Goodbye Father: The Celibate Male Priesthood and the Future of the Catholic Church

By Richard A. Schoenherr; David Yamane | Go to book overview

3
TOWARD A THEORY OF SOCIAL CHANGE
IN ORGANIZED RELIGION

In many ways religious organizations are just like other organizations. In this chapter, I emphasize their similarities by grounding my analysis of the Catholic Church in classic theoretical models of social change. The writings of Max Weber provide the foundation for the arguments. 1 I add important recent developments, notably from Michael Hannan and John Freeman's population ecology approach to organizational change and from Charles Perrow's qualified power model of organizations. 2


Weber's Legacy

Much of Max Weber's enormous research efforts were spent analyzing the rise of the capitalist political economy, why it emerged in the West, and why it was destined to dominate worldwide. Weber's explanation stresses the crucial role of tensions and balances between opposing social forces. The main features of Western capitalism did not emerge until certain conflicting historical trends converged in a peculiar balance. For example, a dynamic balance between the democratizing tendencies of self-supplied armies and the centralization of the bureaucratic state was a necessary prerequisite for the capitalist economy, as was an equilibrium between the charisma of priestly office and the participatory communities of monasticism. These and several other seemingly far-fetched political, economic, and cultural relationships are skillfully explained and documented in Weber's analysis. Moreover, not only the emergence but also the dynamism and perseverance of industrial capitalism depends on maintaining a proper balance among competing class, political, and cultural forces. This balance is tenuous but held in place by constant conflict between opposing forces, for conflict enhances their interdependence. Conflict is vital because the victory of any one side of the opposing forces would spell the doom of the capitalist system.


Power and Domination of Rational-Legal Bureaucracy

Weber emphasizes the importance of structurally embedded conflict as the source of both continuity and change. So he extends his theory to explain how a

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