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Rationalities in History: A Weberian Essay in Comparison Paperback – October 18, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


"Historians are often cautious about theory; this book ought to persuade them they are wrong. David d'Avray puts Max Weber back at the centre of the historical project in a powerful study; we are all in his debt." -Christopher Wickham, University of Oxford

"This is an unprecedentedly sophisticated reading of Weber on rationality. Through careful conceptual analysis and arresting examples from a range of different cultures, past and present, David d'Avray shows how Weber's 'ideal types', too often thought to be empirically and historically as well as analytically distinct, in fact combine to maintain and adapt a range of justifications in religion, law, economics, and politics. No-one interested in how people have reasoned should ignore it." -Geoffrey Hawthorn, University of Cambridge

"In this carefully crafted volume, D.L.D'Avray offers a strong argument about how various rationalities can be found in history and in populations around the world. By doing so, he discredits the association of formal rationality with modernity, and claims that instrumental reasoning is a human universal." -Raul Acosta, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

"Unlike those historians who prefer to remain the prisoner of theories which are held unconsciously, David D'Avray's aim in these two sister volumes is to engage explicitly with the 'ideal types' of rationality catalogued in Max Weber's work in order to show their empirical value in the study of the religion of the medieval West...In many ways, these two volumes constitute a model of how historians can engage with social theory. They are clearly and wittily written and resort to technical jargon in order to clarify the argument rather than to obscure it. They are logically structured and address issues which are of interest not just to medievalists but also to historians of other periods, as well as to philosophers, anthropologists, sociologists and social theorists. They draw effortlessly on an impressive range of empirical examples and are the product of wide reading in philosophy and social science." -S.H.Rigby, English Historical Review

Book Description

In Rationalities in History the distinguished historian David d'Avray provides a thought-provoking reassessment of seminal Weberian ideas, applying these ideas to the comparative history of religion and the philosophy of law. Utilising theories of rational choice and relativism alongside empirical research, d'Avray successfully disengages the idea of 'rationalisation' from 'modernity'.

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