Weber’s concept of Islam as a cultural configuration including religion, society, and political order was conceived against the backdrop of Europe’s supposed uniqueness and exemplary path to modernity. Yet his ambition of advancing transcultural understanding and exploring a plurality of developmental histories offers inspiration to this day also for the Islamic perspective. Repositioning his ideas about warrior Islam, Islamic beliefs, Islamic law, and patrimonialism in the context of contemporary postcolonial, postmodern, and global theory reveals details, correlations, and perspectives that Weber at the time ignored or omitted. Complementing theory with up-to-date historical research on the Middle East provides further corrections. A critical appraisal of Weber’s approach and the discussions it triggered allows recognition of the dynamics of Islamic history, such as the role of religion and religious authority in the evolution of state–society relations. It also assists in understanding Islamic features of modernity, including fundamentalism and the role of tradition, that inform the tension between moral values and politics. Going beyond the historical limitation of Weber’s assessment of prevalent features of Islam, the vitality of Islamic tradition and its particular pathway to modernity are recognizable in terms corresponding with the intention of Weber’s transcultural approach and its contemporary reinterpretations.
Bryan S. Turner and Rosario Forlenza
While Max Weber wrote extensively on a range of religions—Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, and most extensively Protestantism—there is no fully developed sociology of Catholicism. This chapter attempts to construct Max Weber’s missing sociology of Catholicism from the various scattered comments across his works. While Weber saw Protestantism influencing the growth of capitalism (and more broadly modernization), his view of Catholicism was largely negative: it was ritualistic, magical, bureaucratic, and traditional. What would Weber have made of Catholicism in the twentieth century and twenty-first century? This chapter first examines developments in nineteenth-century Catholicism that lay behind Weber’s critical commentary. The second half asks how changes in Catholicism after the Second Vatican Council (informally known as Vatican II, 1962–1965) have brought about a modernization of Catholicism. The chapter argues for the relevance of Weber’s views today by considering the impact of Vatican II on Catholic teaching and practice, arguing that it represents the political modernization of Catholicism. Vatican II represented a radical departure from the political conservatism of the nineteenth century. In principle, the church was no longer critical of secular democracy, pluralism, the party system, and state sovereignty. This modernization, however, began to undermine the universalism of the church and pushed Catholicism toward denominationalism. However, the church did not modernize its teaching on contraception, abortion, marriage, divorce, and family life. This tension between political modernization and what we might simply call “familial conservatism” still haunts the church today.
When Max Weber began his work on the historical importance of the relationship between the Protestant ethic and modern capitalism, he committed himself to the most enduring of his theoretical interests, the economic ethic of the most important religions. Investigating central issues in Max Weber’s study on ancient Judaism, this chapter points to its relevance for the understanding of contemporary populism. For this purpose, two key aspects of his work are emphasized: this religion’s rationality—inescapable for the understanding of Western modernity—and the charisma of the biblical prophets, based on their social and political position as well as on the affective bond they formed with the masses. Both aspects provide important insights for the assessment of contemporary populist movements.