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Max Weber, the two Ethics, and the Relationship with Politics

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Keywords: Politics; Gesinnungsethik; Verantwortungsethik; Ethical Principles.

The essay analyses Max Weber' theory of politics, with special concern to the conception of the politics as Beruf (vocation and profession together), in its relationship with the dichotomy of "Gesinnungsethik" (ethics of conviction, based on absolute principles) and "Verantwortungsethik" (ethics of responsibility). According to Weber, the constitutive element of politics - following the definition given in the essay "Politik als Beruf" (1919) - is not the end but the means, and this means is the Gewalt, the use of force, whatever its foundation can be - tradition, the personal charisma of a leader, or its formal legitimacy of the political system. In the case of the modern state, this means is, more precisely, the monopoly of the legitimate force. The professional «political man» can pursue many ends, but he must in any case serve a cause (Sache), which requires responsibility and far-side, i.e. the consideration of the consequences of his action. Therefore politics are not compatible with any kind of "Gesinnungsethik" - i.e. with any ethics oriented towards absolute values, and not considering the relationship (and the conflict) with other (possible) values. In the last times, i.e. in the century after Weber, we can however observe an increasing upset of the relationship between end and means of the politics. In the actual political practice the use of force (and its legitimation) has become the finality of the professional political man, while the proclaimed ends are nothing but means of legitimation of force.

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