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Universität Bielefeld - Fakultät für Soziologie



Peter Beyer, Religion, residual problems, and functional differentiation: an ambiguous relationship

(1) Such ambiguity is not unique either to modern/global society, or to modern religion. See Victor Turner's analysis of parallel situations in societies with relatively little functional differentiation in Turner 1969. Elsewhere I attempt to apply Turner's starting point to certain contemporary religious movements. See Beyer 1998a.

(2) For more extended discussion of various aspects of religion as a functionally systemic form, see Beyer 1997; 1998b; Luhmann 1989.

(3) Weber’s analysis of priestly versus prophetic, charismatic religious (1972) leadership resonates with my argument here. The dilemma of systematization is in some ways parallel to Weber's routinization of charisma. Given Weber's central concern with modernization or rationalization, such a parallel is hardly surprising and shows the degree to which this question permeates his entire sociological enterprise.

(4) The most salient works are Luhmann 1977; 1985; 1987b; 1989; 1995. In spite of its brevity, the last work has the most direct relevance for the overall theme of this article.

(5) A good artistic rendering of the temptation and the dilemma is to be found in Arnold Schönberg’s opera, Moses und Aron, in which Moses does not sing but searches only for the elusive Word ("O Wort, Du Wort, das mir fehlt!"). Indeed, a parallel analysis to the one offered here for religion, could be made for the modern artistic system. On a more strictly religious note, and carrying the image further, as Alfred Loisy and the Catholic "modernists" of the late 19th century realized, even if the "Word is made Flesh", that in itself is not much good if there does not follow the church.