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Saul Wainwright, POL4044F

Incompleteness In many ways Kafkas character, K., in the novel, The Castle1, exhibits many of the qualities that Weber sets up as important in defining the qualities of a true human being who is capable of having a vocation for politics.2 These qualities are central to both of Kafka and Webers solution to the paradox presented by the existence of rational norms in an increasingly ethically irrational world.3 The first quality is that of distance or calm the second quality is that of making a stand. The qualities that both authors highlight are personal in nature and I will deal with each one separately. These commonalities are important to both authors and form a critical part of the type of response that they consider possible, however the starting point for Weber differs greatly from that of Kafka. Weber accepts the legitimacy of the bureaucracy and that its irrationality is an inevitability of the system.4 Weber sees the machine of politics existing and questions not its legitimacy but rather the form that it is going to take.5 While Kafkas character K. refuses to accept it as legitimate and therefore will not submit to it. For Kafka then the project of modernization is incomplete.6 It is this incompleteness that enables Kafkas character to develop his response. Out of this incompleteness Kafka is able to highlight the multiple paths and values that exist in society and that these multiplicities give the individual a sense of personal choice and freedom. First let us look at the way that types of distance or calmness permeate both Kafkas character and Webers politician. Right at the beginning K. has an interchange with the son of the steward that highlights the calm in K.s personality, Get permission from the Count, now, at midnight? cried the young man, stepping back a pace. Is that not

1 2

Franz Kafka, The Castle, trans. Mark Harman (New York: Schocken Books, 1998) Max Weber, The Profession and Vocation of Politics, in Weber: Political Writings, ed. Peter Lassman and Ronald Speirs (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 368. 3 Ibid., 359. 4 Ibid., 351. 5 Ibid,. 351. 6 This incompleteness is illustrated in the works of both Carlo Levi in, Christ Stopped at Eboli and in Cavafys descriptions of Alexandria both of whom describe societies that have not yet been fully and completely absorbed into the capitalist bureaucracy of the modern state. Carlo Levi, Christ Stopped at Eboli (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1982); Edmund Keeley, Cavafys Alexandria (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996).

possible? K. asked calmly. Then why did you wake me up?7 (emphasis added). A few lines down K. goes on to say, Enough of this comedyin a remarkably soft voice as he lay down and pulled up the blanket8 K. is not ruffled by this situation in the least, he has no sense (or perhaps more accurately no concern) for the bureaucratic logic that is driving the interaction. Weber considers this distance, this calmness or control over the soul9 to be a critical element in the creation of an authentic politician. Weber says, the ability to maintain ones inner composure and calm while being receptive to realities, in other words distance10 is critical to the cultivation of a competent politician and the lack of distance11 will lead to political incompetence12 in our future intellectuals. It is with this distance that an element of judgment13 or discernment enters into both Webers politician and K.s character. K. at no point seems to loose control of his soul, or his passion. He chooses to navigate this irrational situation with slow and persistent rational attacks. The second element that plays a critical part to the construction of the characters is that of making a stand. The stand is important because it contributes to the distance that has been cultivated. By making that stand and asserting control, in a personal way, the politician and K. are able to cultivate room-to-maneuver, it is through this space that they have created, that possibilities for human agency ultimately appear. K. refuses to submit to the legitimacy of the bureaucracy. K. chooses to ignore the request to be questioned, saying, Good night,..I have an aversion to all manner of interrogations, and now he actually did go to the door.14 Kafkas character has made a stand and will not subject, nor accept or fully absorb the required acquiescence that is being demanded of him. In the same way Weber draws attention to the importance of the politician who says, Here I stand, I can do no other.15 It is a critical element of the ethic of responsibility16 and for Weber this politician must be able to say and accept the statement, These consequences are to be
7 8

Kafka, The Castle, 2. Kafka, The Castle, 3. 9 Weber, The Profession and Vocation of Politics, 353. 10 Ibid., 353. 11 Ibid., 353. 12 Ibid., 353. 13 Ibid., 353. 14 Kafka, The Castle, 116. 15 Weber, The Profession and Vocation of Politics, 367. 16 Ibid., 360.

