Culture and Social Change: Tradition and Innovation in Cultural Analysis

  • Bassam Tibi


Religion is a cultural system and culture is increasingly becoming a pertinent issue in world politics, but the debate on these issues is quite hazy. We need to ask: What is culture? At the outset we may observe that by the end of the Cold War the political focus on bipolarity was being phased out, and this coincided with the flaring up of religious and ethnic conflicts. A greater interest in the study of culture is developing. However, a clear concept of the issue itself is not available. At least there is a need for an understanding of culture that goes beyond the existing anthropological account and also relates culture to civilisation beyond traditional wisdoms on these issues.1 Cultural analysis has its classical roots in pre-war German sociology and I suggest looking at this to begin with. In the now classic article ‘Cultural Sociology’, originally published by Vierkandt in the Handwörterbuch der Soziologie (Handbook of Sociology), Alfred Weber defines culture as a ‘spiritual and intellectual expressional form within the substance of life, or a spiritual and intellectual attitude toward it’.2 In that article Weber continues: ‘The social structure has hence been the most essential object of spiritual and intellectual formation throughout all ages’ (p. 243). He concludes by stating:

Coming to terms with traditions and the ideal or religious incrustations of existence is in every new constellation — as we would describe the new historical situation in a sociological, technical way — mostly at least as important as the endeavour to capture and form, or come to terms with, the new naturalistic, practical, and intellectual stuff of life (p. 244).


