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Traditional Action and Traditional Authority11I am grateful to M. Michael Rosenberg, Sam Whimster, and the anonymous referees for their comments on earlier versions of this paper.

DOI https://doi.org/10.15543/MWS/2018/2/3

Joshua Rust


Two standard interpretations of traditional action are rejected. Traditional action is not subjectively meaningful in the sense of having what Talcott Parsons calls a ‘normative orientation’. But nor is traditional action a matter of blind habit. I contend, instead, that traditional action is subjectively meaningful insofar as the actor’s seemingly aberrant behavior can be rendered intelligible by appeal to shared exemplars. I provide further evidence for the proposed interpretation of traditional action by showing how it illuminates Weber’s account of traditional authority. The traditions that legitimize a traditional master consist, not just in rules or decisions, but in exemplars and precedents as found in the ‘documents of tradition’. I conclude with a discussion of how the proposed account of traditional action and authority illuminates charismatic authority and Weber’s notion of the irrational.

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