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Max Weber: The State

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As Giddens points out, to speak of "relative autonomy" is redundant since in society and politics all autonomy is "relative." If such is the case, why not approach state and politics first as "autonomous" realms and then focus on their relations with other spheres? The only theory of the state which explicitly postulates the autonomy of the state and politics is Max Weber's, as formulated in "Intermediate Reflections." (Bolsinger, 1996)

Like Marx, however, Weber did not develop a systematic theory of the state. Andreas Anter and Stefan Breuer seek to do so by departing from Weber's insights. Anter's Max Webers Theorie des Modernen Stoates provides a systematic account of what Weber had to say concerning the modern state and of related discussions at the turn of the century. For Weber, the core of every state is the monopoly of violence. For Anter, Weber's account is an expression of his times and reflects the official positions of Wilhelminian Germany. Yet Weber's definition of the state has gained international acceptance and today it is hardly ever challenged. (Bolsinger, 1996) Anter develops Weber's notion of "politischer Anstaltsbetrieb," which Roth and Wittich render correctly (but not too elegantly) as "compulsory political organization with continuous operations." He stresses Weber's analysis of the state as a political organization of domination (Herrschaftsverband) and argues that there are three distinct concepts of politics in Weber. The first relates politics to state control, the second refers to the distribution of power and, finally, politics is conceived as struggle. Despite this threefold qualification, Anter maintains that Weber ultimately defines "politics" in terms of the state.

The state as a structure of command and obedience can only achieve stability if its subjects and, more important for Weber, the administrative staff, believe in its legitimacy. Anter shows that Weber cannot be associated in any way with a normative theory of legitimacy. Although Weber never defines the concept of legitimacy, there is no doubt he is only interested in the de facto belief in the validity and efficacy of domination. (Bolsinger, 1996) Furthermore, Weber's types of legitimacy are constructed from a ruler-centered perspective; legitimacy is but another means to maintain domination, in addition to violence and administration. Anter emphasizes that, for Weber, democracy is also a relation of domination and not its elimination. Thus, in modern mass democracy, democracy takes the form of bureaucratic domination.

One virtue of Anter's book is that it stresses the connection between Weber's sociology of law and the theory of the modern state. Although the monopoly of violence is the decisive feature, law is equally relevant for exercising state power: the modern state cannot be conceived without law; modern law, not without the state. State formation is a process of juridification of the state. In turn, the genesis of rational law is a process of nationalization (Verstoatlichung) of all legal norms. The state is the actual basis of modern law; law provides the form within which the modern state works. Anter outlines Weber's account of the complex relation between the standardization of law and state centralization, between the codification of law and the juridification of the state, and also of how the modern state entered into an alliance with lawyers to advance its claims to power. In contrast to Habermas' and Schluchter's interpretations, Anter emphasizes that Weber's theory of the state and law is incompatible with legal positivism: Weber analyzes the state and law within the context of history, domination, economy, and society, whereas legal positivism must exclude such factors as irrelevant. Also convincing is Anter's claim that Weber's theory of bureaucracy is to be read as part of his theory of the state and that state formation coincides with the formation of the modern rational bureaucracy. (Bolsinger, 1996)

Anter argues that, for Weber, only the modern, Western, rational, bureaucratic "Anstaltsstaat" can be called a state. A "state" is a historically specific formation and cannot be confused with other political organizations belonging to different cultures and epochs. A "rational" state was only possible in the West, because such a formation is historically and geographically specific. Indeed, only after the achievement of the monopoly of violence does it make sense to speak of a "state." First, Anter seeks to justify Weber's attempt to explain the state in terms of individual agency. Such an account underestimates Weber's own "structural" concept of the state, according to which the state has an internal logic and autonomy. Weber's agent-orientated interpretation, in which the state comes in and remains in existence because certain actors base their actions on the assumption that the state exists or should exist, contradicts his notion of the state as an organization of domination based, in the last instance, on physical violence and following its own laws (Eigengesetzlichkeiten). (Norkus, 2004) Rather, as a social macro-structure the state must be analyzed through categories independent of agents. A similar problem occurs when Anter claims that, for Weber, a sociologist can see the state only as a conceptual construct. This seems to forget his other view, that the material bases of the state are violence and domination. Second, it is doubtful whether Weber really defined politics as so closely tied to the state. In Weber's political writings, the state and the nation are emphasized. Yet the central concept in Economy and Society is domination, and the modern state represents only one historical form of political domination. Pietro Rossi is right when he stresses that Weber breaks with the German state tradition equating politics with the state. Thus the theory of politics in Economy and Society is based on domination and not on the state. Political relations are no longer defined exclusively as state structures. The state presupposes the political organization of domination. It is a specific organizational form of domination--a political structure among others. According to Hennis, Weber's sociology must be read as a theory of the "complexes of domination." In this sense, Weber did not write a sociology of the state, not because of his early death but because a theory of the state was already part of the sociology of domination.

Finally, it is surprising that, although Anter places Weber in the context of the debate concerning the state at the time, he does not even mention the impact of Marx's and Engels' accounts of the state. It is hard to believe that Weber remained



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