the state should also enter into the lists in its defence. Our state is a national state, and it is this circumstance which makes us feel we have a right to make this demand.

However, how does the attitude assumed by economics relate to this? Does it treat such nationalist value-judgments as prejudices, of which it must carefully rid itself in order to be able to apply its own specific standard of value to the economic facts, without being influenced by emotional reflexes? And what is this standard of value peculiar to economic policy (Volkswirtschaftspolitik)? I should like to try to get closer to this question by making one or two further observations.

As we have seen, the economic struggle between the nationalities follows its course even under the semblance of ‘peace.’ The German peasants and day-labourers of the East are not being pushed off the land in an open conflict by politically superior opponents. Instead they are getting the worst of it in the silent and dreary struggle of everyday economic existence, they are abandoning their homeland to a race which stands on a lower level, and moving towards a dark future in which they will sink without trace. There can be no truce even in the economic struggle for existence; only if one takes the semblance of peace for its reality can one believe that peace and prosperity will emerge for our successors at some time in the distant future. Certainly, the vulgar conception of political economy is that it consists in working out recipes for making the world happy; the improvement of the ‘balance of pleasure’ in human existence is the sole purpose of our work that the vulgar conception can comprehend. However the deadly seriousness of the population problem prohibits eudaemonism; it prevents us from imagining that peace and happiness lie hidden in the lap of the future, it prevents us from believing that elbowroom in this earthly existence can be won in any other way than through the hard struggle of human beings with each other.
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Re: Max Weber, by Wikipedia

Postby admin » Sun Jun 10, 2018 10:36 am

Part 2 of 2

It is certain that there can be no work in political economy on any other than an altruistic basis. The overwhelming majority of the fruits of the economic, social and political endeavours of the present are garnered not by the generation now alive but by the generations of the future. If our work is to retain any meaning it can only be informed by this: concern for the future, for those who will come after us. But there can also be no real work in political economy on the basis of optimistic dreams of happiness. Abandon hope all ye who here here: these words are inscribed above the portals of the unknown future history of mankind. So much for the dream of peace and happiness.

The question which leads us beyond the grave of our own generation is not ‘how will human beings feel in the future’ but ‘how will they be.’ In fact this question underlies all work in political economy. We do not want to train up feelings of well-being in people, but rather those characteristics we think constitute the greatness and nobility of our human nature.

The doctrines of political economy have alternately placed in the forefront or naively identified as standards of value either the technical economic problem of the production of commodities or the problem of their distribution, in others words ‘social justice.’ Yet again and again a different perception, in part unconscious, but nevertheless all-dominating, has raised itself above both these standards of value: the perception that a human science, and that is what political economy is, investigates above all else the quality of the human beings who are brought up in those economic and social conditions of existence. And here we must be on our guard against a certain illusion.

As a science of explanation and analysis political economy is international, but as soon as it makes value judgments it is bound up with the distinct imprint of humanity we find in our own nature. We are often most bound to our own nature on precisely those occasions when we think we have escaped our fleshly limitations. And if – to use a somewhat fanciful image – we could arise from the grave thousands of years hence, we would seek the distant traces of our own nature in the physiognomy of the race of the future. Even our highest, our ultimate, terrestrial ideals are mutable and transitory. We cannot presume to impose them on the future. But we can hope that the future recognizes in our nature the nature of its own ancestors. We wish to make ourselves the forefathers of the race of the future with our labour and our mode of existence.

The economic policy of a German state, and the standard of value adopted by a German economic theorist, can therefore be nothing other than a German policy and a German standard.

Has this situation perhaps changed since economic development began to create an all-embracing economic community of nations, going beyond national boundaries? Is the ‘nationalistic’ standard of evaluation to be thrown on the scrapheap along with ‘national egoism’ in economic policy? Has the struggle for economic survival, for the maintenance of one’s wife and children, been surmounted now that the family has been divested of its original function as an association for production, and meshed into the network of the national economic community? We know that this is not the case: the struggle has taken on other forms, forms about which one may well raise the question of whether they should be viewed as a mitigation or indeed rather an intensification and a sharpening of the struggle. In the same way, the world-wide economic community is only another form of the struggle of the nations with each other, and it aggravates rather than mitigating the struggle for the maintenance of one’s own culture, because it calls forth in the very bosom of the nation material interests opposed to the nation’s future, and throws them into the ring in alliance with the nation’s enemies.

