The Age of the Essay - Paul Graham

Max Weber thought that "statements of fact are one thing, statements of value another, and any confusing of the two is impermissible," Ralf Dahrendorf writes in his essay "Max Weber and Modern Social Science," acknowledging that Weber clarified the difference between pronouncements of fact and of value. Although Dahrendorf goes on to note the ambiguities in Weber's writings between factual analysis and value-influenced pronouncements, he stops short of offering an explanation for them other than to say that Weber, being human, could not always live with his own demands for objectivity. Indeed, Dahrendorf leaves unclear exactly what Weber's view of objectivity was. More specifically, Dahrendorf does not venture to lay out a detailed explanation of whether Weber believed that the social scientist could eliminate the influence of values from the analysis of facts.

September 2004 Remember the essays you had to write in high school

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that between 1835 and 1840 Mill wrote three leading articles on America: two lengthy reviews in 1835 and 1840 on the separate parts of Tocqueville’s and in 1836 an essay on the state of American society as depicted in five contemporary volumes. In these essays he endeavoured not merely to illustrate the work of a new and major political thinker, but also to portray the democratic society of the United States compared with the aristocratic regimes of Europe. In doing this under the weighty influence of Tocqueville, he clarified and matured his own thought on the merits and faults of democracy. Hence his two essays on Tocqueville are highly significant in the evolution of his thinking.


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Furthermore, again despite Portis' claims to the contrary, part of the power and allure of Weber lies in the dual legacy that he handed down: He succeeded, at least in the totality of his work, in being overtly political while remaining true to his integrity as a social scientist. At least one work by Weber -- his short essay titled "The President of the Reich" -- directly bears this out. And even if, as Portis argues, Weber did become psychologically tormented by the tension he felt between his need to voice his political views and his need to feel integrity as a social scientist, what allowed him, in the end, to succeed in being both political and scientific was his two-tiered approach to value-free social science.