Parenting in America   /   Fall 2013   /    Essays

Robert Bellah in Memoriam

Richard Madsen

Robert Bellah was a meticulous scholar and an eloquent public intellectual—two identities that go together uneasily in the modern academy. As Max Weber noted, one who practices science as a vocation, with the requisite attention to empirical detail and logical rigor, will rarely be able to address prophetically the great questions of what we should do and how we should live in the modern world. Undaunted, Bellah began his classic Habits of the Heart in the prophetic voice, asking the great questions: “How ought we to live? How do we think about how to live?” He and his co-authors—of whom I was proud to be one—set out to engage such questions with sociological rigor, never doubting his insistence (sometimes enforced with irritated criticism) that we be fastidious about the quality of our sources and the accuracy of our footnotes.

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