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Portrait of German political economist and social scientist Max Weber (1864 - 1920), a founder of the discipline of sociology, who called himself 'The Enemy of the Squires' and championed the cause of social and economic reform in Wilhelmine Germany, circa 1910. His most famous work is 'The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism' (1905) in which he explored the cultural and religious roots of Western capitalism. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

“Politics is a strong and slow boring of hard boards. It takes both passion and perspective. Certainly all historical experience confirms the truth — that man would not have attained the possible unless time and again he had reached out for the impossible. But to do that a man must be a leader, and not only a leader but a hero as well, in a very sober sense of the word. And even those who are neither leaders nor heroes must arm themselves with that steadfastness of heart which can brave even the crumbling of all hopes. This is necessary right now, or else men will not be able to attain even that which is possible today. Only he has the calling for politics who is sure that he shall not crumble when the world from his point of view is too stupid or too base for what he wants to offer. Only he who in the face of all this can say ‘In spite of all!’ has the calling for politics.”


Max Weber, writing in the final paragraph of his truly edifying political-philosophical essay, “Politics as a Vocation”. You’ll find it in his Essays in Sociology. (Buy the book, but the whole thing’s here.)

Though Weber wrote his essay in German, adapted as it was from a 1919 lecture he gave to the Free Students Union in Bavaria, I can’t help but love the double entendre of “boring” in the opening sentence. Whenever there’s a showmen performing rhetorical tricks — like a magician proudly parading his assistant or waving a colored hankerchief — reach for your pocket, and see who’s pulling out your wallet.

Thanks to my friend M.S. for reminding me of this one.

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