Peter L. Berger

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Peter L. Berger, 2010

Peter Ludwig Berger (born March 17, 1929 in Vienna , † June 27, 2017 in Brookline , Massachusetts ) was an American sociologist .


Peter L. Berger was the son of a Jewish family who fled the persecution of Jews to Palestine during the Nazi era . Berger lived in the USA since 1946 , where he studied sociology and philosophy , initially at Wagner College, where he obtained a BA. Berger then studied at the New School for Social Research in New York (MA 1950, Ph.D. 1952). In 1955 and 1956 he worked in Germany at the Evangelical Academy Bad Boll . From 1956 to 1958, Berger taught and researched as an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina ; from 1958 to 1963 he worked at Hartford Theological Seminary . This was followed by professorships at the New School for Social Research in New York, Rutgers University (New Brunswick, NJ) and Boston College .

Since 1981, Berger Professor of Sociology and Theology at Boston University , since 1985 as director of the Institute for the Study of Economic Culture (now the Institute on Culture, Religion and World Affairs ).

In addition to his professional activity, he has been a member of the Board of Trustees of the International Martin Luther Foundation since 2007 . He had been married to Brigitte Berger (née Kellner) since 1959 , who died in 2015. She was also a sociologist and author and co-author of several of his books. With her he had two sons.

Berger described himself as a devout and "somewhat heterodox Lutheran ".

Work areas

The central field of work and research Berger was the sociology of religion . He became known u. a through his work on the sociology of knowledge , written together with Thomas Luckmann , The Social Construction of Reality from 1966 (English) and 1969 (German), through his work, published together with Brigitte Berger (Long Island University) and Hansfried Kellner ( TH Darmstadt ) The discomfort in modernity ( The Homeless Mind. Modernization and Consciousness ), in which the sociology of knowledge already in 1973 anticipated the globalization debate and the debate about the knowledge society . Both Bergers Invitation to Sociology (dt. Invitation to Sociology ) and in the 1981 also with Hansfried waiter published book Sociology Reinterpreted. The Essay on Method and Vocation (German for a new sociology 1984) presents a sociological view of sociology based on Max Weber .

In order to bring the situation of religious- cultural pluralism to the concept, Berger spoke of a heretical imperative : There is no longer any question of religious tradition. All believers or those willing to believe , each and every one for himself, are required to choose what is appropriate from the traditions (the Greek word haíresis means “choice” or “choice”). Even those who become a religious orthodoxy confess, would not help in global pluralistic that have become environment to their orthodoxy specifically decide . All, so the encouraging message of this finding, are heretics .

People & Society

Peter L. Berger's work “On the Dialectic of Religion and Society. Elements of a Sociological Theory "(English." The Sacred Canopy. Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion ") is a classic in the field of philosophy of sciences , especially the social sciences and the question of the interactive interaction between man and society.

Berger describes society as a dialectical phenomenon. Society is a created and raised product of human beings, which in turn continuously influences and affects human beings. The product “society” is a formed structure of human action and consciousness . Without human existence there would be no society. On the other hand, man is himself a product of society. Society survives the birth and death of every human being, it coexists independently of human individuals . Every human life story is a phase in the continuation of an existing society that stands above every single episode in a person's life and continues after him. Furthermore, it is through life in a society and its social structures, norms and requirements that people reshape, change, adapt and develop. Through social processes, people receive an identity that they work on and hold on to. He could not survive apart from society. The statement that society is a product of man and man is a product of society is not contradictory , but explains the dialectical, interactive character of the social phenomenon. In order to get a comprehensive understanding of the dialectical connection between humans and society, three different stages of a cycle must be illuminated and preserved: externalization, objectification and internalization .

Humans are born unfinished and unformed. They develop in a continuous learning process in search of new things, for experience , for knowledge . Through the process of developing and accepting individual forms of life, people externalize (“emptying”) themselves both physically and mentally on a mental level into the outside world. This process is called externalization .

Through the process of externalization, people absorb things from the outside world; through physical and mental alienation, they in turn create the social structures, institutions and forms of life in the world. Human activity and consciousness make things in the outside world a reality, things are objectified ("reified") and take on realistic existence in the world. When this process of objectification occurs, objects that have arisen move out of the influence of subjective common sense and human action. Existing social structures cannot be "wiped away" and removed by people at will, they have become reality .

Things that have become reality, however, are in turn connected in a retroactive interaction with the person himself. The objectified structures are perceived as influencing by people, they now also have an impact on the subjective actions and ways of thinking of a person and modify the person in his personal lifestyle . The process of internalization is important to understand as it illustrates the intrinsic importance of society and the individual in turn.

In summary, Berger's interpretation means that society is a product of man through the externalization of man, that through objectification it becomes an existing reality outside of human subjectivity (“sui generis”) and that man is a product of society through internalization.

Honors, prizes and memberships (selection)



Sociology of religion and theory of capitalism

  • as editor: The Capitalist Spirit: Toward a Religious Ethic of Wealth Creation. 1990.
  • Peter Berger and the Study of Religion. 2001.
  • with Brigitte Berger and Hansfried Kellner : Homeless Mind: Modernization and Consciousness. 1974.
  • Redeeming Laughter: The Comic Dimension of Human Experience. 1997.
  • with Samuel P. Huntington : Many Globalizations: Cultural Diversity in the Contemporary World. 1974.
  • as editor: The Desecularization of the World: Resurgent Religion and World Politics. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1999, ISBN 0-8028-4691-2 .
  • Questions of Faith: A Skeptical Affirmation of Christianity. Blackwell Publishing, 2003, ISBN 1-4051-0848-7 .
  • A Far Glory: The Quest for Faith in an Age of Credulity. 1992.
  • Heretical Imperative: Contemporary Possibilities of Religious Affirmation.
  • The Limits of Social Cohesion: Conflict and Mediation in Pluralist Societies: A Report of the Bertelsmann Foundation to the Club of Rome.
  • Other Side of God. 1981, ISBN 0-385-17424-1 .
  • Pyramids of Sacrifice: Political Ethics and Social Change . 1974.
  • Longing for meaning. Faith in a time of gullibility. 1999.
  • Dialogue Between Religious Traditions in an Age of Relativity. Mohr Siebeck Verlag , Tübingen 2011, ISBN 978-3-16-150792-2 .
  • Altars of modernity. Religion in pluralistic societies. Campus, Frankfurt am Main 2015, ISBN 978-3-593-50342-4 .



See also

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. RIP: Founding Director of CURA, Prof. Peter Berger, Dies at 88.Boston University, Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies, June 28, 2017, accessed June 29, 2017 (English).
  2. Lucas Prize winner Peter L. Berger makes a plea against arbitrariness. In: Schwäbisches Tagblatt . May 12, 2010.
  3. International Martin Luther Foundation
  4. Peter L. Berger: Dialogue Between Religious Traditions in an Age of Relativity . Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 2011, p. 17 .
  5. We are all heretics. ( Memento from May 28, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) In: NZZ . May 26, 2007.
  6. ^ Peter L. Berger: The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion. 1967.
  7. Paul Watzlawick Ring of Honor . Retrieved April 22, 2015.