By Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Joseph J. Bien
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Extra info for Adventures of the Dialectic
Conversely, action consults history, which teaches us, says Weber, certainly not what must be willed, but the true meaning of our volitions. Knowledge and action are two poles of a single existence. Our relationship to history is not only one of understanding-a relationship of the spectator to the spectacle. We would not be spectators if we were not involved in the past, and action would not be serious if it did not conclude the whole enterprise of the past and did not give the drama its last act.
Weber had glimpsed the road to follow, namely, ideal types, significations that we introduce into our representation of the past that would cut us from it only if they were arbitrary. But they themselves are part of history: history as a science, with its methods and its idealizations, is an aspect of history as reality, of the capitalistic rationalization. Our ideas, our significations, precisely because they are relative to our time, have an intrinsic truth that they will teach to us if we succeed in placing them in their proper context, in understanding them rather than merely suffering them.
If the Protestant ethic and capitalism are two institutional ways of stating the relationship of man to man, there is no reason why the Protestant ethic should not for a time carry within itself incipient capitalism. Nor is there anything to prevent capitalism from perpetuating certain typically Protestant modes of behavior in history or even from displacing Protestantism as the driving force of history and substituting itself for it, allowing certain motives to perish and asserting others as its exclusive theme.
Adventures of the Dialectic by Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Joseph J. Bien