We do not have peace and human happiness to bequeath to our posterity, but rather the eternal struggle for the maintenance and improvement by careful cultivation of our national character. And we should not abandon ourselves to the optimistic expectation that we have done what is necessary once we have developed economic progress to the highest possible level, and that the process of selection in the freely conducted and ‘peaceful’ economic struggle will thereupon automatically bring the victory to the more highly developed human type.

Our successors will not hold us responsible before history for the kind of economic organization we hand over to them, but rather for the amount of elbow-room we conquer for them in the world and leave behind us. Processes of economic development are in the final analysis also power struggles, and the ultimate and decisive interests at whose service economic policy must place itself are the interests of national power, where these interests are in question.
The science of political economy is a political science. It is a servant of politics, not the day-to-day politics of the individuals and classes who happen to be ruling at a particular time, but the lasting power-political interests of the nation. And for us the national state is not, as some people believe, an indeterminate entity raised higher and higher into the clouds in proportion as one clothes its nature in mystical darkness, but the temporal power-organization of the nation, and in this national state the ultimate standard of value for economic policy is ‘reason of state.’ There is a strange misinterpretation of this view current to the effect that we advocate ‘state assistance’ instead of ‘self-help,’ state regulation of economic life instead of the free play of economic forces. We do not. Rather we wish under this slogan of ‘reason of state’ to raise the demand that for questions of German economic policy – including the question of whether, and how far, the state should intervene in economic life, and when it should rather untie the economic forces of the nation and tear down the barriers in the way of their free development – the ultimate and decisive voice should be that of the economic and political interests of our nation’s power, and the vehicle of that power, the German national state.

Has it been superfluous to recall things that appear to go without saying? Or was it unnecessary for precisely a younger representative or economic science to recall these matters? I do not think so, for it appears that our generation is liable very easily to lose sight of these simple bases for judgment. We have witnessed a hitherto unimaginable growth in the present generation’s interest in the burning issues of our field of science. Everywhere we find an advance in the popularity of the economic method of approach. Social policy has become the central pre-occupation instead of politics, economic relations of power instead of legal relations, cultural and economic history instead of political history. In the outstanding works of our historical colleagues we find that today instead of telling us about the warlike deeds of our ancestors they dilate at length about ‘mother-right’, that monstrous notion, and force into a subordinate clause the victory of the Huns on the Catalaunian Plain. One of the most ingenious theorists was self-confident enough to believe he could characterize jurisprudence as ‘the handmaiden of political economy.’ And one thing is certainly true: the economic form of analysis has penetrated into jurisprudence itself. Even its most intimate regions, the treatises on the Pandects, are beginning to be quietly haunted by economic ideas. And in the verdicts of the courts of law it is not rare to find so-called ‘economic grounds’ put in where legal concepts are unable to fill the bill. In short, to use the half-reproachful phrase of a legal colleague: we have ‘come into fashion.’ A method of analysis which is so confidently forging ahead is in danger of falling into certain illusions and exaggerating the significance of its own point of view. This exaggeration occurs in a quite specific direction. Just as the extension of the material of philosophical reflection – already made apparent externally through the fact that nowadays we frequently find e.g. prominent physiologists occupying the old Chairs of Philosophy – has led laymen to the opinion that the old questions of the nature of human knowledge are no longer the ultimate and central questions of philosophy, so in the field of political economy the notion has grown in the minds of the coming generation that the work of economic science has not only immensely extended our knowledge of the nature of human communities, but also provided a completely new standard by which these phenomena can ultimately be evaluated, that political economy is in a position to extract from its material its own specific ideals. The notion that there exist independent economic or ‘socio-political’ ideas is revealed as an optical illusion as soon as one seeks to establish these ‘peculiar’ canons of evaluation by using the literature produced by our science. We are confronted instead with a chaotic mass of standards of value, partly eudaemonistic, partly ethical, and often both present together in an ambiguous identification. Valuie-judgments are made everywhere in a nonchalant and spontaneous manner, and if we abandon the evaluation of economic phenomena we in fact abandon the very accomplishment which is being demanded of us. But it is not the general rule, in fact it is well-nigh exceptional, for the maker of a judgment to clarify for others and for himself the nature of the ultimate subjective core of his judgments, to make clear the ideals on the basis of which he proceeds to judge the events he is observing; there is a lack of conscious self-inspection, the internal contradictions of his judgment do not come to the writer’s notice, and where he seeks to give a general formulation of his specifically ‘economic’ principle of judgment he falls into vagueness and indeterminacy. In truth, the ideals we introduce into the substance of our science are not peculiar to it, nor have we worked them out independently: they are old-established human ideals of a general type. Only he who proceeds exclusively from the pure Platonic interest of the technologist, or, inversely, the actual interests of a particular class, whether a ruling or a subject class, can expect to derive his own standard of judgment from the material itself.

