Weber’s “Politics as a Vocation” — a contemporary analysis

In Max Weber’s lecture “Politics as a Vocation”, the German sociologist explains his understanding of politics and state. He tells his students that politics is a very broad term that can pertain to any type of independent leadership, but the relevant type of politics is that of a political association. According to Weber, a state is a “human community that successfully claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory”. In this definition, modern states are defined by use of force and cannot exist without it. Based on this definition, he goes on to claim that politics relating to the state is “striving to share power… or influence the distribution of power.” Later, Weber explains to the students that people get involved in politics for power to serve outside aims, power for one’s self, or power for power’s sake. Finally, men who obey do so because of tradition, the charisma of their leaders, or legality.

 

How does the high number of teachers running for office this fall fit into Weber’s theory about why people get involved in politics?

 

According to Education Week, 101 teachers will be on the general election ballot across the United States this November. In the past few years, teacher activism has picked up as educators demand to be adequately compensated for performing such a difficult job. For example, Oklahoma public school teachers haven’t had a raise in ten years, and candidates like high school social studies teacher John Waldron want to do something about it, calling the lack of funding an educational crisis. Jahana Hayes of Connecticut, the 2016 Teacher of the Year award winner, will also be on the ballot for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Teachers like Hayes and Waldron do not fit into Weber’s assumptions about people who get involved in politics since they are running to strengthen the educational system and provide teachers with living wages. They are interested in improving policies first and although they are, in Weber’s words, seeking “power for one’s self”, their agenda is a noble one that will improve the lives of hardworking citizens like themselves.

 

Sources:

Weber, Mac. 1946. “Politics as a Vocation,” trans. and ed., H.H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills, from Max Weber. New York: Oxford University Press.

Will, Madeline. “Teachers Aren’t Just Running for Office-They’re Winning.” Education Week, Editorial Project in Education, 26 Sept. 2018, http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2018/09/26/teachers-arent-just-running-for-office–theyre-winning.html.

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