On Facebook, someone familiar to readers of this blog wrote: “As readers of Weber know, there are three forms of legitimate rape: forcible, fraternity, and rational-legal.” But enough of that neo-Weberian claptrap. As a good paleo-Weberian knows, the ideal types here remain traditional, charismatic, and legal-rational. And these help us to understand the political backlash over Rep. Aiken’s Aken’s “unfortunate” choice of words.

Aken subscribes to a traditional view of rape. Indeed, his understanding harkens back to late medieval Europe. That’s pretty traditional.

His opponents, on the other hand, adopt legal-rational conceptions of rape. These depend on entirely different warrants, such as consistency, equal application, and other justificatory schema alien to Aken’s wing of the Republican party. Or, as Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association nicely summarized, “What Akin meant by ‘legitimate rape:’ actual forcible rape, not consensual sex that later gets called rape. Come on, people.”

Indeed, since women cannot, for people such as Aken and Fischer, become pregnant from rape, pregnancy provides an excellent basis for distinguishing between traditional rape and faux rape — the latter including mere threats to inflict harm, the exploitation of power differentials, and the droit de segnieur that our great democracy has extended to all men encountering women with short skirts, low-cut tops, or lesbian tendencies.

Ah, traditional justice. So much easier and more accurate than that demanded in legal-rational systems.


Where was I?…. Ah, yes. The problem for Aken is that he failed to translate traditional understandings of legitimate rape into legal-rational ones of the kind demanded by the lamestream media. Many Republicans, however, depend upon making appeals to segments of the electorate whose traditions are more thoroughly laced with legal-rational lifeworlds. They have therefore thrown Aken under the proverbial chariot. But not to worry, for as Weber teaches us a Charismatic figure may create a genuine rupture in existing modes of legitimate rape and build a new order.

And that figure is at hand.

No. Wait. 
Wrong picture.

Sorry. I meant this one:

Credit: TMZ via Salon

I admit none of this was terribly funny. But there’s a serious point here: Weber’s ideal-typical accounts of legitimate domination provide a useful way of parsing contemporary debates in the United States. It isn’t just a matter of content, nor of communities of discourse, but of styles of legitimation.

Share