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Adventures of the Dialectic by Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Joseph J. Bien

By Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Joseph J. Bien

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185. The Crisis of Understanding I 25 if they have would Weber have reconciled theory and practice. Weber is not a revolutionary. It is true that he writes that Marxism is "the most important instance of the construction of ideal types" and that all those who have employed its concepts know how fruitful they are-on condition that they take as meanings what Marx describes as forces. But for him this transposition is incompatible with both Marxist theory and practice. As historical materialism, Marxism is a causal explanation through economics; and in its revolutionary practices Weber never sees the fundamental choice of the proletariat appear.

Worldly asceticism, whose principles have been established by Calvinism, is finished by capitalism, finished in both senses of the word: it is realized because, as activity in the world, capitalism surpasses it; it is destroyed as asceticism because capitalism strives to eliminate its own transcendent motives. There is, Weber says, an elective affinity between the elements of a historical totality: In view of the tremendous confusion of interdependent influences between the material basis, the forms of social and political organization, and the ideas current in the time of the Reformation, we can only proceed by investigating whether and at what points certain correlations (Wahlverwandtschaften) between forms of religious belief and practical ethics can be worked out.

History includes dialectical facts and adumbrative significations; it is not a coherent system. Like a distracted interlocutor, it allows the debate to become sidetracked; it forgets the data of the problem along the way. Historical epochs become ordered around a questioning of human possibility, of which each has its formula, rather than around an immanent solution, of which history would be the manifestation. BECAUSE ITS AIM is to recover the fundamental choices of the past, Weber's science is a methodical extension of his experience of the present.

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