IPA Special Issue. Max Weber's 100th anniversary in an age of rational and bureaucratic awe: questions on the post-pandemic future.
The call of this Issue arises from two fundamental concerns: the 100th anniversary of Max Weber’s death, caused by another epidemic, of the Spanish flu, in June 1920; and the historical and critical correspondence with the current pandemic crisis. This issue intends to focus on the two topics particularly dear for Max Weber, the notion of rationalization and the enforcement of bureaucratization. These two themes seem not only to foresee certain key developments of the past century, but set the base of the ‘problem’ of what the future might await for us as well, with rationality and bureaucracy heading together towards an extreme form of impersonal massification and centralisation within our societies. If we indeed are living in times that are ‘unprophetizable’ (see the almost complete failure to foresee the Internet, just as the current virus panic, otherwise deeply interconnected), and this is relatable to all forms of conditions and norms, with the use of Weber’s work we want to maintain our ‘vocation’ as social scientist and try to analyse what might await us. We are witnessing, across the globe, the effects in all fields of new rational impositions, extreme legalistic restrictions, the ambiguous use of statistics (among others, body counts and data collection), as well as permanent political campaigns and invasive medical procedures. These are precursors of an evident qualitative and quantitative tide penetrating all areas of social life, public and private; educational and cultural; changing suddenly our anthropological, political, ecological role in the planet, spreading further the ‘spirit of capitalism’ in general and increasing the digitalization and mechanization of life.
We would like to concentrate the issue on what Weber’s oeuvre has taught us concerning the proper ‘conduct of life’, with the aim of delivering us from the increasing clamping of the rationalistic cage, perhaps offering some ease against the soulless, heartless, petrified self-importance that ‘coping with the virus’ appears to require.