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University of Bath

Social science and politics: From Max Weber to Brexit

A report, authored by Professor Graham Room, that analyses the work of Max Weber and the lessons that can be applied to today's political climate.

In 1919, a period of turbulence for Germany and for Europe, Max Weber asked what were the tasks of responsible political leaders and social scientists? This report re-visits his answers and their relevance for the turbulence of today, in the UK and Europe.

It questions simplistic interpretations of Weber’s approach to historical change and brings centre-stage his interest in the complex dynamics of social change that emerge from the ‘elective affinities’ that social actors discover. From that standpoint it examines Weber’s confrontation as a social scientist with the political leaders of his day and his exposure of their ill-preparedness to address the desperate situation in which Germany found itself.

Thus armed, this report exposes the irresponsibility of those who in the UK and in the EU officiated over the Brexit crisis. It is appropriately cautious as to what social science can predict for the post-Brexit world, but delineates some of the lessons that responsible social scientists and political leaders can draw.

This report was written during an Institute for Policy Research (IPR) sabbatical spent at the Hertie School of Governance, Berlin.