And is it so unnecessary for us, the younger representatives of the German historical school, to keep in sight these extremely simple truths? By no means, for we in particular are liable to fall victim to a special kind of illusion: the illusion that we can entirely do without conscious value-judgments of our own. The result is of course, and the evidence is quite convincing on this point, that we do not remain true to this intention but rather fall prey to uncontrolled instincts, sympathies, and antipathies. And it is still more likely to happen that the point of departure we adopt in analyzing and explaining economic events unconsciously becomes determinant in our judgment of the events. We shall perhaps have to be on our guard lest the very qualities of the dead and living masters of our school to which they and their science owed its success turn in our case into weaknesses. In practice we have essentially to consider the following two different points of departure in economic analysis.

Either we look at economic development mainly from above: we proceed from the heights of the administrative history of the larger German states, pursuing to its origins the way they have administered economic and social affairs and their attitude to these matters. In that case we involuntarily become their apologists. If – let us keep to our original example – the administration decides to close the Eastern border, we are ready and inclined to view the decision as the conclusion of a historical development, which as a result of the gigantic reverberations of the past has posed great tasks the present-day state must fulfil in the interest of the maintenance of our national culture. If on the other hand that decision is not taken it is very easy for us to believe that radical interventions of that kind are in part unnecessary and in part do not correspond any longer to present-day views.

Or, and this is the other starting-point, we may view economic development more from below, we may look at the great spectacle of the emancipator struggles of rising classes emerging from the chaos of conflicts of economic interest, we may observe the way in which the balance of economic power shifts in their favour. Then we unconsciously take sides with the rising classes, because they are the stronger, or are beginning to be so. They seem to prove, precisely because they are victorious, that they represent a type of humanity that stands on a higher level ‘economically’: it is all to easy for the historian to succumb to the idea that the victory of the more highly developed element in the struggle is a matter of course, and that defeat in the struggle for existence is a symptom of ‘backwardness.’ And every new sign of the shift of power gives satisfaction to the historian, not only because it confirms his observations, but because, half unconsciously, he senses it as a personal triumph: history is honouring the bills he has drawn on it. Without being aware of it, he observes the resistance that development finds in its path with a certain animosity; it seems to him to be not simply the natural result of the interplay of various inevitably divergent interests, but to some extent a rebellion against the ‘judgment of history’ as formulated by the historian. But criticism must also be made of processes which appear to us to be the unreflected result of tendencies of historical development; and precisely here, where there is most need of it, the critical spirit deserts us. In any case, there is a very obvious temptation on the historian to become a part of the camp-following of the victor in the economic struggle for power, and to forget that economic power and the vocation for political leadership of the nation do not always coincide.

