This article examines critical assessments of Max Weber's influential writings on Judaism. It focuses primarily on criticisms of Weber articulated by American Jewish sociologist Philip Rieff (1922-2006) and his one-time teacher Edward Shils (1910-1995). In a posthumously published 2007 work entitled Charisma: The Gift of Grace, and How It Has Been Taken Away from Us, Rieff takes aim at Weber's concept of charisma. In doing so, he argues for a novel yet traditional understanding of the contribution of Judaism to Western culture. This article explores challenges to Weber from Rieff and Shils under three headings: the distinctiveness of the Jewish people; the nature of charisma; and covenant and prophets. It reviews Weber's writings on these subjects and argues that Rieff correctly identifies ways in which Weber's concept of charisma remains beholden to Protestant thought and a mode of inquiry that obscures and opposes key aspects of Jewish self-understanding.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cultural Studies
- Religious studies
- Literature and Literary Theory