The Russian-Orthodox Tradition and Modernity

The Russian-Orthodox Tradition and Modernity

The Russian-Orthodox Tradition and Modernity

The Russian-Orthodox Tradition and Modernity

Synopsis

The book attempts to identify the uniqueness of the Russian-Orthodox religious tradition and to contrast it with two of the characteristics of modern Western society: its particular economic ethics and individualism. Max Weber and Louis Dumont provide the theoretical framework. The first part of the analysis is concerned with the economic ethics among Orthodox Russians, Old Believers and the adherents of various sects in the historical context of Russian society. The second part centres on the place and the kind of individualism in the Orthodox tradition since its beginnings in early monasticism and up to the twentieth century. The comparative perspective does not only shed new light on Russia but also on the development of Western individualism and on the Janus-like features of a traditional culture exposed to modernization.

Excerpt

It might perhaps appear unnecessary to justify the publication of a book on the relationship between the Russian-Orthodox tradition and modernity at a time when, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia is trying to adopt modern Western economic and political structures. But the need for this investigation seems even more urgent if one considers the lack of previous studies on the subject. Whereas there is an abundance of publications on the relationship between Catholic or Protestant religious traditions on the one hand and economic life and modernity on the other, there has hardly been any systematic attempt to study the significance and the possible impediments which the Russian-Orthodox tradition holds for the economic and political development of Russia, as well as the manner in which it affects Russia’s acculturation to modernity. in this regard it may be hoped that this book will fill a gap and provide, at the same time, a necessary foundation for those who wish to formulate an opinion on Russia’s future development and modernization.

But this is also a comparative study which finds its originality and justification in the fact that the Russian-Orthodox tradition and the Western religious tradition which led to modernity, have common roots in early Christianity. the intellectual journey to Russia can also teach us about the origins and the characteristics of the West, and can help to express modernity in more general sociological terms and, at the same time, from the point of view of traditional culture. By achieving this more general and comparative sociological understanding, the understanding of Russia and of its acculturation to the West will in turn be lifted to a higher level.

The book is mainly addressed to scholars of comparative sociology and socio-economic development, but it is hoped that others in the fields of religion (not only Eastern Orthodoxy), anthropology, Russian studies and historical sociology will also be attracted by it. It is the result of studies which, although interrupted from time to time, have continued for more than ten years. Some chapters constitute the revised and adapted forms of articles which are scattered in various scholarly journals, and new chapters of a more general perspective have been added. Financial support for research in the libraries of Heidelberg and Paris has come from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

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