Max Weber and the Ethics of Office

Paul du Gay

in The Oxford Handbook of Sociology and Organization Studies

Published in print March 2009 | ISBN: 9780199535231
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Business and Management C

 Max Weber and the Ethics of Office

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This article is organized along the following lines. The first section seeks to show how a particular image of Weber as a grand theorist of the instrumental rationalization of modern life, an image that has haunted organizations studies as much as it has sociology, has been challenged by a range of work emanating from the humanities and social sciences. Although diverse and far from constituting a mutually agreed line, these interpretations have all sought to paint a rather different picture of Weber as a sort of historical anthropologist whose polymath interests are linked by a set of ethical-cultural concerns. The article argues that these ethical-cultural concerns locate Weber as a late but prodigious practitioner in a tradition of the ethics of office, particularly as the latter becomes a defensive doctrine. The second section seeks to explore the vocabulary of office in more detail. The final section shows how a Weberian ethics of office remains a key resource for scholars of organization, particularly when it comes to understanding and engaging with contemporary developments in the reformation of organizational life and identity in the public sector, and in the institutions of government.

Keywords: Max Weber; ethics of office; instrumental rationalization; modern life; Weberian ethics; organizational life

Article.  12827 words. 

Subjects: Business and Management ; Organizational Theory and Behaviour

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