With this we now arrive at a final series of reflections belonging more to the realm of practical politics. There is only one political standard of value which is supreme for us economic nationalists, and it is by this standard that we also measure the classes which either have the leadership of the nation in their hands or are striving for it. What we are concerned with is their political maturity, i.e. their understanding of the lasting economic and political interests of the nation’s power and their ability to place these interests above all other considerations if the occasion demands. A nation is favoured by destiny if the naïve identification of the interests of one’s own class with the general interest also corresponds to the interests of national power.
And it is one of the delusions which arise from the modern over-estimation of the ‘economic’ in the usual sense of the word when people assert that feelings of political community cannot maintain themselves in face of the full weight of divergent economic interests, indeed that very possibly these feelings are merely the reflection of the economic basis underlying those changing interests. This is approximately accurate only in times of fundamental social transformation. One thing can certainly be said: among nations like the English, who are not confronted daily with the dependence of their economic prosperity on their situation of political power, the instinct for these specifically political interests does not, at least not as a rule, dwell in the broad masses of the people, for they are occupied in the fight to secure their daily needs. It would be unfair to expect them to possess this understanding. But in great moments, in the case of war, their souls too become conscious of the significance of national power. Then it emerges that the national state rests on deep and elemental psychological foundations within the broad economically subordinate strata of the nation as well, that it is by no means a mere ‘superstructure,’ the organization of the economically dominant classes. It is just that in normal times this political instinct sinks below the level of consciousness for the masses. In that case the specific function of the economically and politically leading strata is to be the repositories of political understanding. This is in fact the sole political justification for their existence.

At all times it has been the attainment of economic power which has led to the emergence within a given class of the notion that it has a claim to political leadership. It is dangerous, and in the long term incompatible with the interests of the nation when an economically declining class is politically dominant. But it is still more dangerous when classes which are beginning to achieve economic power and thereby the expectation of political domination are not yet politically mature enough to assume the direction of the state. Germany is at present under threat from both these directions, and this is in truth the key to understanding the present dangers of our situation. The changes in the social structure of eastern Germany, with which the phenomena discussed at the outset are linked, also belong within this larger context.

Right up to the present time in Prussia the dynasty has been politically based on the social stratum of the Prussian Junkers. The dynasty created the Prussian state against them, but only with their assistance was it possible. I know full well that the word ‘Junker’ resonates harshly in South German ears. It will perhaps be thought that if I now say a word in their favour, I shall be speaking a ‘Prussian’ language. I cannot be sure. Even today in Prussia the Junkers have open to them many paths to influence and power, many ways to the ear of the monarch, which are not available to every citizen; they have not always used this power in accordance with their responsibility before history, and there is no reason for a bourgeois scholar like myself to love them. But despite all this the strength of their political instincts is one of the most tremendous resources which could have been applied to the service of the state’s power-interest. They have done their work now, and today are in the throes of an economic death-struggle, and no kind of economic policy on the part of the state could bring back their old social character. Moreover the tasks of the present are quite different from those they might be able to solve. The last and greatest of the Junkers stood at the head of Germany for a quarter of a century, and the future will very likely find the tragic element in his career as a statesman, alongside his incomparable greatness, in something which even today is hidden from view for many people: in the fact that the work of his hands, the nation to which he gave unity, gradually and irresistibly altered its economic structure even while he was in office, and became something different, a people compelled to demand other institutions than those he could grant to them, or those his autocratic nature could adapt itself to. In the final analysis it is this fate which brought about the partial failure of his life’s work. For this was intended to lead not just to the external but to the inner unification of the nation, and, as every one of us knows, that has not been achieved. With his means he could not achieve it. And when, last winter, ensnared by the graciousness of his monarch, he made his way into the splendidly decorated capital of the Reich, there were many people who felt – I can vouch for this – as if the Kyffhauser legend was about to come true, felt that the Sachsenwald had opened up and the long-lost hero was emerging from its depths. [6] But this feeling was not shared by everyone. For it seemed as if the cold breath of historical impermanence could be sensed in the January air. A strangely oppressive feeling overcame us, as if a ghost had stepped down from a great past epoch and were going about among a new generation, and through a world become alien to it.

The manors of the East were the points of support for the ruling class of Prussia, which was scattered over the countryside, they were the social point of contact for the bureaucracy. But with their decline, with the disappearance of the social character of the old landed nobility, the centre of gravity of the political intelligentsia is shifting irresistibly towards the towns. This displacement is the decisive political aspect of the agrarian development of the East.

But whose are the hands into which the political function of the Junkers is passing, and what kind of political vocation do they have?

