“Politics as Vocation” is One of Bill Clinton’s Very Favorite Books—But Our New Translation Doesn’t Have a Book Blurb!

Tony-Cover of Weber book

Earlier this year, my wife and I published a book Weber’s Rationalism, which included four new translations of Weber’s essays, including “Politics as Vocation.” President Bill Clinton lists on his web-site “Politics as Vocation” as being one 21 of his favorite all-time books, right up there with Yeats Poems, The Imitation of Christ, and his wife Hillary’s book Living History. I am of course intrigued about why one of the master politicians of this era thought so highly of Weber’s essay, and wrote to him via his web site. What would Bill Clinton think about how Weber wrote about the dangerous vanity of politicians, the assumption that politicians are always violent, while admitting that indeed, there are ways for the “true human” to be a good politician—“In Spite of it All!”

So I wrote Clinton at his office in New York to tell him about our new translation, to inquire about the possibility of getting a book blurb—admittedly an audacious request. Such favors, as Weber notes, are primarily for “table companions,” political Honoratioren,” and the other who whirl around the politician basking in power. I knew this well from translating Weber. But still it was a small request, and I hoped for at least a polite “no thanks” from one of his staffers.

Then this week, the reason why I did not get a response to my emails—not even a courteous “no thanks” from a staffer—became more apparent. I do not pay to play. News stories of the last week highlight how much the Clintons ask to speak or consult. I don’t pay, so I guess, so no response. (Actually I do pay sometimes—earlier this year I paid $35 to publish a cartoon!) Anyway, should have listened more closely to the cynical Max Weber inside of me!

But despite it all, I do indeed have some nice book blurbs, two from important Weber scholars, and a third one from an important political scientist. They all highly recommend our translation, and they did so simply as an academic courtesy to the publisher.

Speaking of academic courtesy, here is a commentary that the Chancellor of Germany, Helmut Schmidt, once wrote about Weber’s essay, “Politics as Vocation”—he gave it as a speech to the Kant Congress in 1981 (in German).

A sample chapter from our book Weber’s Rationalism is here.