Social Change Modernisation Theory Cultural Analysis Normative Injunction Symbolic Dimension 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    See Adam Kuper, Culture: the Anthropologists’ Account, Cambridge, MA, 1999, and also the reader edited byGoogle Scholar
  2. John Rundell and Stephen Mennell, Classical Readings in Culture and Civilization, London, 1998.Google Scholar
  3. 2.
    The essay of Alfred Weber is reprinted in Hans Peter Dreitzel (ed.), Sozialer Wandel, Neuwied, 1967, pp. 239ff., particularly p. 242. Anglo-Saxon readers are requested not to confuse Max with Alfred Weber.Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    Anthony Giddens, Beyond Left and Right, Cambridge, 1997.Google Scholar
  5. 4.
    The seminal work is Robert Wuthnow, Meaning and Moral Order: Explorations in Cultural Analysis, Berkeley, 1987. See also Google Scholar
  6. R. Wuthnow, J. Habermas et al., Cultural Analysis, London, 1984.Google Scholar
  7. 5.
    On the virginity issue and sexuality as a cultural dimension in Islam, see Dale F. Eickelman, The Middle East: an Anthropological Approach, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1981, pp. 127ff. and 141ff.Google Scholar
  8. 6.
    B. Tibi, ‘The Interplay between Social and Economic Change’, in George Atiyeh/Ibrahim Oweiss (eds), Arab Civilization: Challenges and Responses, Albany, NY, 1988, pp. 166–82.Google Scholar
  9. 7.
    Daniel Lerner, The Passing of Traditional Society, Glencoe, IL, 1958. See also the new thinking byGoogle Scholar
  10. David E. Apter, Rethinking Development, London, 1987.Google Scholar
  11. 8.
    See Fernand Braudel, A History of Civilizations, New York, 1994; andGoogle Scholar
  12. B. Tibi, Krieg der Zivilisationen, Hamburg, 1995 (new revised edition, Munich, 1998).Google Scholar
  13. 9.
    Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures, New York, 1973, p. 13.Google Scholar
  14. 11.
    B. Tibi, The Crisis of Modern Islam: a Preindustrial Culture in the Scientific-Technological Age, Salt Lake City, 1988; andGoogle Scholar
  15. B. Tibi, Islam and the Cultural Accommodation of Social Change, Boulder, CO, 1990, reprinted 1991.Google Scholar
  16. 12.
    See Stephen K. Sandersson, Social Evolutionism: a Critical History, Cambridge, 1990.Google Scholar
  17. 13.
    Karl Marx, ‘Die britische Kolonialherrschaft in Indien’, in Karl Marx/Friedrich Engels, Werke, vol. 9, East Berlin, 1960, pp. 127ff., particularly p. 133.Google Scholar
  18. 14.
    Hugo C.F. Mansilla, Entwicklung als Nachahmung. Zu einer kritischen Theorie der Modernisierung, Meisenheim/Glan, 1978; and the same Latin-American author, Die Trugbilder der Entwicklung in der Dritten Welt, Munich and Vienna, 1986.Google Scholar
  19. 15.
    S.N. Eisenstadt, Tradition, Change and Modernity, London, 1973. Simply for technical reasons I am using here the German translation Tradition, Wandel und Modernität, Frankfurt/M., 1979.Google Scholar
  20. 16.
    David Apter, The Politics of Modernization, Chicago, 1965, followed two decades later by Apter’s book, Rethinking Development (referenced in note 7).Google Scholar
  21. 19.
    Ibid., pp. 237ff. A relevant monograph on this is Bryan S. Turner, Weber and Islam, London, 1974; and, more recently, the proceedings of an international conference on Max Webers Sicht des Islams. Interpretation und Kritik, ed. Wolfgang Schluchter, Frankfurt/M., 1987.Google Scholar
  22. 20.
    On Afghani, see the biography by Nikki Keddie, Sayyid Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1972; as well as the selected texts of Afghani edited by Keddie and published under the title An Islamic Response to Imperialism, 2nd printing, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1983.Google Scholar
  23. 21.
    Jemaladdin Afghani, al-A’mal al-kamila (Collected Works), Muhammed Imara (ed.), Cairo, 1968, p. 328.Google Scholar
  24. 22.
    See B. Tibi, Arab Nationalism: between Islam and the Nation-State, 3rd enlarged edition, London and New York, 1997, pp. 88ff.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 24.
    Maxime Rodinson, Mohammed, Frankfurt/M. and Lucerne, 1975.Google Scholar
  26. 25.
    Niklas Luhmann, Funktion der Religion, Frankfurt/M., 1977.Google Scholar
  27. 28.
    See the chapter on religion in J.E. Goldthorpe, The Sociology of the Third World: Disparity and Development, Cambridge, 1984, pp. 207–27; and the special issue of the journal Millennium, December 2000 on Religion and International Relations.Google Scholar
  28. 29.
    See the pathfinding work of Hedley Bull, The Anarchical Society: a Study of Order in World Politics, New York, 1977; and The Expansion of International Society, ed. Hedley Bull and Adam Watson, 3rd printing, Oxford, 1988.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 30.
    Jürgen Habermas, Der philosophische Diskurs der Moderne, Frankfurt, 1985 (for the English version see note 40).Google Scholar
  30. 31.
    See also John Hall et al. (eds), Europe and the Rise of Capitalism, Oxford, 1989.Google Scholar
  31. 32.
    See David Harrison, The Sociology of Modernization and Development, London, 1988, chapter 2 and pp. 149ff.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 33.
    See Franz Rosenthal, The Classical Heritage in Islam, London, 1994.Google Scholar
  33. 36.
    See B. Tibi, ‘The Fundamentalist Challenge to Secular Order in the Middle East’, in The Fletcher Fomm of World Affairs, vol. 23, I (Winter/Spring 1999), pp. 191–210.Google Scholar
  34. 38.
    René König (ed.), Aspekte der Entwicklungssoziologie, Cologne and Opladen, 1969, p. 30 (italics in the original).Google Scholar
  35. 39.
    See the monograph on this issue by Marco Orru, Anomie: History and Meaning, London, 1987.Google Scholar
  36. 40.
    See Jürgen Habermas, The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, Cambridge, MA, 1987 (for the German original see note 30 above).Google Scholar
  37. 41.
    See Binaz Toprak, Islam and Political Development in Turkey, Leiden, 1981; and more recentlyGoogle Scholar
  38. B. Tibi, Aufbruch am Bosporus. Die Türkei zwischen Europa und dem Islamismus, Munich, 1998; the Turkish edition was published in Istanbul 2000.Google Scholar
  39. 42.
    On the Egyptian variant of Fabian socialism see the remarkable monograph by Vernon Egger, A Fabian in Egypt: Salamah Musa and the Rise of the Professional Classes in Egypt, 1909–1939, Lanham and New York, 1986.Google Scholar
  40. 43.
    Fuad Kandil, Nativismus in der Dritten Welt. Wiederentdeckung der Tradition für die Gegenwart, St. Michael (Austria), 1983. The empirical part of Kandil’s study is concerned with Egyptian Islam.Google Scholar
  41. 44.
    For more on this see B. Tibi, The Challenge of Fundamentalism: Political Islam and the New World Disorder, Berkeley, 1998.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bassam Tibi
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.University of GöttingenGermany
  2. 2.Cornell UniversityUSA

Personalised recommendations