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The Emergence of the Master around 1900: Religious Borrowings and Social Theory

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In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, within a variety of spheres, individual personalities referred to as ‘masters’ were venerated in quasi-religious terms. As a result, treatises relevant to the theme of the ‘master’ were written which had a major impact on subsequent scholarship, particularly in the sociology of knowledge and religion. Inspired by the poet Stefan George and taking his circle as a model, Max Weber, Max Scheler, and Joachim Wach published important works that enlisted religious and cultural historical approaches as well as social theory on topics like community building, the transference of knowledge, religious specialism, and charisma. These studies attest to a pronounced fascination with the phenomenon of the ‘master,’ which the present article investigates with reference to selected publications by the aforementioned scholars.


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Affiliations: 1: Freie Universität Berlin, Fachbereich Geschichts-und Kulturwissenschaften, Institut für Religionswissenschaft, Gosslerstr. 2-4, D –14195 Berlin, Germany


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