chapter  7
Weber and Islamic Reform
ByBarbara D. Metcalf
Pages 13

Is Weber relevant to the study of modern Muslim reformist movements? Most scholars who study such movements accept Weber’s problematic of the relationship between religious change and economic and social life. Indeed, some have explicitly looked to Weber and in particular to The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism as a model for explaining the religious and social changes they have sought to understand. Yet Weber’s approach has been increasingly questioned, often implicitly, by a selective use of his insights and a bracketing of some of his central questions, not least his overriding interest in why modern capitalism emerged first in the West and nowhere else, a question whose formulation belies the complex interdependence of world interconnections, particularly in the capitalist world system and its committed colonial structures. Weber’s ideal-typical approach focused on civilizations as a whole, minimizing not only these interconnections but, outside Europe, change over time. 1 Nonetheless, Weber’s interest in the role of religion, specifically the role of religion in modernization, has inspired considerable work on Islamic movements and continues to do so.