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Weber’s use of the ideal type of patrimonialism for Indic rulership

DOI https://doi.org/10.15543/MWS/2018/2/4

Sam Whimster


Criticisms of Weber’s over-emphasis on Indic civilization in terms of an unchanging Vedic caste order have to be tempered by the contingent role given to political rulerships, which Weber theorizes in term of patrimonialism and the legitimating role of religion in Indic rulerships. The article considers whether the ideal type of patrimonialism is vulnerable to Dipesh Chakrabarty’s provincializing Europe critique. The article makes two points: firstly, Weber recognizes the situatedness of academic thought and the ideal type is his answer to the value-relatedness of all academic study in the human and social sciences. Secondly, academic discourse is open to the deployment of other ideal types, such as the segmental state, alongside patrimonialism. Weber’s ideal-typical approach in his study of Hinduism and Buddhism has to be separated from the historical approach to India in his General Economic History where the role of colonialism is crucial to the rise of colonial capitalism and to the critical path dependency of western modern industrial capitalism.

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