Josh Chafetz

Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2019


Donald Trump, Max Weber


Constitutional Law | Law and Politics


Anxiety abounds about the state of American constitutional democracy in “the age of Trump.” A wide range of commentators have raised serious and profound questions about the resilience of our political institutions and the capacity of our current political leadership.

This Essay, written for a Constitutional Commentary symposium on “Constitutional Law in the Trump Era,” attempts to get a handle on that anxiety by taking a step back and viewing our contemporary situation through a broader lens—a lens crafted in a different time and place, but responsive to a related set of political questions.

In particular, this Essay turns to the German social theorist Max Weber as a guide. Writing almost exactly a century ago, Weber offered important insights into both the institutional structures of the modern state and the character traits that constitute a successful politician. For Weber, maturity, understood in terms of balance, or the productive negotiation of the tensions between conflicting principles, characterizes both the successful state and the successful politician. In this moment in American history in which concerns abound about both the resilience of our institutional arrangements and the character of our president, it is especially illuminating to turn to Weber’s reflections on both types of maturity.