Karl Marx. The world is crooked – there is too much exploitation imposed by the haves upon the have-not’s – so it has to be righted by those who have the right answer to the problem. And because the world doesn’t know what’s good for it, the ‘enlightened’ – the communists who are at the forefront of the class struggle – have the duty to impose the revolution by force.
The crux of the ‘solution’ being the abolition of both private property and the state. The private property because it is the tool with which the haves dominate the have-not’s and the state because it is the tool used by the haves to protect their private property from the have-not’s who continuously try to steal it.
But what tool can be best used to enforce the dissolution of the private property and to insure that the misguided and the ill intended don’t revert to the ‘old and corrupt ways of the bourgeoisie’? The state, of course. Hence we’ll have to postpone a little its dissolution, only until the first chores would have been completed, of course.
Max Weber. The world is too complicated to be understood/run by a single man, no matter how capable. That’s why the decision making process must be rationalized. Weber’s main methodological tool was the ‘ideal type’, a mental construction that is to be substituted to replace the real problem that has to be solved or the real thing that is being studied. This ideal type being stripped of the ‘unimportant’ aspects of the reality will make it a lot easier for the ruler/decision maker/scientist to understand what is going on there and to come up with the ‘correct’ decision or ‘clear’ understanding of the matter. This means that Weber was convinced that individuals are able, in certain conditions, to reach valid conclusions. Which is, of course, OK. Furthermore Weber had ‘reached the conclusion’ that if larger problems are to be solved then the efforts of single individuals are not enough and that in order to fulfill this task in a satisfactory manner many rational decision makers (which have been properly trained in their strict domains) have to be inter-connected into a well structured ‘net’. This way the big problem will be sliced into more manageable sub-problems which will be analyzed by specialists and then the final solution will be re-assembled by people specially trained for exactly this task. Nowadays this entire concept is known as ‘bureaucracy‘. In theory it sounds right, doesn’t it? What could be better than an all encompassing net comprised of rational/professional decision makers who act according to a well considered and well intended ‘ideal type’? Whose ideal type? Good question, indeed. Just as good as ‘who and how trained the ‘decision makers’?’.
(There is something we must keep in mind when discussing Weber, as a person. He died relatively young, before having a chance to reach a ‘final conclusion’, or at least one to satisfy him. That also has to be the reason for which he hasn’t published much during his lifetime.)
Plato. Society (the city, the “Republic’) should be run by a specific kind of (dedicated) people and because “those with the philosopher’s natural abilities and with outstanding natures often get corrupted by a bad education and become outstandingly bad” this ‘special kind of people’ need to receive “the proper kind of education“. Meaning that ‘a true philosopher’ has to be versed in ‘the Forms of Good’, which are amply explained in ‘The Cave Allegory’.
The gist of the matter is two layered.
1. The reality is hidden behind some ‘veils’ (or in ‘shadows’ if you prefer the original metaphor) but properly trained professionals (the philosophers) can be taught to see what Plato describes as ‘the ultimate truth’.
2. These professional truth seekers have not only the right to lead the rest of the people ‘into the light’ but the obligation to do so! Furthermore, for Plato the ‘ideal political structure’ – the Republic – would be so organized as to ‘force’ into public duty those who have been specially ‘bred and trained’ to perform such duty:
“Observe, Glaucon, that there will be no injustice in compelling our philosophers to have a care and providence of others; we shall explain to them that in other States, men of their class are not obliged to share in the toils of politics: and this is reasonable, for they grow up at their own sweet will, and the government would rather not have them. Being self-taught, they cannot be expected to show any gratitude for a culture which they have never received. But we have brought you into the world to be rulers of the hive, kings of yourselves and of the other citizens, and have educated you far better and more perfectly than they have been educated, and you are better able to share in the double duty. Wherefore each of you, when his turn comes, must go down to the general underground abode, and get the habit of seeing in the dark. When you have acquired the habit, you will see ten thousand times better than the inhabitants of the cave, and you will know what the several images are, and what they represent, because you have seen the beautiful and just and good in their truth. And thus our State which is also yours will be a reality, and not a dream only, and will be administered in a spirit unlike that of other States, in which men fight with one another about shadows only and are distracted in the struggle for power, which in their eyes is a great good. Whereas the truth is that the State in which the rulers are most reluctant to govern is always the best and most quietly governed, and the State in which they are most eager, the worst.”
I believe that by now you have grasped where I’m headed to. There is not much difference between Marx and Plato and a very close relationship between these two and Weber. Still, the fact that Weber was not yet done thinking about this matter at the moment of his untimely death makes me believe that if he had some more time at his disposal he would have understood what Laozi taught us about the concept of “nonaction”:
And isn’t it very strange that the best (short) presentation I was able to find about Laozi is hosted by a site called “Plato.Stanford.edu”?