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Warren Goldstein

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Marx, Critical Theory, and Religion

A Critique of Rational Choice

Edited by Warren Goldstein

The Sociology of Religion has had several frameworks guiding its analysis including functionalism, interpretive sociology, phenomenology, symbolic interactionism and now rational choice theory. Marxism has tended to ignore religion assuming it is something that would eventually disappear even though it retained theological elements. This collection of essays brings together a group of scholars who use frameworks provided by Marx and Critical Theory in analyzing religion. It's goal is to establish a critical theory of religion within the sociology of religion as an alternative to rational choice. In doing so, it engages in a critique of the positivism, uncritical praise of the market (neoconservativism) and one dimensional conception of rationality of the rational choice theory of religion.
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Reconstructing the Classics

Weber, Troeltsch, and the Historical Materialists

Warren S. Goldstein

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.