The grammar of prudence : Arendt, Jaspers, and the appraisal of Max Weber

William Peter BAEHR

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This chapter focuses on the exchange between Jaspers and Arendt over a problem — condensed in the name of Max Weber — that had first emerged specifically in their correspondence as early as January 1933 and that retained its salience until roughly three years before Jaspers's death in 1969. It suggests that few authors of the twentieth century offered a more comprehensive alternative to Weber's political and sociological thought than Arendt did. It begins by examining how Jaspers summoned Weber's name to delineate a certain idea of Germanness and how Arendt responded to Jaspers's attempts to encompass her within this idea. It shows that she was much more forthright in rejecting Jaspers's interpretation of Germany than she was in confronting his view of Max Weber, and this also has to be explained. The chapter then answers a couple of related hermeneutical questions. If Arendt and Weber were so markedly at variance as theorists, why did this not emerge in the Arendt–Jaspers correspondence, where Weber's name is so often invoked? And how did Hannah Arendt respond to Jaspers on the Weber question in a way that minimized conflict between her and her erstwhile supervisor? Answering this latter question illustrates some of the major axes of difference that typify Arendt's and Weber's approaches to political and sociological questions.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHannah Arendt in Jerusalem
PublisherUniversity of California Press
Number of pages19
ISBN (Print)9780520220577
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2001


  • Germanness
  • Germany
  • Hannah Arendt
  • Karl Jaspers
  • Max Weber


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