September 26, 2018

Matthias Bormuth Ambivalence and Engagement – Max Weber’s Idea of Plurality in a Disenchanted World

Max Weber is well known as one of the founding fathers of modern sociology. His topos of the “disenchantment of the world” is well known as a diagnostic tool to understand the challenge of a pluralistic society with its personal and collective ambivalences. How can under these circumstances social engagement be possible? Why were so different Intellectuals like Karl Jaspers and Georg Lukács attracted by Weber´s idea of modern plurality?  The question what role sciences could take in order to encounter this challenge was answered by Weber in his famous speech “Science as a Vocation”.

100 years later we still struggle with the same problems. And it is still worthwhile reading Max Weber masterly text asking how our social engagement could be encouraged by his insights into our modern situation characterized by plurality and ambivalence.

The talk will draw a sketch of the historical debate as provided by Weber and the circle around him, and then  focus on further considerations about our actual European  situation, asking what engagement can be expected by each person or by certain groups according to Max Weber´s idea of modern plurality.

Matthias Bormuth holds the Chair of Comparative Intellectual History at Oldenburg University. He also runs the Karl Jaspers-Haus with a weekly program in the variety of the humanities. Next to his other publications in the field of intellectual history he published and edited books on Hannah Arendt, Erich Auerbach, Karl Jaspers and Max Weber.

His books are published by the German publishing houses: Berenberg, Frommann-Holzboog, Matthes und Seitz , Springer und Wallstein.  Before he came to Oldenburg he taught at European and American universities, at Columbia University, Tübingen and Heidelberg University.


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