Patrimonialism and a Literary Education: Exemplars in the Non-Rational Modes of Authority

Monday, 16 July 2018: 18:00
Oral Presentation
Joshua RUST, Stetson University, USA
‘The Confucian,’ Max Weber tells us, ‘was a person of literary education, or more precisely, a bookish education, a man of the script and molded by it’ (Weber 2003: 51). Weber contrasts these traditional, patrimonial attitudes with those of the Puritans, who ‘rejected philosophic-literary education … as a temporal vanity and as religiously dangerous. (For the Puritan, the Bible was a kind of middle-class law book and doctrine of enterprise)’ (Weber 2003: 51). What difference does a literary education make to the creation of the kind of agent patrimonialism requires? Amy Olberding offers a hint: ‘Where we look to the [Analects] as a manual, the guidance it offers often consists in the recommendation that we seek to emulate notable others or, in the alternative, avoid emulating notorious others. … Many of the text’s more abstract moral recommendations, moreover, come to vivid life in the text, as the authors present us with narrative accounts depicting the text’s various dramatic personae engaged in moral activity’ (2012: 10). Both the Analects and the Bible features an exquisite combination of abstract ethical claim-making and rich narrative detail. So, the difference between the Confucian and the Puritan must be found in the way they approach these respective texts. When Puritans approach the Bible as a ‘middle-class law book’ they emphasize the abstract recommendations, whereas the Confucian emphasizes people and their stories; where the Puritan is oriented towards rules, the Confucian is oriented towards imitable exemplars. I argue that traditional modes of authority in general, and so patrimonial modes of authority in particular, are individuated by the role that exemplars play in moral cultivation and understanding. The pre-theoretical capacity to imitate exemplars not only helps explain the difference between the rational and non-rational modes of authority, but also traditionalism’s relation to charismatic authority.