Reconstructing the Classics

Weber, Troeltsch, and the Historical Materialists

In: Method & Theory in the Study of Religion
Warren S. Goldstein Center for Critical Research on Religion and Harvard University

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Max Weber and Ernst Troeltsch constructed their theoretical frameworks in debate with historical materialism. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels provided Weber and Troeltsch with the tools of base/superstructure and class analysis that they employed in their analysis of religion. The article places Weber and Troeltsch in the historical context of the rise of the Social Democratic Party and its splintering during World War I. It compares the writing on religion by Engels, Eduard Bernstein and Karl Kautsky with those of Weber and Troeltsch. It focuses on Ancient Judaism, the origins of Christianity, Christian heretical sects, the Reformation, the German Peasant Wars, and the Puritan Revolution. Some points in common are the origins of communism in Judaism and Christianity and the association between Protestantism and capitalism. This article shows how Weber and Troeltsch critically appropriated from historical materialism and uses this with the intent of constructing a critical sociology of religion.

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