Max Weber and postmodern theory

Gane, Nicholas B. (1999) Max Weber and postmodern theory. Doctoral thesis, London Guildhall University.


This thesis analyses the ways in which the work of Jean-François Lyotard, Michel Foucault, and Jean Baudrillard develops Max Weber's analysis of the rise, nature, and trajectory of modem culture. Further to this, it examines the strategies which may be drawn from the work of each of these theorists to enable resistance to the further rationalisation and disenchantment of the world. This research, first, addresses Weber's analysis and critique of the rationalisation process, focusing in particular on his account both of the rise of instrumental rationalism in the West and of the differentiation of modem culture. Second, it exan-dnes the forms of resistance to rationalisation which are advanced by Weber in his lectures 'Science as a Vocation' and 'Politics as a Vocation', focusing on his attempt to place limits on the uses of instrumental rationalism and thereby protect the realm of ultimate values from further disenchantment. Third, it examines the commonalities between Weber's rationalisation thesis and the analyses and criticisms of the modem order forwarded by Lyotard, Foucault, and Baudrillard. It is held that the work of these three 'postmodern' theorists develops Weber's account of the rationalisation of the modern world, even if this is rarely, if ever, acknowledged. On this basis, the thesis analyses the strategies employed by Lyotard, Foucault, and Baudrillard to transgress the limits of modern rationalism, and disrupt or even undo the rationalisation process. This analysis centres on the following: Lyotard's celebration of cultural difference and his commitment to the development of radical forms of artistic experimentation, Foucault's counter-historical or genealogical practice, and Baudrillard's theory of symbolic exchange and seduction.

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