After the talk – Max Weber’s Concept of Ordnung

After the talk – Max Weber’s Concept of Ordnung

On April 14th we had a very interesting online event on the topic  “Max Weber’s concept of order” with guests Andrea Salvatore Cerfeda and Prof. Andreas Anter. If you missed it, you can find the video already uploaded to our Youtube Channel!   

The discussion started with the blog post »Max Weber and the Legitimate Order Theory»  written by Andrea S. Cerfeda. In this article, Andrea introduced some of the arguments that were later explored and replied to by our colleagues, and especially by Prof. Andreas Anter, during the event. But, besides their fruitful thoughts and comments, we wanted to take another opportunity to share with you some extra considerations written by Andrea, who was kind enough to synthesize many of the relevant points that were discussed at the event.

On the talk of April 14th and the Legitimate Order Theory

by Andrea Salvatore Cerfeda

The speeches delivered during the lively debate on the relationship between order and legitimacy that took place on Friday can be broadly classified into three major groups, all of which revolve around the epistemological and semantic status of the concept of order in Max Weber’s work. The recognition of a specific type of order, namely the legitimate order, inevitably triggers an inquiry into the fundamental understanding of the Weberian concept of order, in its most general sense.

It was first revealed that the concept of order in Weber has an extraordinary semantic breadth. According to Weber, «order» corresponds to the content of meaning behind action that is guided by a set of maxims, which may either be normative or instrumental. This categorization indicates several distinct forms of order, such as «custom» (Sitte), «self-interested kind of behavior» (Interessenlage), «convention» (Konvention), and «fashion» (Mode), and even suggests that «law» (Recht) is merely a complex system of orders.

Secondly, the concreteness of the Weberian notion of order was asserted, specifically that for Weber, the existence of a given order cannot in any way be separated from human action, and particularly, social relations. This insight underscores the interrelationship between the concept of order and social reality, emphasizing that orders cannot exist independently of the individuals who enact them.

Lastly, the dynamism of orders, and their susceptibility to change, was discussed. In this regard, a reciprocal transition can occur between the merely effective order and that which is legitimate because it is endowed with value. Mere effectiveness can be sublimated into value, and value can degrade into a merely reactive or instrumental effectiveness, lacking an axiological orientation.

Ultimately, there have been many ways in which the complexity of the Weberian concept of order has emerged. Anyhow, the aspect that we can reach a consensus on is that this complexity is a wealth that still holds relevance today in diverse fields of study, ranging from philosophy and historical disciplines to sociology and political science.


We want to thank our guests and all the participants who shared their ideas during the event. A special thanks, too, to Yannis Ktenas who was a mediator during the discussion!