Ennobling

6/21/16

Weber’s concept of ‘ennobling’ (p. 118, PE&SOC, e.g.) is relevant to the current practice of white/male/class-guilting.  According to Weber, medieval (monastic) asceticism, when imbued with a rational approach to life and constrained consumption, often led to the accrual of wealth.  This wealth, in turn, threatened the asceticism that gave rise to the wealth. Before the rise of capitalism, the primary draw for the accumulated wealth was the purchase of titles of nobility: ennobling.

The practice of ennobling can be understood several different ways, one of which is to see the act as buying entre into status.  In addition to the psychological effect of an increase in social standing, one is also given an ease of access that money alone cannot provide.

Those who acknowledge feelings of guilt for their privilege can be understood as doing something similar.  As wealth accumulated over generations was in the past traded in for titles of nobility, today some middle class white people trade in the pathos of distance earned by their ancestors for entre into the Marxist-Academic club.

Postscript

I remember very clearly looking for a job and constantly reading job advertisements for professors who espoused a social justice perspective.  One had only to confess her privilege …  Were I hungry or confused enough, or more benignly, had a different worldview, I would have traded my good conscience in for admission of guilt and concomitant membership in the club.

 

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