Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

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(1934-) American sociologist. Initial interests at St. Louis University were epistemology and economics (M.A.). Teaching in a bicultural Jesuit high school in Puerto Rico convinced him that culture was foundational to human action. He studied theology at Woodstock College and some anthropology at Columbia University. In the sociology doctoral program at the University of Minnesota, Murray Strauss's and Reuben Hill's family studies, Don Martindale's theoretical frameworks, and Gregory Stone's symbolic interactionist interpretation of George H. Mead attracted him. Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann's Social Construction of Reality (Doubleday 1966) grounded his perspective and led him to the works of Alfred Schutz.

His 1968 dissertation, under Strauss, served as the core of a vast and theoretically relevant empirical literature on family socialization into religion (e.g., Weigert et al., 1974). To develop family theory further, he later wrote phenomenological articles with his Notre Dame University graduate students.

Weigert early criticized "immoral scientific rhetoric" in sociology—the highlighting of themes and procedures for disciplinary funding and prestige—and explored the thought of Schutz, Mead, and Ortega y Gasset (e.g., Weigert 1983). Schutz offered culture-based sensitizing concepts for the interpretive analysis of solitary action, interaction, and typical actions. Mead, from a pragmatist foundation, and Ortega, from a phenomenological one, presented the prospect of proceeding from an indubitable valued reality—human life processes. In his own thought, Weigert pursued such themes as time and trust in everyday life. The complexity of contemporary everyday experience led to a book on ambivalence as a social experience (Mixed Emotion: Certain Steps Toward Understanding Ambivalence , SUNY Press 1991). The place of the individual in such a world was also a concern, as expressed in essays on the substantival self, identity, and identity loss (see Weigert et al., 1986) and a synthetic text in social psychology.

Most of the themes found in his studies in family and theory characterize his sociology of religion. A critique of a study of the dimensions of religiosity focuses on what respondents to questionnaire items mean by their responses (Weigert and Thomas 1969). A review of changes occasioned by the introduction of secular studies into the training of Jesuits led to the issue of hyphenated professional identities (Weigert 1971). Another hyphenated-identity study focused on Protestantism in the assimilation of Mexican Americans. In general, Weigert argues against approaches that ignore the centrality of lived experience and the social definitions emergent in social life, and that posit some universal religious need or function. Thus he criticized Luckmann's "invisible religion" thesis, despite its grounding in phenomenology, and argued that any definition of religion should be based on social actors' definitions (Weigert 1974). These concerns took the form of methodological suggestions in a programmatic essay (Weigert and Blasi 1976). Openness to social actors' definitions suggested framing the Catholic charismatic movement as an emergent "faithstyle" rather than an order, sect, or cult (Weigert and Johnson 1978), focusing on the cognitive organizing of experiences evident in texts of pseudoconfessions (Weigert and Johnson 1980) and developing an observational procedure for the comparative study of liturgies (Weigert and Hesser 1980). He used ambivalence, identity, and time as dimensions of experience in his interpretation of resurgent Christian fundamentalist eschatology (Weigert 1988, 1989).

Anthony J. Blasi


A. J. Weigert, "An Emerging Intellectual Group Within a Religious Organization," Social Compass 18(1971):101-115

A. J. Weigert, "Functional, Substantive, or Political?" Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 13(1974):483-486

A. J. Weigert, Sociology of Everyday Life (New York: Longman, 1981)

A. J. Weigert, Life and Society (New York: Irvington, 1983)

A. J. Weigert, "Christian Eschatological Identities and the Nuclear Context," Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 27(1988):175-191

A. J. Weigert, "Joyful Disaster," Sociological Analysis 50(1989):73-88

A. J. Weigert and A. J. Blasi, "Towards a Sociology of Religion," Sociological Analysis 37(1976):189-204

A. J. Weigert and G. Hesser, "Comparative Dimensions of Liturgy," Sociological Analysis 41 (1980):215-229

A. J. Weigert and C. L. Johnson, "An Emerging Faithstyle," Sociological Analysis 39(1978):165-172

A. J. Weigert and C. L. Johnson, "Frames in Confession," Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 19(1980): 368-381

A. J. Weigert and D. L. Thomas, "Religiosity in 5-D," Social Forces 48(1969):260-263

A. J. Weigert et al., Family Socialization and Adolescents (Boston: Lexington, 1974)

A. J. Weigert et al., Society and Identity (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986).

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