The Religion of India: The Sociology of Hinduism and Buddhism
By Max Weber
Free Press, 1958, 392 pp.
In these two volumes the greatest social scientist of the twentieth century anticipated by several decades important problems that came to preoccupy the globe after World War II. Why have some countries failed to modernize rapidly or at all? What are the consequences of the major religions of the world for economic activity? What was unique about the West? Weber was the intellectual godfather of the literature on "modernization" that has shed enormous light on social, economic, and political evolution in Asia and in other parts of the non-Western world. He isolated religious institutions and the key social strata that mediate them to the wider society as crucial variables. They shape social-psychological orientations to the practical concerns of life and help determine receptivity or resistance to industrialization. Weber did more than anticipate the literature on modernization. His work on China and India still stands as rare examples of an attempt to characterize Chinese and Indian societies and their dominant value systems systematically.