Abstracts for Max Weber Lectures 2014-2015


Peter Ghosh, Jean Duffield Fellow in Modern History, University of Oxford


 Why Should We Read Max Weber?
The Case of Wissenschaft


15 October 2014, Refettorio, 17:00-18:30




In 1964 this question was open and was passionately debated, but in 2014 Weber’s canonical position is so secure that it seems superfluous.  Nonetheless, the question should be asked, because if it is not, then any view of Max Weber as an integral thinker recedes into the distance, and he dissolves into a series of specialized fragments.  The lecture suggests that Weber is perhaps unique in his identity as a universalist thinker capable of operating under modern conditions, such as specialization and cultural difference, which are radically hostile to universalist thought.  To answer this question, we should consider, first, the more obviously universalist areas of his thought (academic “science” orWissenschaft, religion, law) and then one that is not (politics).  However, this is matter for four lectures at least.  So here we shall begin at the beginning: with Wissenschaft.  

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Oriana Bandiera, Professor of Economics, LSE


Incentives for Public Service Delivery


19 November 2014, 17:00-18:30, 
Sala Europa, Villa Schifanoia





he public sector provides several inputs to economic growth and their effectiveness ultimately relies on the effort and skills of the agents hired to deliver them. How can the State use incentives to recruit, motivate and retain talented agents? Do material incentives attract talent or do they discourage altruism? Do material incentives motivate agents to perform better or do they crowd-out their intrinsic motivation and reduce performance? This lecture provides some answers from recent field experiments.


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Dagmar Herzog, Distinguished Professor of History, The Graduate Center, CUNY

 herzogOn Aggression:
Psychoanalysis as Moral Politics in Post-Nazi Germany


10 December 2014, 17:00-18:30
Badia, Theatre





The heyday of intellectual and popular preoccupation with psychoanalysis in the West reached from the 1940s to the 1970s, from post-Nazism through Cold War consumerism to the anti-Vietnam War movement and the sexual revolution. In each country the ensuing debates over the truth about how human beings are took unique form. Only in West Germany did debates about the value of psychoanalysis as a system of thought circle so intensely around the question of whether or not aggression was an ineradicable aspect of the human animal and whether or not it might best be conceived as a “drive” comparable in strength and form to libido. This paper analyzes the wholly unexpected consequences set in motion by the publication of ethologist Konrad Lorenz’s On Aggression, not only on the oeuvre of the preeminent West German psychoanalyst Alexander Mitscherlich, but also on the eventual shape taken by the New Left’s politics and theories of human nature

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Thomas Piketty, Director of the Paris School of Economics


Capital in the Twenty-First Century

21 January 2015, 11:00-13:00
Badia, Refettorio






This lecture draws on Thomas Piketty’s latest book Capital in the Twenty-first Century.  The Author asks the question: What are the grand dynamics that drive the accumulation and distribution of capital? Questions about the long-term evolution of inequality, the concentration of wealth, and the prospects for economic growth lie at the heart of political economy. But satisfactory answers have been hard to find for lack of adequate data and clear guiding theories.

Based on a unique collection of data Picketty shows that modern economic growth and the diffusion of knowledge have allowed us to avoid inequalities on the apocalyptic scale predicted by Karl Marx. But we have not modified the deep structures of capital inequality as much as we thought in the optimistic decades following World War II. The main driver of inequality – the tendency of returns on capital to exceed the rate of economic growth – today threatens to generate extreme inequalities that stir discontent and undermine democratic values. But economic trends are not acts of God. Political action has curbed dangerous inequalities in the past and may do so again   

Claus Offe, Professor of Political Sociology, Hertie School of Governance


Doubts on Growth:
The Discourse  on 'Secular Stagnation' in the Social Sciences

18 February 2015, 17:00-19:00
Badia, Refettorio





The experience of declining growth rates, near-stagnation and deflationary dangers in much of the OECD world has triggered an intense debate on both the feasibility and desirability of economic growth being restored through the adoption of promising policies and institutional reforms.

In particular, the current crisis of the Eurozone leads a majority of academic and political observers to believe that strengthening economic growth is the key strategic objective for overcoming the crisis through the achievement of fiscal stability, the improvement of the employment situation, and the general social and political integration of capitalist democracies.

At the same time, there is a growing camp of those who doubt either the feasibility and/or the desirability of restoring patterns of economic growth that prevailed in the West throughout most of the post-war period. The lecture will outline five sets of analytical arguments and normative point of view that drive current controversies on the future of economic growth.