Saul Wainwright, POL4044F

attributed to my actions.17 In this claiming of responsibility and the taking of a stand the characters the politician and K. retain themselves; the bureaucracy that surrounds them has not fully absorbed them. Both the politician and K. have carved a space out where the irrationality of the system cannot penetrate. It is at this point that Weber and Kafka part. Here they see two different results that emerge from these characteristics. Weber goes on to show how the ethics of conviction and responsibility merge into the politician that has a vocation for politics.18 This politician will now be fully able to participate in the system from a place that allows him to correctly judge and take actions with a full sense of responsibility. This is a necessary element because Weber accepts this system. He sees the march of bureaucracy as inevitable. Kafkas character however exists in a different context. He is unable to accept it, his rationality clashes with their rationality, and this inability opens up the space for the character to cultivate a type of freedom that Weber does not seem to highlight. The characters of distance and asserted independence result in the very personal and individual freedom that K. claims,
it seemed to K. as if they had broken off all contact with him, but as if he were freer than ever and could wait as long as he wanted here in this place where he was generally not allowed and as if he had fought for this freedom for himself in a manner nobody else could have done and as if nobody could touch him or drive him away, or even speak to him, yet - and this conviction was at least equally strong - as if there were nothing more senseless, nothing more desperate, than this freedom, this waiting, this invulnerability.19

K. has achieved what Webers ideal politician can not. A freedom, a sense of invulnerability resulting in a type of human agency that does not reduce the character to a merely reacting to the situation but rather a cultivating of space and a highlighting of the contradictions and irrationality of the process. With this sense of independence and freedom K. is able to continue to challenge the rationality of the bureaucracy that the other characters fully accept and rationalize. The result of this stand from the perspective of the other characters, such as the landlady, is an
17 18

Ibid., 360. Weber, The Profession and Vocation of Politics, 368. 19 Kafka, The Castle, 106.

Saul Wainwright, POL4044F

inability to relate they see K. as irrational. At one point the landlady says, Hes always like this Secretary, hes always like this. Distorts the information given to him, then claims hes been given the wrong information.20 She cannot understand his rationality; it is as if they are from two completely different spaces and times. In K.s refusal to be interrogated he is completely mystified by any surprise that he would make this stand, after all he is the one acting rationally. When in conversation with the landlord K. expresses his complete mystification with why he should even subject himself to the process, there seems to be no rational reason to, It is unclear to me said K., why I should let myself be interrogated, why I should subject myself to a prank or an official whim.21 K. has this interchange as he is leaving the inn and stepping out into the night. He has, for now, found a way to assert his freedom. It may not be a freedom that allows him to do as he completely feels, he still can not just go to the Castle or see Klamm, what he does have is that personal freedom, a freedom that remains outside of the march of irrationality. In an earlier scene K. stumbles into the smoke filled room of one of the village homes where he sees a large wooden tub, larger than any K. had ever seen.22 K. spends a good amount of time absorbing this, unchanging, beautiful, sad picture23. What he has stumbled into is the existence of a time and space that is only partly absorbed into the march of bureaucratic state. In this way the young woman who sits in the corner represents the beginning of the bureaucracys intrusion into this way of life. He asks her who she is, Dismissively, it was unclear whether the contempt was meant for K. or her own answer, she said: A girl from the Castle.24 What Kafka has shown here is an incompleteness of the project of modernization. In a later scene this is made much clearer when K. states the importance of this in his response to the landladys claim that there is only one way to Klamm, and that is through the secretary, Oh, Landladyit is not the only path leading to Klamm, nor is it of greater value than the others.25 There are multiple paths, multiple
20 21

Kafka, The Castle, 113. Ibid., 116. 22 Ibid., 11. 23 Ibid., 12. 24 Ibid., 13. 25 Ibid., 112

Saul Wainwright, POL4044F

ways of life and this, this march of irrational bureaucracy is but one of those paths. In this realization of the multiplicity of paths there exists a human agency, though of no doubt a very personal agency. Though Kafka and Weber consider similar characteristics to be of importance to the cultivation of their characters (calmness, distance and the ability to take a stand) what this leads to is very different and it is grounded in two different views of the historical moment. Weber sees the completeness and accepts the legitimacy of the modern state and its associated bureaucracy. He however believes that what is critical to its evolution is the type of politician that participates, and that this politician will help define and mold the resulting state and its bureaucracy. Kafka on the other hand has not accepted the legitimacy nor sees it as complete. Rather, he highlights the importance of the continued recognition of multiple paths, multiple histories and in fact multiple ways of life. Perhaps, in a sad way, he is attempting to highlight the loss of these multiplicities and the resulting loss of freedom and independence to choose a way of life that is outside of the associated irrationality of bureaucracy, a bureaucracy that ignores human needs and the personal ethics of humans.