Peter L. Berger
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|Peter Ludwig Berger|
March 17, 1929 |
|Alma mater||Wagner College (B.A. 1949)
The New School (M.A. 1950, Ph.D. 1954)
|Known for||Co-author of The Social Construction of Reality|
|Influences||Max Weber, Alfred Schütz|
Peter Ludwig Berger (March 17, 1929) is an Austrian-born American sociologist known for his work in the sociology of knowledge, the sociology of religion, study of modernization, and theoretical contributions to sociological theory. He is best known for his book, co-authored with Thomas Luckmann, The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge (New York, 1966), which is considered one of the most influential texts in the sociology of knowledge and played a central role in the development of social constructionism. The book was named by the International Sociological Association as the fifth most influential book written in the field of sociology during the 20th century. Berger has spent most of his career teaching at The New School for Social Research, Rutgers University, and Boston University.
Family Life 
Berger was born on March 17, 1929, in Vienna, Austria, to George William and Jelka (Loew) Berger. In 1946, he emigrated to the United States, shortly after World War II and in 1952 became a naturalized citizen. On September 28, 1959, he married Brigitte Kellner. They had two sons, Thomas Ulrich and Michael George. Berger has some academic experiences and degrees.
Education & Career 
In 1949 he graduated from Wagner College with a Bachelor of Arts. He continued his studies at The New School in New York (M.A. in 1950, Ph.D. in 1954). In 1955 and 1956 he worked at the Evangelische Akademie in Bad Boll, Germany. From 1956 to 1958 Berger was an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro; from 1958 to 1963 he was an associate professor at Hartford Theological Seminary. The next stations in his career were professorships at the New School for Social Research, Rutgers University, and Boston College. Since 1981 Berger has been University Professor of Sociology and Theology at Boston University, and since 1985 also director of the Institute for the Study of Economic Culture, which transformed, a few years ago, into the Institute on Culture, Religion and World Affairs.
Social Reality: Society & The Individual 
Berger is perhaps best known for his view that social reality is a form of consciousness. Central to Berger's work is the relationship between society and the individual. With Thomas Luckmann in The Social Construction of Reality, Berger develops a sociological theory: 'Society as Objective Reality and as Subjective Reality'. His analysis of society as subjective reality describes the process by which an individual's conception of reality is produced by his or her interaction with social structures. He writes about how new human concepts or inventions become a part of our reality through the process of objectivation. Often this reality is then no longer recognized as a human creation, through a process Berger calls reification.[unreliable source]
Like most other sociologists of religion of his day, he mistakenly predicted the all-encompassing secularization of the world. This he has quite humorously admitted on a number of occasions, concluding that the data in fact proves otherwise. By the late 1980s, Berger publicly recognized that religion (both old and new) was not only still prevalent, but in many cases was more vibrantly practiced than in periods in the past, particularly in the United States.
He does, however, qualify these concessions. While recognizing that religion is still a powerful social force, he points to the fact that pluralism and the globalized world fundamentally change how the individual experiences faith, with the taken-for-granted character of religion often being replaced by an individual's search for a personal religious preference. Likewise, in The Desecularization of the World, he cites both Western academia and Western Europe itself as exceptions to the triumphant desecularization hypothesis: these cultures have remained highly secularized despite the resurgence of religion in the rest of the world.
Despite the rise of a new paradigm in the sociology of religion, which draws upon insights from rational choice theory in explaining the behavior of religious firms (churches) and consumers (individuals), Berger's thought has influenced many significant figures in the field of sociology of religion today, including his colleague at Boston University, Robert Hefner, and former students Michael Plekon of Baruch College, CUNY, James Davison Hunter, and Nancy Ammerman. Additionally, Berger portrays two opposite, contradictory aspects in relation to work done by Karl Marx and Max Weber, images regarding the 'homeless mind' theory, saying that it reconciles 'iron' and 'melting/crumbling' portrayals.
Berger in Perspective 
Sociology of Knowledge 
Berger and Luckmann both were concerned with the study of human reality; as a result of their concern, they studied into the sociology of knowledge and phenomenology. The sociology of knowledge posits that society and social position have a tendency to affect what we know. On broader terms, the sociology of knowledge is concerned with the epistemological foundations of knowledge, the history of knowledge production, and the uses to which knowledge is applied- more specifically, the history of science and the ideology of the ruling class. Opposing this approach, Berger and Luckmann focused on everyday "common" knowledge, those things that "everybody knows".
