In this section, we will briefly explore Max Weber's seminal work on vocation. Weber (1864-1920) was a German sociologist and a founder of modern social science. You are invited to listen to a recent Radio 4 broadcast focusing on Weber's early work. It is included to provide a setting for the 1917 Science as a Vocation lecture discussed below and show that terms such as vocation and calling have a wider historical context. In the broadcast, Weber's early career and influences are discussed. His ideas on the role of religion and vocation in the evolution of capitalism are introduced linked to his 1904/5 essay on The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.
Weber's The Protestant Ethic, BBC Radio 4 In Our Time, 27.3.14 (length 43 mins)
Science as a Vocation
On 7th November 1917, and towards the end of his life, Weber delivered the lecture Science as a Vocation at the University of Munich as part of a public forum series on intellectual or spiritual work as a calling organised by the Fristudentische Bund, a left-liberal student association. It is a wide-ranging talk and not all of it directly relevant to our topic but included in full so you can get a sense of the whole. In contrast to the 1904/5 essay, he develops his own personal and contemporary position in relation to vocation and discusses his own role as a lecturer. In their 2004 introduction, editors David Owen and Tracy B. Strong stress that, for Weber, the term science had a much wider meaning than in contemporary English and meant simply those who dedicate themselves to knowledge. They also state that Weber uses the term hingebin to indicate people who give their life to science. Hingebin carries connotations of sacrifice and is suggestive of a lover giving him/herself to another.
'Vocation is..both active and passive - one must freely give onself to that which calls one, which by the acknowledgement of that call appears as and becomes one's own. As a free act, vocation is thus defining of the person; as a necessary act, it is expressive of the person. Vocational activity has itself nothing of the instrumental; it is an end in itself (thus in some sense moral) but without reference to any grounding or act other than the freely chosen commitment of individuals to their own particular fates.' (Owen & Strong 2004: xiii).
Please now read Weber (1917/2004) and whilst reading make notes on:
* Passion and purpose: 'nothing has any value for a human being unless he can pursue it with a passion' (p.8)
* Processes of rationalisation, bureaucratisation and intellectualisation and 'the disenchantment of the world' (p.13)
* The five benefits of science as a vocation (pp.24-27)
* The impossibility of resolving conflicts and the consequent necessity of deciding between them (p.27)
* Addressing the disenchantment of the world through vocation: a bridge between 'personal relations' and the 'challenges of the day' (pp. 30-31)
* Finding and obeying the 'daemon' that holds the threads of life (p.31)