Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

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(1909-1985) Born in Marienbad, Czechoslovakia, and educated at the universities of Hamburg, Prague, and Geneva and at the London School of Economics, Stark's training and scholarship encompassed history, philosophy, political science, law, economics, literature, art, music, and sociology. He held doctorates both in law and in political science. The rise of Nazism resulted in his leaving Germany for Prague in 1934, where he became a lecturer at the Prague School of Political Science. In 1939, when the invading Nazis closed the university, Stark left for England, where he served in the military. After the war, he taught at major British universities, including Cambridge, Edinburgh, and Manchester, until his acceptance in 1963 of a professorship at Fordham University. He stayed at Fordham until his mandatory retirement in 1975, when he returned to Europe, holding an honorary professorship at the University of Salzburg until his death.

Stark was internationally recognized for work in the sociology of religion, social theory, and sociology of knowledge. His scholarship was consistently multidisciplinary, his research constantly nourishing his teaching. A convert to Catholicism from Judaism, his adopted religion became an important influence in his life. Stark was distressed by what he considered religion's erosion in the modern world, strongly believing that religion provides guidelines for individual action that neither custom nor law can give. As he saw it, excessive individualism lay at the root of Christianity's contemporary crisis. He believed that modern intellectuals had been strongly affected by post-Renaissance rationalism, resulting in "a super-rationalism which tends to blind them towards many non-rational values, for instance, those of tradition, of religion, and even of art" (The Sociology of Knowledge , Routledge, 1958).

In the sociology of religion, Stark considered Weber's work a challenge of great importance, although he thought Weber lacked necessary insight into "true religiosity" (The Sociology of Religion , 5 volumes, Fordham University Press 1966-1972). His international reputation was both reflected and built by translations of many of his works into Japanese, Italian, German, and Spanish. The Social Bond (6 volumes, Fordham University Press 1976-1987) is considered by some critics to be definitive in establishing his intellectual legacy, embedding "two keys to Stark's work: the cultural-sociological approach, and his faith in Catholicism" (Leonard et al. 1993:13)

Loretta M. Morris


E. Leonard et al., In Search of Community (New York: Fordham University Press 1993).

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