Theoretical Contributions 
In "Making Sense of Modern Times: Peter L. Berger and the Vision of Interpretive Sociology", by James Davison Hunter and Stephen C. Ainlay et al., their social theories are built upon Berger's social theories, using Berger's ideologies as a foundation and framework for this particular book. Nicholas Abercrombie begins by examining his reformation of the sociology of knowledge. Shifting his focus on the subjective reality of everyday life, Berger enters a dialogue with traditional sociologies of knowledge - more specific, those of Marx and Mannheim. Abercrombie digs deeper into this dialogue Berger brings up, and he considers ways in which Berger goes beyond these figures. Stephen Ainlay then pursues the notable influence on Berger's work. He also recognizes the notable influence of Berger's popularization of a variety of phenomenological concepts, in which Berger actually avoids certain areas of analysis.
Study of Modernization 
Berger has made many notable contributions to the study of modernization. Anton Zijderveld extends the relationship of technology and bureaucracy to modern consciousness - which are familiar concepts in Berger's work. Zijderveld expands and discusses even further Berger's handling on such issues in relationship to classical figures such as Marx, Weber, Pareto, and Gehlen. Additionally, James Hunter explored the 'malaise' that is argued to be a cost of modernity. He studied Berger's own brand of social criticism by discussing a half century of writing on the modern world. Therefore, Berger contributed and laid the foundation for Hunter to explore the interplay between political ideology and social criticism (Berger's particularly) and the importance of this connection in order to understand modern life.
Max Weber 
As categories of philosophical discourse, reason and freedom are not empirically available for scientific study. Weber focused on the empirical realities of rationality as a characteristic of action and rationalization. In comparison, Berger proposed that we use the word 'options' rather than freedom as an empirical concept. Therefore, much of the empirical work of Berger and Weber have revolved around the relationship between modern rationalization and options for social action. Weber argued redundantly that rationalism can mean a variety of things at the subjective level of consciousness and at the objective level of social institutions. In terms of rationality described by Weber, the threats to freedom come mainly from one: the objectified, formal rationality of rules and regulations. These threats are predominantly notable in two institutional spheres: the bureaucratization of the state and the machine production of individuals. This rationality in the bureaucratization of the state and the machine production of individuals ultimately limits the opportunity for personal choice amongst human beings.
On the other hand, although Berger is no less worried about the possible threats to freedom from modern rationality, Berger paints a different picture for possible options for action. Berger and Luckmann argued that technologization and bureaucratization encounter consequences at the micro-level that are more complex than what Weber had realized at his macro-historical focus. Through work being removed from the home, modernization has divided experience between public and private spheres. As the spheres were separated, the public sphere of technological production and bureaucratic management became exceedingly rationalized, whereas the private sphere placed heavy emphasis on traditional and emotional bonds. However, Berger largely accepted Weber's analysis of the rationality of the public sphere. Therefore, Weber and Berger respectively hold different views about rationalization on options for individual actions. Weber explained how bureaucratization and technologization would take away the individuality and differentiated behavior. However, Berger argues that modernity has created unprecedented options, especially in the private sphere, warning that these options can truly have a negative impact on individuals.
Berger's influential sociological works include:
- The Noise of Solemn Assemblies (1961)
- Invitation to Sociology: A Humanistic Perspective (1963)
- The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge (1966) with Thomas Luckmann, ISBN 0-385-05898-5
- The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion (1967). Anchor Books 1990 paperback: ISBN 0-385-07305-4
- A Rumor of Angels: Modern Society and the Rediscovery of the Supernatural (1969). Anchor Books (in print): ISBN 0-385-06630-9, 1990 expanded edition (now out of print): ISBN 0-385-41592-3
More recently he has written broadly but with particular emphasis on the sociology of religion and capitalism:
- Sociology (1972) with Brigitte Berger. Basic Books. - Dutch translation: Sociologie (1972). Basisboeken, ISBN 90-263-2006-X
- The Homeless Mind: Modernization and Consciousness (1973) with Brigitte Berger and Hansfried Kellner. Random House, ISBN 0-394-48422-3
- Pyramids of Sacrifice: Political Ethics and Social Change (1974)
- Facing Up to Modernity: Excursions in Society, Politics and Religion (1979)
- The Heretical Imperative: Contemporary Possibilities of Religious Affirmation (1979)
- The Other Side of God: A Polarity in World Religions (editor, 1981). ISBN 0-385-17424-1
- The War Over the Family: Capturing the Middle Ground (1983) with Brigitte Berger
- The Capitalist Revolution (1986) New York: Basic Books.
