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    The Weberian legacy: re-reading Reinhard Bendix’s Intellectual Portrait of Max Weber

    Caldwell, Raymond (2016) The Weberian legacy: re-reading Reinhard Bendix’s Intellectual Portrait of Max Weber. Journal of Classical Sociology 16 (2), pp. 196-218. ISSN 1468-795X.

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    Published more than 50 years ago, Reinhard Bendix’s classic monograph Max Weber: An Intellectual Portrait (1960) exercised an important influence on the early reception of Weber’s work in America. With the recent resurgence of interest in defining what constitutes ‘the Weberian legacy’, Bendix’s work has taken on renewed significance in understanding why the reception process of translation, adaptation and assimilation in America produced conflicting interpretations of Weber’s fragmented legacy. In the Intellectual Portrait, Bendix sought to provide a synthetic overview of Weber’s oeuvre as a whole, effectively rebalancing the earlier interpretative focus on The Protestant Ethic and the studies of the world religions by giving equal weight to the analytical treatise of Economy and Society, which includes studies of economics, religion, politics, power, law and the state. In doing so, Bendix challenged Talcott Parsons’ powerful alternative theoretical reading and helped extricate Weber’s historical sociology from the claims of functionalism and modernisation theory. Despite this success, Bendix’s Intellectual Portrait still exists under the shadow of Parsons’ interpretative legacy, and his reading of Weber is often criticised or misrepresented, even by his admirers. For some, he was an ‘instrumental Weberian’ who exaggerated Weber’s work on conflict and power, while for others he was a representative of ‘cultural Weberianism’ who focused on the autonomy of intellectual ideas and religious worldviews. In practice, Bendix, like Weber, can be adapted and assimilated into both readings. This essay reappraises the Intellectual Portrait as an important chapter in the intellectual history of Weber scholarship and interpretation. It seeks to re-evaluate Bendix as a Weber interpreter, as well as honour his status as a ‘Weberian’: a scholar who sought to reinterpret Weber’s comparative historical sociology of the West from the viewpoint of multiple modernities. While Bendix deserves this re-evaluation, the essay concludes by suggesting a genealogical counterhistory that questions the narrative retelling of the emergence of ‘the Weberian legacy’ as a progressive or cumulative process leading to an internally coherent or broadly consistent research programme, method, perspective, paradigm or tradition.


    Item Type: Article
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): Bendix, counterhistory, Parsons, the Weberian legacy
    School: School of Business, Economics & Informatics > Organizational Psychology
    Depositing User: Raymond Caldwell
    Date Deposited: 08 Jun 2017 08:43
    Last Modified: 10 Feb 2021 17:00


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