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Sacred Texts and Dangerous Words: The Politics of Law and Cultural Rationalization in Malaysia

  • Michael G. Peletz (a1)

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This essay concerns the politics of law and culture in Malaysia. It examines how processes of cultural change are shaped by state laws and policies and the ways in which local communities are incorporated into more encompassing political entities and their attendant moral orders. I am particularly interested in “rationalization,” a concept of central importance in much of Max Weber's work on comparative history and politics and the sociology of religion. Weber, who used this concept in a variety of ambiguous, multidimensional, and contextually specific ways, further confounded students by his difficult language and style. It is widely agreed, however, that he employed the term to refer both to institutional changes involving differentiation, specialization, and the development of hierarchical, bureaucratic forms of social organization; and to intellectual or attitudinal trends entailing, in negative terms, “the disenchantment of the world” (the displacement of “magical elements of thought”), and, in positive terms, processes by which “ideas gain in systematic coherence and naturalistic consistency” (Gerth and Mills 1958:51; Wrong 1970:26; Turner 1974:151– Schluchter 1979:14–15; Alexander 1989:74).

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Sacred Texts and Dangerous Words: The Politics of Law and Cultural Rationalization in Malaysia

  • Michael G. Peletz (a1)

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