I am a member of the bourgeois classes. I feel myself to be a bourgeois, and I have been brought up to share their views and ideals. But it is the task of precisely our science to say what people do not like to hear – to those above us, to those below us, and also to our own class – and when I ask myself whether the German bourgeoisie is at present ripe to be the leading political class of the nation, I cannot answer this question in the affirmative today. The German state was not created by the bourgeoisie with its own strength, and when it had been created, there stood at the head of the nation that Caesar-like figure hewn out of quite other than bourgeois timber. Great power-political tasks were not set a second time for the nation to accomplish: only much later on, timidly, and half unwillingly, did an overseas ‘power policy’ begin, a policy which does not deserve the name.

And after the nation’s unity had thus been achieved, and its political ‘satiation’ was an established fact, a peculiarly ‘unhistorical’ and unpolitical mood came over the growing race of German bourgeois, drunk as it was with success and thirsty for peace. German history appeared to have come to an end. The present was the complete fulfillment of past millennia. Who was inclined to question whether the future might judge otherwise? Indeed it seemed as if modesty forbade world history from going over to the order of the day, from resuming its day-to-day course after these successes of the German nation. Today we are more sober, and it is seemly to make the attempt to lift the veil of illusions which has hidden the position of our generation in the historical development of the fatherland. And it seems to me that if we do this we shall judge differently. Over our cradle stood the most frightful curse history has ever handed to any race as a birthday-gift: the hard destiny of the political epigone.

Do we not see his miserable countenance wherever we look in the fatherland? Those of us who have retained the capacity to hate pettiness have recognized, with passionate and furious sorrow, the petty manoeuvring of political epigones in the events of the last few months, for which bourgeois politicians are responsible first and foremost, in far too much of what has been said recently in the German parliament, and in a certain amount of what has been said to it. The gigantic sun which stood at its zenith in Germany and caused the German name to shine forth in the furthest corners of the earth was too strong for us, it might almost seem, and burnt out the bourgeoisie’s slowly developing sense of political judgment. For where is this to be seen at the present moment?

One section of the haute bourgeoisie longs all too shamelessly for the coming of a new Caesar, who will protect them in two directions: from beneath against the rising masses of the people, from above against the socio-political impulses they suspect the German dynasties of harbouring.

And another section has long been sunk in that political Philistinism from which broad strata of the lower middle classes have never awakened. Already when the first positive political task began to come on the nation’s horizon, after the wars of unification – I mean the idea of overseas expansion – this section of the bourgeoisie lacked the simplest economic understanding of what it means for Germany’s trade in far-off oceans when the German flag waves on the surrounding coasts.

The political immaturity of broad strata of the German bourgeoisie is not due to economic causes, nor is it due to the much-bruited ‘interest politics’, which is present in no less a degree in other nations than the German. The explanation lies in its unpolitical past, in the fact that one cannot make up in a decade for a missing century of political education, and that the domination of a great man is not always an appropriate instrument for such a process. And this is now the vital question for the political future of the German bourgeoisie: is it too late for it to catch up on its political education? No economic factor can make up for this loss.

Will other classes become the repositories of a politically greater future? The modern proletariat is self-confidently announcing itself as the heir of the ideals of the middle classes. What then of its claim to inherit the political leadership of the nation?

If anyone were to say of the German working class at present that it was politically mature, or on the road to political maturity, he would be a flatterer, a seeker after the dubious accolade of popularity.

The highest strata of the German working class are far more mature economically than the possessing classes in their egoism would like to admit, and it is with justification that the working class demand the freedom to put forward its interests in the form of the openly organized struggle for economic power. Politically the German working class is infinitely less mature than a clique of journalists, who would like to monopolise its leading positions, are trying to make the working class itself believe. In the circles of these déclassé bourgeois they like to amuse themselves with reminiscences of an epoch now one hundred years in the past. In some cases they have even succeeded in convincing other people; here and there anxious souls see in them the spiritual successors of the men of the Convention. But they are infinitely more harmless than they appear to themselves, for their lives in them not one glimmer of that Catiline energy of the deed which agitated the halls of the Convention. By the same token however they possess no trace of the Convention’s tremendous national passion. Wretched political manipulators – that is what they are. They lack the grand power instincts of a class destined for political leadership. The workers are led to believe that only the upholders of capital’s interests are at present politically opposed to giving them a share in state power. It is not so. They would find very few traces of a community of interest with capital if they investigated the study-rooms of Germany’s scholars and intellectuals.

