chapter  2
The Institutionalization of Early Islamic Societies
ByIra M. Lapidus
Pages 13

Weber’s legacy offers a special challenge for the study of Islamic civilization. It was not one of the world religions which he studied in depth. Turner’s book 1 has already shown how Weber’s comments about Islam were limited and scattered. Weber’s views on Islam as a warrior religion, on qadi justice or on patrimonialism in Islamic societies are not so much wrong as they are inadequately developed and by themselves misleading caricatures of Islamic society and religion. Instead of trying to assess Islamic societies in Weber’s terms or criticizing Weber from our present knowledge, we need to bypass his specific opinions and make use of the extraordinary repertoire of concepts and ideal types that Weber developed for his comparative study of civilizations to work out our own portrait of Islamic civilization in a Weberian manner. For students of Islamic societies Weber’s important contributions were not his remarks about Islam, but such concepts as the forms of political domination and legitimation; his studies of charisma, of patrimonial and bureaucratic administration; his sociology of religion, and his concepts of the inner and other worldly religious orientations, and their affinity with different status groups. I have not mentioned all the important concepts, but I have deliberately left out of this list Weber’s great comparative study of why capitalism developed in European but not in non-European societies. This aspect of his work was a revelation about Europe, but I think it is misleading to let the European issue define the questions for the study of non-European societies. We have to analyze these societies in terms of their own particular institutions and ethos rather than to concentrate on the relevant differences 140from capitalist or western societies. What I would like to do then is to avoid Weber’s question of the comparison of Islamic and western societies, but use his repertoire of concepts for the analysis of early Islamic societies.