The Disappearance of Tradition in Weber

Midwest Studies in Philosophy 15 (1):400-424 (1990)
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In this essay we will consider another basic topic: the problem of the nature of the distinctions between Sitte, Brauch, Wert, Mode, and Recht, on which Weber's discussion relies. These discussions typically involved the untranslatable concept of Sitte, which marks a contrast between practices or customs with normative force and “mere practice.” There is a close parallel to this distinction in American social thought in W. G. Sumner's latinate distinction between the mores and folkways of a society. In what follows we shall simply use the German term as a reminder of its long history in German philosophy. Weber was obviously aware of this history, as was Jhering. Our aim will be to examine Weber's modifications of the received version of these distinctions and to consider the Implications of these modifications. As we shall see, what Weber represents as an innocuous classificatory problem contains a much more significant conceptual transformation, which bears on the general image of modernity as rationalization constructed by Weber.

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Stephen Turner
University of South Florida


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