- The Capitalist Spirit: Toward a Religious Ethic of Wealth Creation (editor, 1990)
- A Far Glory: The Quest for Faith in an Age of Credulity (1992)
- Redeeming Laughter: The Comic Dimension of Human Experience (1997), ISBN 3-11-015562-1
- Four Faces of Global Culture (The National Interest, Fall 1997)
- The Limits of Social Cohesion: Conflict and Mediation in Pluralist Societies: A Report of the Bertelsmann Foundation to the Club of Rome (1998)
- The Desecularization of the World: Resurgent Religion and World Politics (editor, et al., 1999). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, ISBN 0-8028-4691-2
- Peter Berger and the Study of Religion (edited by Linda Woodhead et al., 2001; includes a Postscript by Berger)
- Many Globalizations: Cultural Diversity in the Contemporary World (2002) with Samuel P. Huntington. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-515146-6
- Questions of Faith: A Skeptical Affirmation of Christianity (2003). Blackwell Publishing, ISBN 1-4051-0848-7
- In Praise of Doubt: How to Have Convictions Without Becoming a Fanatic (2009) with Anton Zijderveld. HarperOne. ISBN 978-0-06-177816-2
- Dialogue Between Religious Traditions in an Age of Relativity (2011) Mohr Siebeck, ISBN 978-3-16-150792-2
Berger was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1982. He is doctor honoris causa of Loyola University, Wagner College, the University of Notre Dame, the University of Geneva, and the University of Munich, and an honorary member of many scientific associations.
See also 
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- The Similarity between Hegel and Berger
- Warner, R. Stephen (Mar 1993). "Work in Progress Toward a New Paradigm for the Sociological Study of Religion in the United States". American Journal of Sociology 98 (5): 1044–93.
- Woodhead, Linda (2001). Peter Berger and the Study of Religion. New York, NY: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-21532-3.
- Allan, Kenneth (2006). Contemporary Social and Sociological Theory: Visualizing Social Worlds. USA: Pine Forge Press. pp. 27–47.
- Ainlay, Stephen C. (1986). Making Sense of Modern Times: Peter L. Berger and the Vision of Interpretive Sociology. New York, NY: Routledge & Kegan Paul. pp. 5–6. ISBN 0-7102-0826-X.
- Ainlay, Stephen C. (1986). Making Sense of Modern Times: Peter L. Berger and the Vision of Interpretive Sociology. New York, NY: Routledge & Kegan Paul. p. 6. ISBN 0-7102-0826-X.
- Ainlay, Stephen C. (1986). Making Sense of Modern Times: Peter L. Berger and the Vision of Interpretive Sociology. New York, NY: Routledge & Kegan Paul. pp. 102–104. ISBN 0-7102-0826-X.
- "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter B". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved June 16, 2011.
- Seifert, Michael (29 Jan 2010). "Dr. Leopold Lucas-Preis 2010 geht an Peter L. Berger, Boston" [Dr. Leopold Lucas Prize 2010 goes to Peter L. Berger, Boston]. Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen (in German). Retrieved 26 December 2012.
- Berger, Peter L. (2011). Dialog zwischen religiösen Traditionen in einem Zeitalter der Relativität (1.Aufl. ed.). Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. p. 124. ISBN 978-3-16-150792-2.
Further reading 
- James D. Hunter, Stephen C. Ainley. Making Sense of Modern Times: Peter L. Berger and the Vision of Interpretive Sociology
- Robert Wuthnow. Cultural Analysis: The Work of Peter L. Berger, Mary Douglas, Michel Foucault, and Jurgen Habermas
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- Description at Boston University Religious Faculty
- Peter Berger's blog
- Peter L. Berger Room
- Peter Berger Resources
- From Religion-Online
- Dialectical Social Science Conservative humanism of Berger circle compared to tradition of Western Marxism.