Notes on Aspects of the Conceptual Architecture of the ‘New Spirit’: Weber and Hirschman

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This chapter focuses on certain aspects of the conceptual architecture of the New Spirit of Capitalism, namely the use made by Boltanski and Chiapello of the work of Max Weber and Albert Hirschman. Concentrating first upon the distinctive ‘Weberian’ sociological synthesis they elaborate, the chapter suggests that Boltanski and Chiapello inadvertently cut themselves off from perhaps the most consequential re-reading of Weber's work, including The Protestant Ethics and the Spirit of Capitalism, currently being undertaken in the humanities and social sciences. Second, the chapter focuses upon the use made by Boltanski and Chiapello of Albert Hirschman's The Passions and the Interests. The chapter argues that Hirschman's genealogy indicates that the problems that interest was designed to counteract are still with us; and, moreover, that they may well have intensified precisely because the neo-stoic conceptions of the ´self’ of self-interest he delineates, and the justification of the common good to which they were historically attached, have, under the sway of a romantic conception of the whole human being associated with the ‘artistic’ critique of ‘instrumental rationality’, given way to an ‘enriched’ metaphysical conception of personhood whose ‘agency’ is held to heed no artificial boundaries and whose ‘civilising’ effects are far from obvious. The critical possibilities that might be associated with a revived ‘neo-stoic’ conception of persona, and its association with the Weberian language of office (not least in its ‘statist’ Hobbesian variant), remain curiously unexplored by Boltanski and Chiapello, perhaps because they appear ‘anachronistic’ and out of step with the norms and ideals of the ‘projective city’.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNew Spirits of Capitalism : Crises, Justifications, and Dynamics
EditorsPaul du Gay, Glenn Morgan
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Publication date2013
ISBN (Print)9780199595341
ISBN (Electronic)9780191750755
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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