The Practical, the Political and the Ethical seminar series

The Practical, the Political and the Ethical seminar series
22 November 2019, 4.30pm - 6.30pm
Room 246, Second Floor, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

Max Weber and the Contradictions of Political Leadership

Steven Klein (Florida / American Academy of Berlin)  


Max Weber stands as one of the most incisive analysts of the nature of political leadership in modern societies. Yet key aspects of his theory of leadership remain puzzling. This talk seeks to reconstruct the philosophical assumptions behind his account of political leadership. In particular, the talk inquires into the relationship between the two "ethics" that Weber famously contrasts in his lecture "Politics as a Vocation": the ethics of ultimate ends and the ethics of responsibility. While Weber is often taken to endorse an ethic of responsibility over an ethic of ultimate ends, astute commentators have noted that he seems to think both are, in some way, necessary for his ideal of political leadership. In this talk, I argue that the tensions in Weber’s account of leadership arises from ambiguities in his view of “charisma,” whereby leaders must both genuinely provide ​values to their followers and engage in manipulation of their ideational needs.​  


The Institute of Philosophy hosts a regular workshop series entitled ‘The Practical, the Political, and the Ethical’. The series was created in 2015 by Véronique Munoz-Dardé (UCL) and Hallvard Lillehammer (Birkbeck) in order to discuss work in progress from visiting speakers. This year the series is convened by Amanda Greene (UCL) and Jonathan Gingerich (KCL).  Talks are normally 50 minutes (no pre-circulation of the paper), followed by discussion. All are welcome. 


Institute of Philsophy
020 7664 4865