Applying Girard to Weber’s Ideal Types

I’ve scanned the Max Weber references in Girard’s works and the secondary literature but haven’t seen this tight connection between the ideal types and mimetic theory.

Weber’s “Ideal Types” of societies:

  • Charismatic
  • Traditional
  • Rational/Bureaucratic

Weber’s charismatic addresses the first stage of Girard’s Mimetic Theory.

Mimetic Theory posits as the major force in human affairs a competition between members for the objects of another’s desire, an original state of nature like Hobbes’. A charismatic leader derives authority by channeling the anxiety this competition creates through an appeal to violent scapegoating.

Traditional society uses the peace established by the charismatic by ritual and myth — the original violence becomes sacred. While the power of the myths and rituals endures, social order is maintained. However, as the gravity of the violence weakens, a new round of bloodletting of either a greater number or more prestigious victims is needed.

Rational society has emerged in limited circumstances. Weber, at the end of vast historical and cultural study, suggests that certain traits of Protestantism, specifically Calvinism, led to the habits necessary for the rise of modern capitalism. Yet as the animating kernels shed their husks, modern man is left with an entirely disenchanted world, his “iron cage.” Girard, too, speaks of the effect of the Gospels to dispel the Primitive Sacred’s previous ability to maintain social cohesion against the anxiety of “mimetic rivalry.”

The disenchantment fable of liberalism leaves us rather unprepared to comprehend and confront the violence done in the name of the Primitive Sacred in our own day. More on the resources the Biblical tradition offers to the global war on terror later, and check out Chronicles of Atlantis for regular updates.

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2 Responses to “Applying Girard to Weber’s Ideal Types”

  1. Athos Says:

    Thanks for the plug, Scott, but the link doesn’t go anywhere. Did you see the Wieseltier piece I posted in your honor?

  2. Scott Says:

    I fixed the link. Yes, I saw that piece thru your site. Thanks for thinking of me. I relate Wiesltier’s evolution regarding the church bells, learning to find truth, beauty, goodness….

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