Lucia Zedner, Professor of Criminal Justice, University of Oxford 


'Enemies of the State'. 
Curtailing Citizenship Rights and Counterterrorism

Wednesday18 March 2015, 17: 00-19.00
Refectory, Badia Fiesolana





Recent estimates suggest that more than 3,000 Europeans have travelled to Syria to fight for the ‘Islamic State’ (IS). UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, has argued ‘It is not only the full force of the law that these people should face … when they take up arms in this way in another country, they become enemies of the state.’ In accordance with this view, current counterterrorism policy seeks to curb the citizenship and mobility rights of those suspected of involvement in terrorism. Exclusion orders, flight bans, passport seizure, and forcible relocation are defended as essential to national security. For some, citizenship appears no longer as a right but conditional upon conduct or a privilege to be diminished or denied. This paper examines these developments and considers the risks to justice, to human rights, and, not least, to security, when citizenship-stripping is used as a tool of counterterrorism. In so doing, it asks what does the duty of the state to protect its people permit? 


Gráinne de Búrca (New York University)

     grainne-deburcaphoto  Reframing International Human Rights Regimes

22 April 2015, 17:00-19:00
Badia, Refettorio 






International human rights regimes – the array of UN human rights treaties and their monitoring mechanisms - have come under attack in recent years from all sides.  Eric Posner says bluntly that “[h]uman rights law has failed … andit ought to be abandoned.”  
Samuel Moyn has advanced a range of critiques, mostly premised on the argument that the regimes have been singularly ineffective, and are doomed to extinction before long.  Even their defenders acknowledge that UN human rights regimes are poorly equipped to handle many of the challenges that confront them.  They are inadequately resourced, lack expertise, and governments ignore their recommendations.  One consistent theme of the many criticisms is that the treaty body regimes have failed because they operate in a determinedly top-down manner.  In Posner’s words: “the human rights movement shares in common with the hubris of development economics the attempt of western institutions to impose top-down solutions on developing countries”.
This lecture suggests a very different reading.  Applying an experimentalist perspective, and drawing on evidence from the actual practice of the UN treaty regimes, I argue that the system is much more dynamic and multi-faceted than its detractors (and often also its defenders) suggest and that, in particular, one of the great strengths of the human rights treaty regimes is precisely that they operate in ways that are not at all top-down. 
By mobilizing multiple actors and bodies at different levels – local, national, regional and transnational, governmental and non-governmental – to give meaning and content to their norms, these multi-level interactive regimes quite often succeed in placing neglected issues on the agenda, and in proposing and devising ways of addressing serious social wrongs.

Quentin Skinner, Queen Mary University London

Quentin Skinner

Thomas Hobbes and the Person of the State

20 May 2015, 17:00-19:00

Badia, Refettorio 






Nowadays when we speak about the state we generally use the term simply to refer to an apparatus of power.  As a result -- at least in Anglophone political theory -- ‘state’ and ‘government’ have become virtually synonymous terms.  My lecture begins by tracing the emergence in modern western political theory of the strongly contrasting view that the state is the name of a distinct Person.  Thomas Hobbes is taken to be the leading contributor to this development, and in the central section of my lecture I analyse his understanding of the state as a ‘person by fiction’.  My lecture ends by attempting an assessment of the idea of state personality.  Has anything of significance been lost as a result of the abandonment of the belief, central to so much early-modern and Enlightenment discourse, that the state is the name of a moral Person distinct from both government and the governed?

Wendy Carlin, University College London and CEPR


Institutions, Integration and Divergence: 

Lessons from Europe

17 June 2015, 17:00-19:00
Badia, Refettorio




Economists frequently assume that deeper economic integration promotes the convergence of economic regions or countries. To address the connection between institutions, markets and economic development, I begin with the thesis that within an integrated area, two ‘institutions-culture’ conventions can co-exist. 

Deeper integration can raise the costs of exiting the weaker ‘Southern’ convention because the South benefits from gains from trade. The second thesis is that more integration brings economic advantages but it does not necessarily bring with it the reform of the underlying convention.

The gains from trade mean the South specializes more in activities that reinforce its inferior convention. The third thesis is that strong institutions are the precondition for long term convergence and facilitate adjustment to shocks.

To illustrate these theses, I use evidence from post-unification Italy, post re-unification Germany and from the economic integration of the Eurozone. 

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