samedi 4 septembre 2010

Max Weber's Answer to Financial Crises. Understanding What Makes Die Börse a Whole

*Communication at the "Max Weber and the Reconfiguration of Modernity" Colloquium, celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Max Weber Studies Journal. The conference was organized by Sam Whimster, Tom Neuhaus, Duncan Kelly and Austin Harrington. It was hosted in Cambridge (UK), at Sidney Sussex College, on September 1-3 2010.

Stock and commodity exchanges account for a significant part of Max Weber’s youth works. Yet, these works are quite neglected by social scientists. However, our days of financial turmoil show that Die Börse remains strikingly relevant for the analysis of current financial activities. Then, while he was moving from teaching Law to a professorship in Macroeconomics (Nationalökomie) and Finance, Weber identified what was at stakes in the Exchange Act asked for by the representatives of agrarian interests. He discarded moral accounts of financial practices as hiding the actual issues facing modern capitalist economies regarding the function of financial sector. Die Börse already showed how financial operators can gain social legitimacy not on the ground of their morality, but by placing the emphasis over technical aspects of the trade. Along the 20th century, instrumental rationality has taken over value-oriented rationality. Interestingly enough, accounts for the current financial crisis have emphasised not only moral misconduct of finance professionals but also the responsibility of mathematical modelling failures.

Die Börse has an explicit pedagogical ambition. It provides an interesting example of how Weber articulates science and politics, elaborating his research agenda according to his political goals and matching his recommendations with his results.

Die Börse was first published in 1894 & 1896 as a pair of articles before Marianne Weber joined them under this title in 1924. Therefore, it is not clear whether Die Börse really makes up a whole. Substantial modifications have made the second text distinct from the initial project. Weber also sounds much more nationalistic in the second article than in the first one. The aim of the talk is to address this issue. Two reasons can explain this changes: on the one hand, political circumstances have changed. Most importantly, Weber has formulated the political principles that drive his scientific activity in the meanwhile, as is shown in his 1895 inaugural talk.

Read the entire article in French:
Pierre de LARMINAT, 2010, "La bataille boursière de Max Weber. Comment éclairer l'unité problématique de La Bourse", Revue d'Histoire des Sciences Humaines, n°23, p.157-173.

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