Weber and Religion: The Prophet Motive Essay

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Weber and Religion: The Prophet Motive Weber was concerned to demonstrate, contrary to Marx's thought, that culture was not reducible to the economic aspect of a society. Weber insisted that culture was to be considered as an autonomous value-sphere of any society. We might define such a value-sphere as; "..a distinct realm of activity which has its own inherent dignity and in which certain values, norms, obligations are inherent." (Brubaker:1983) Not only is this value-sphere of culture autonomous but, for Weber, it has the ability to construct forms of economic activity! For Weber, culture is seen as an agent in the production and maintenance of social relations. For…show more content…
It is in this sense that we must understand charisma to be based upon a set of social relationships. Relationships of authority and legitimacy. Finally, charismatic authority arises in periods of social unrest and change and thus depends not only on the existence of this `exceptional' individual but a social context which produces large numbers of individuals who are `disenchanted' with the present social institutions. Charisma, is in Weber's view ` a great revolutionary force' for social change. Charismatic movements always seek to dismantle or overthrow existing/traditional forms of authority and power. Finally, Weber suggests charismatic authority as inherently unstable since it is usually based upon a `personality cult' of the leader. When the leader dies then the movement will `die' with him/her or ossify and institutionalise itself into what Weber refers to as `the charisma of office': bureaucracy! Look at Fig. 1, (at the bottom of page 2 of this document) which I have taken and adapted from Bryan Turner's book. To understand the historical process we will need to begin with the `magician' and move `clockwise' towards `secular man'. We begin with the earliest form of society. Hunter-gatherer societies which were organised on the basis of kinship and lived in collectives of clans or tribes. The belief-systems of these peoples were, says Weber, based upon magic. Thus the magician (or

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