Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

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(1916-1990) German-born sociologist, fled Nazi rule to America and later did his doctoral work at the University of Chicago; his father, Ludwig, was a lawyer in Weimar Germany and influenced the young Reinhard's involvement in ethical and sociological questions.

Bendix's early interest in the relationships between truth, politics, and society, and in the problems of rationality and irrationality, led him to engage critically Marxian and other theories of ideology and examine the historical role of knowledge elites in modern societies.

Bendix spent most of his career at the University of California, Berkeley, and became one of the major interpreters of Max Weber's writings in America. His book Max Weber: An Intellectual Portrait (Doubleday 1960), once unrivaled as a comprehensive treatment of Weber, remains a balanced and compelling synthesis of his comparative, historical sociology. In contrast to Talcott Parsons's development of Weber's social action theory, Bendix emphasized Weber's work on status groups, political and administrative organization, and types of legitimacy but also examined Weber's treatment of the world religions and their civilizations. His distinctive combination of Weber with perspectives drawn from writers such as Tocqueville, Otto Hintze, and others resulted in a series of books marked by conceptual clarity and global breadth. Work and Authority in Industry (Wiley 1956) compared managerial ideologies of industrialization in England, America, and Russia, while Nation-Building and Citizenship (Wiley 1964) examined the changing balance of private and public authority and of tradition and modernity in the transformation of societies, including western Europe, Germany, Japan, and India. The deeper historical and cultural roots of modernity in earlier struggles in East and West around the problem of kingship were explored in his volume Kings and People: Power and the Mandate to Rule (University of California Press 1978).

Bendix's interpretation of Weber and his explorations in comparative sociology influenced several generations of students, among them Guenther Roth, whose English edition of Weber's Economy and Society (with Claus Wittich) made available for the first time large and previously untranslated portions of this landmark work. Roth also has written extensively about Weber's work, both in collaboration with Bendix as well as independently (e.g., Scholarship and Partisanship , University of California Press 1971).

Donald A. Nielsen


R. Bendix, "What Max Weber Means to Me?" in Max Weber's Political Sociology , ed. R. M. Glassman and V. Murvar (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1984): 13-24

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