However the workers too must be asked about their political maturity. There is nothing more destructive for a great nation than to be led by politically uneducated philistines, and the German proletariat has not yet lost this character of philistinism; that is why we are politically opposed to the proletariat. Why is the proletariat of England and France constituted differently, in part? The reason is not only the longer period of economic education accomplished by the English workers’ organized fight for their interests; we have once again what is above all a political element to bear in mind: the resonance of a position of world power. This constantly poses for the state great power-political tasks and gives the individual a political training which we might call ‘chronic’, whereas with us the training is only received when our borders are threatened, i.e. in ‘acute’ cases. The question of whether a policy on the grand scale can again place before us the significance of the great political issues of power is also decisive for our development. We must understand that the unification of Germany was a youthful prank committed by the nation at an advanced age, and should rather have been avoided on grounds of excessive cost if it was to form the conclusion instead of the point of departure for a policy of German world power.

The threatening danger in our situation is this: the bourgeois classes, as repositories of the power-instincts of the nation, seem to be withering, and there is still no sign that the workers have begun to mature so that they can take their place.

The danger does not lie with the masses, as is believed by people who stare as if hypnotized at the depths of society. The final content of the socio-political problem is not the question of the economic situation of the ruled but of the political qualifications of the ruling and rising classes. The aim of our socio-political activity is not world happiness but the social unification of the nation, which has been split apart by modern economic development, for the severe struggles of the future. At present the bourgeoisie is carrying the burden of these struggles, but it is becoming too heavy. Only if we were in fact to succeed in creating a ‘labour aristocracy,’ of the kind we now miss in the workers’ movement, which would be the repository of its political sense, only then could the burden be transferred to the broader shoulders of the workers. But that moment still seems a long way away.

For the present, however, one thing is clear: there is an immense labour of political education to be performed, and no more serious duty exists for us than that of fulfilling this task, each of us in his narrow circle of activity. The ultimate goal of our science must remain that of cooperating in the political education of our nation. The economic development of periods of transition threatens the natural political instincts with decomposition; it would be a misfortune if economic science also moved towards the same objective, by breeding a weak eudaemonism, in however intellectualized a form, behind the illusion of independent ‘socio-political’ ideals.

Of course we do have to remember, and for that very reason, that it is the opposite of political education when one seeks to formulate a vote of no confidence, paragraph by paragraph, against the nation’s future social peace, or when the secular arm reaches for the hand of the church to give support to the temporal authorities. But the opposite of political education is also proclaimed by the stereotyped yelping of the ever growing chorus of the social politicians of the woods and fields – if I may be forgiven the expression. And the same may be said of that softening of attitude which is human, amiable, and worthy of respect, but at the same time unspeakably narrowing in its effects, and leads people to think they can replace political with ‘ethical’ ideas, and to identify these in turn harmlessly with optimistic expectations of felicity.

In spite of the great misery of the masses, which burdens the sharpened social conscience of the new generation, we have to confess openly that one thing weighs on us even more heavily today: the sense of our responsibility before history. Our generation is not destined to see whether the struggle we are engaged in will bear fruit, whether posterity will recognize us as its forerunners. We shall not succeed in exorcising the curse that hangs over us: the curse of being posthumous to a great political epoch. Instead we shall have to learn how to be something different: the precursors of an even greater epoch.
Will that be our place in history? I do not know, and all I will say is this: youth has the right to stand up for itself and for its ideals. And it is not years which make a man old. He is young as long as he is able to remain sensitive to the grand passions nature has placed within us. And so – you will allow me to conclude with this – a great nation does not age beneath the burden of a thousand years of glorious history. It remains young if it has the capacity and the courage to keep faith with itself and with the grand instincts it has been given, and when its leading strata are able to raise themselves into the hard and clear atmosphere in which the sober activity of German politics flourishes, an atmosphere which is also pervaded by the solemn splendor of national sentiment.



