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How can Weber's arguments for his ultimate values be reconciled with the view that value-free analysis can be conducted only after a value or purpose has been established? Lassman and Speirs, in their introduction to Weber: Political Writings, provide the answer. "Although Weber believed that values could not be given any form of `ultimate' foundation, it was possible and indeed necessary" to argue for them because "the tensions between competing values are essential in order to prevent cultural stagnation." Even though Lassman and Speirs do not explain precisely how it is possible to put forth objective arguments supporting subjective values while maintaining a commitment to truth, they do allude to one solution: Weber's "scholarly investigations and political essays have the purpose of making clear, in an objective manner as possible, the realities and possibilities given in any particular situation."
Furthermore, again despite Portis' claims to the contrary, part of the power and allure of Weber lies in the dual legacy that he handed down: He succeeded, at least in the totality of his work, in being overtly political while remaining true to his integrity as a social scientist. At least one work by Weber -- his short essay titled "The President of the Reich" -- directly bears this out. And even if, as Portis argues, Weber did become psychologically tormented by the tension he felt between his need to voice his political views and his need to feel integrity as a social scientist, what allowed him, in the end, to succeed in being both political and scientific was his two-tiered approach to value-free social science.
Weber sees the damage inherent in failing to openly acknowledge one's values, and the even greater danger in falling prey to the delusion that the analyst can evaluate social facts completely independent of own values. Weber sums up this position in "The Nation State and Economic Policy": "We in particular succumb readily to a special kind of illusion, namely that we are able to refrain entirely from making conscious value judgements of our own." In other words, when the analyst fails to clarify and consciously acknowledge his values, it is unlikely that he can conduct the subsequent analysis impartially. The acknowledgement of a value orientation is the prerequisite to objective evaluation.
Moreover, if one accepts Weber's view that objectivity can be applied to social and economic problems only after a distinct value orientation has been established, it follows that political action does not corrupt a social scientist's objectivity as long as the scientist's perspective or values are explicitly acknowledged.
It would be possible to trace this view to a period far back in the past. Some of the classical economists and their immediate followers inclined toward it. With McCulloch political economy was not always a dismal science; and others went much farther in this direction, — Bastiat and such later writers as M. Block, P. Leroy-Beaulieu, and G. de Molinari. But it is essential to distinguish this group of economists, whose importance, never very great, is now rapidly declining, from those modern writers with whom we are here concerned. While the former confine themselves to general philosophies about the excellence of free competition and laissez faire, the latter have developed a scientific theory, the originality and merits of which have rightly led to its present vogue. The former are individualists in every sense, the latter emphasize the social aspect of economic things. This new theory was first expounded by J. B. Clark and v. Wieser. The work most typical in this respect is, as far as I know, Carver's Distribution of Wealth.
These conditions are not fulfilled. We have already touched upon the first. As to the second, it seems to be beyond doubt that production, under the influence of demand from individuals possessing different amounts of wealth, will take a different course from that which it would take in a communistic society, and that different kinds and amounts of commodities will be produced. This fact will alter the values of the products. The principle of distribution might, indeed, conceivably be the same in either case. But the principle now in operation is that of marginal efficiency; and it is probable that, in many cases, another principle — that of want, for example — would more commend itself to a socialistic community. Such a community might apportion goods among its members according to their several needs. But, disregarding this, we easily see that, even if the principle of efficiency were applied in both cases, it would mean, in the one case, distribution according to personal efficiency, in the other distribution according to the efficiency of the productive agency one may possess. Land and capital are factors in the second case, and this makes a decisive difference.
Portis agrees, writing that Weber came to believe that empirical methods, in social science, could distinguish between true and false beliefs only when researchers took a distinct orientation toward their own ultimate values.
The practical importance of this theory is obvious. It tends to show that economic forces are not only of the same nature, at all times and everywhere, but also that they lead, under a régime of free competition, to the same results as in a communistic society. Competition and private ownership of productive agents are held to bring about a distributive process quite similar to one regulated by a benevolent and intelligent ruler. This theory attributes, indeed, to the law of social value the functions of such a ruler. Society itself is called upon to sanction what is actually happening, and it is assumed. that, apart from minor grievances, there is little to complain of.
Lassman and Speirs supply another piece of evidence for the view that Weber believed a subjective end had to be established before objective analysis could proceed. They write: "The `disenchantment' that Weber described did not stop with liberalism. The traditional philosophical foundations of all political ideologies and doctrines were threatened by a relentless undermining of their own presuppositions." This extract reveals that Weber, at least in Lassman and Speirs' view, was interested in analyzing from an objective viewpoint the makeup of various political systems -- but it also shows that the objective analysis could only be carried out once the purpose of the system, i.e., the ultimate value upon which it is based, is identified and acknowledged.
This interpretation of Weber's position derives additional support from other comments Weber made regarding objectivity. Example: One of the "deadly sins in the area of politics" is, Weber says, "a lack of objectivity." The objectivity, however, can engage only after a value has been established; otherwise, this remark is logically inconsistent with Weber's statement that "the nature of the cause the politician seeks to serve by striving for and using power is a question of faith." The two statements, taken together, imply that once a political position -- a value or perspective -- has been established, the politician must hold to the ideal of objectivity. Furthermore, without resorting to the two-tiered interpretation of Weber's view of value-free social science, it would be difficult to reconcile Weber's comment that a lack of objectivity is a sin with the comment that there is no objective analysis independent of special viewpoints.