Some more on Weber.-Ron Price
MILLS and WEBER
Back then in 1959!
“Whether he knows it or not,” wrote sociologist C. Wright Mills, “the intellectual workman forms his own self as he works toward the perfection of his craft.”1 This workman with words achieves his highest, his finest, expression when burning passion and a cool judgement work together in the same soul. This was the view of another sociologist, the famous Max Weber. But this passion and this judgement, wrote Weber, must work together so that neither the passion nor the judgement, the intellectual guidance, lose their combined and commanding force.
Both passion and judgement need to be so blended that they can be relied upon when, in the face of the passion that may blind us, we need to gather the strength to subdue the soul; and when, in the face of a world which seems to have dashed all our hopes, we are able to say, nevertheless and immune from discouragement, we are still ready to make another effort.2
We all need to be, increasingly as the 21st century advances, people with insight and endurance who can confront the fate of the times and, instead of passively yearning and resignedly waiting, we can wholeheartedly embrace our longing, whether in science, politics or the arts, and, spurred-on by this embrace, we are able to set out to take-up the task before us. We need to be able to meet the demands of the day and, beyond that, seek to bring about the highest human possibilities in the context that is our life. It is true that obligation is first but, it is not less true that, devotion is higher.
We also need to experience a compulsion toward a cause, a cause felt as if one has been called to it, or to which one has been born. What we also need to experience is a kind of inner necessity stemming from love or desire, and this is something that is inwardly generated. Contrary to the compulsion stemming from fear, that stemming from love cannot, by its very nature, be imposed from without. It is part of one’s innermost being as given by nature itself; perhaps it is our own nature.
Therefore it is inescapable, and yet at the same time amenable to growth and development, as well as receptive to appropriate education, that we must become able to arouse and foster such a love or desire. It is this love which Weber summons us to find in ourselves; we must then obey its inner force. This is the daemon, wrote Weber, that holds the threads of one’s life together. The injunction ‘become who you are’ may be another way of expressing it.
This inner force or daemon is creative or productive; we need to direct it to the positive construction of something worthwhile, or to the transformation of the world. It is not simply the mere avoidance of an evil, although that is a part of this inner voice. This productive character, this inner voice, is a very complex entity, and it is usually acquired only through long and disciplined hard work. The creative acts and productions of science, politics, and the arts may come to light through this work and this character.
Devotion or dedication involve much more than diligence. The scholar and the teacher must not only be diligent; they must be obsessed in their devotion. The core meaning of this lies in sacrifice and giving oneself over to a cause, to the point of “perishing in that calling”. I am aware that the mere mention of ‘devotion’ or ‘dedication’ here may sound shrill, to say the least in liberal ears—those who, according to Mills, “conform to the prevailing fear of any passionate commitment.” So often the call is to moderation, and moderation cannot be denied.
What is desired, continues Mill, is the strength of mind and heart to be inwardly alive and to persevere in one’s devotion. Such a person is not only the teller of what is, is not only an autobiographical voice, but he is also the seeker after the highest human possibilities. This person must insist that “nothing is worthy of man as man unless he can pursue it with passion.”
This passion alone is, of course, not sufficient for the achievement of one’s purpose. Much else is needed, and we are not talking here about that sterile excitement which abounds in our popular culture today, the kind that finds its way into our culture ad nauseam, with a kind of shrill voice at fever-pitch, the musical and artistic cultural inheritance of rock-and-roll and do your own-thing, where the worst are full of passionate intensity, and the ceremony of innocence is drowned.3
By linking biography and history, individual and society, self and world, Mills sought to show that underlying people’s experience of difficulty and anxiety, apathy and discouragement, as well as a host of troubles and issues that they confront, are the fundamental problems of reason and liberty. They are not only the imaginative sociologist’s problems but Everyman’s. –Ron Price with thanks to 1C.W. Mills, The Sociological Imagination, Oxford UP, 1959, p.196; 2Carlos Frade, The Sociological Imagination and Its Promise 50 Years Later: Is There a Future for the Social Sciences as a Free Form of Enquiry? in Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, vol. 5, no. 2, 2009; and 3W.B. Yeats, quoted in Kenneth Clark, Civilization, Penguin, NY, 1969, p.246.
I joined the Baha’i Faith
the same year your book
was published C. Wright.
I was in love with baseball,
a girl around the corner, and
all sorts of stuff in that little
town, in my little world, in a
place where that complacent
trinity of Catholic, Protestant,
& Jew filled the airwaves, &
Indians were people who got
creamed by the cavalry at the
movies on Saturday afternoons
amidst candy-wrappers, kids in
the back-rows necking, popcorn,
candy-floss, ice-cream, and noise.
It seems like yesterday, and that
sociological imagination had not
even begun to come into play in my
life, just that inner necessity, the
inner voice which said “let’s have
as much fun as we can.” That was
what we were called to back then,
back in ’59 when I was starting out.
And as Yeats said, time and again:
the trouble is that there is still no
centre; there is a sort of intense &
heroic materialism, but that isn’t
enough said Mr Clark, & it is hard
to be joyful at prospects before us.1
1 Kenneth Clark, op. cit., p. 246. The closing words of his book.