1. Gemeindelexikon, Berlin, 1887.

2. This administrative subdivision is more characteristic evidence of social stratification than a division on the basis of the size of the enterprise. In the plains manorial enterprises of less than 100 hectares are not uncommon, nor, conversely, are peasant enterprises of more than 200 hectares in the hills.

3. For example the manorial estates of the district of Stuhm experienced a decline in population of 6.7 per cent between 1871 and 1885, and the proportion of Protestants in the Christian population fell from 33.4 per cent to 31.3 per cent. The villages of the district of Konitz and Tuchel increased in population by 8 per cent and the proportion of Catholics rose from 84.7 per cent to 86.0 per cent.

4. I need hardly point out the irrelevance for the above comments of the disputes in natural science over the significance of the principles of selection, or over the general application in natural science of the concept of ‘breeding,’ and all the discussions which have taken this their starting-point. This is in any case not my field. However, the concept of ‘selection’ is today common ground, just as much as is, e.g., the heliocentric hypothesis, and the idea of ‘breeding’ human beings is as old as the Platonic state. Both these concepts are employed e.g. by F.A. Lange in his Arbeiterfrage [Die Arbeiterfrage in ihrer Bedeutung fur Gegenwart und Zukunft, (Duisburg, 1865)] and they have long been so familiar to us that a misunderstanding of their meaning is impossible for anyone who knows our literature. More difficult to answer is the question of how much lasting value should be attached to the latest attempts of anthropologists to extend Darwin’s and Weismann’s selection concept to the field of economic investigation. They are ingenious, but arouse considerable reservations as to method and factual results, and are not doubt mistaken in a number of exaggerated versions. Nevertheless the writings of e.g. Otto Ammon (‘Natural selection in man,’ ‘The social order and its natural basis’) deserve more attention than they have been given, irrespective of all the reservations that have to be made. One weakness of most of the contributions made from natural scientific quarters to the illumination of the problems of our science consists in their mistaken ambition to provide above all a ‘refutation’ of socialism. Their eagerness to attain this goal leads to the involuntary conversion of what was intended to be a ‘natural-scientific theory’ of the social order into an apology for it.

5. The same train of thought as mine led Professor Schmoller too to pose the demand for state purchase of land in his journal (Schmollers Jahrbuch, 19, 1895, pp. 625 ff.). In fact that part of the stratum of big landowners whose retention as agricultural managers is desirable from the state’s point of view cannot in most cases be allowed to keep their land in full ownership but only as tenants of the crown demesne. I am certainly of the opinion that the purchase of land only has long-term validity if organically combined with the colonization of suitable crown lands, with the result that a part of the land in the East passes through the hands of the state and while it is in this position undergoes an energetic course of improvement with the assistance of state credits. The Settlement Commission [set up in 1886 to buy Polish estates and settle German farmers on them. Trans.] has to contend with two difficulties in this connection. One is that it is burdened with the ‘after-effects of the cure,’ in the shape of the colonists who have been planted and who ought preferably to be handed over after a while, along with their requests to postpone repayment to the ordinary state treasury, which is somewhat more hard-hearted than the Commission. The other difficulty derives from the fact that the estates which have been purchases have been for the most part in the hands of crown tenants for over a decade. Now the improvement must be carried out at breakneck speed and with great losses by the administration itself, although certainly a large number of crown lands would be suitable for immediate colonization. The consequent dilatoriness of the procedure does not by any means justify the judgment of Hans Delbruck on the national-political impact, delivered in his many well-known articles in the Preussische Jahrbucher. A merely mechanical calculation, comparing the number of peasant farms founded with the number of Poles, is not conclusive proof for anyone who has observed the civilizing effect of colonization on the spot: a few villages with a dozen German farms each will eventually Germanise many square miles, naturally with the pre-condition that the flood of proletarian reinforcements from the East is dammed up, and that we do not cut the ground from under the feet of those who are bringing progress, by leaving the big estates to the free play of the forces which are leading to their fragmentation and ruin, and are acting with even less restraint now thanks to the laws on renting land in perpetuity.

6. This is a reference by Weber to the old German legend that the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa was not dead but waiting in the heart of the Kyffhauser mountains in Thuringia to come forth and lead the German people against their enemies. Bismarck’s own estate was located in the Sachsenwald [Trans.].
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