September 12, 2007: Today's Audio Files
Lecture Notes for September 13: After World War I: Weber and Keynes: Political Economy 101: "Modern" Political Economy

Max Weber: Only If One Takes the Semblance of Peace for Its Reality Can One Believe that Peace and Prosperity Will Emerge

I made my political economy students read Norman Angell. I did not make them read Max Weber:

Max Weber, "The National State and Economic Policy": [W]e all consider the German character of the East as something that should be protected, and that the economic policy of the state should enter into the lists in its defense. Our state is a national state, and... we have a right to make this demand....

[T]he 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... [reality] prevents us from imagining that peace and happiness lie hidden in the lap of the future, it prevents us from believing that elbow-room in this earthly existence can be won in any way than through the hard struggle of human beings with each other....

The overwhelming majority of the 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.... [T]here can... be no real work in political economy on the basis of optimistic dreams of happiness.... The question... is not 'how will human beings feel in the future' but 'how will they be'.... 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 economic policy of a German state, and that standard of value adopted by a German economic theorist, can therefore be nothing other than a German policy and a German standard.... 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.... 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.... The science of political economy is a political science... a servant of politics... of the lasting political-power interests of the nation.... [F]or questions of German economic policy... 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...,M1

  • This is a pre-WWI German liberal
  • Konrad Adenauer: "A Prussian is a Pole who has forgotten who his grandfather was"

Yet more:

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 "matriarchy," that monstrous notion, and force into a subordinate clause the victory of the Huns on the Catalaunian Plain...

But in 451 the Huns lost the Battle of Chalons to the Visigothic-Roman coalition led by Comes et Magister Utriusque Militae et Patricius Flavius Aetius