Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

The Robert Bellah Reader

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

The Robert Bellah Reader

Article excerpt

The Robert Bellah Reader, edited by Robert N. Bellah and Steven M. Tipton. Duke, October 2006. $27.95 paper

Calling Robert Bellah a sociologist is like calling Louis Armstrong a trumpet player. The Bellah Reader demonstrates what a serious scholar can accomplish when he perceives a disciplinary identity as secondary to the pursuits of knowledge and of understanding one's culture and society. Bellah credits Professor Talcott Parsons for igniting his propensity to diligently search for social understanding-conventional disciplinary methodologies and boundaries be damned. He also acknowledges his debt to leading sociological thinkers such as Emile Durkheim and Max Weber. But reading these essays, one gains a sense of how Bellah's thinking flows from a scholarly legacy and a personality that transcend former professors or classical writers in modern sociology. Bellah comes to sociology after anthropological studies of non-Western cultures and languages, non-Christian religions, and premodern societies.

A surprising revelation that argues for Bellah's distinctive sociology is that he felt the need to take a "crash course" in American studies after the publication of his influential 1967 essay "Civil Religion in America. …

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