Dr. Matteo Bortolini


Fellow (Max-Weber-Kolleg für kultur- und sozialwissenschaftliche Studien)


Max-Weber-Kolleg (Steinplatz 2) / Raum 312 b (2. OG)

+49 361 737-2809


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Max-Weber-Kolleg für kultur- und sozialwissenschaftliche Studien
Nordhäuser Str. 63
99089 Erfurt


Universität Erfurt
Max-Weber-Kolleg für kultur- und sozialwissenschaftliche Studien
Postfach 90 02 21
99105 Erfurt

Dr. Matteo Bortolini


My actual research at the Max-Weber-Kolleg, generously funded via a Distinguished Robert Bellah-Fellowship, is focused on completing a full biography of the late American sociologist and public intellectual, Robert N. Bellah (1927-2013). Upon his death in 2013, Bellah was celebrated not only as one of the most influential social scientists of the 20th century, but also as an authoritative voice on religious, educational, and civic matters, as well as an occasional commentator on American politics and an Episcopalian preacher. His 1985 book, Habits of the Heart, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction and became one of the all-time best sellers by sociologists. His last major accomplishment, Religion in Human Evolution (2011), has been hailed as comparable in style, scope, and depth to one of the monuments of Western social science, Max Weber’s Sociology of Religion. During an intellectual career spanning six decades, Bellah was able to combine innovative ideas, rigorous scholarship, civil passion, and moral commitment.

But why a full biography of Bellah? Would not a scholarly assessment of his scientific and philosophical work be enough? In fact, such a book would miss a major point: the inextricable interlacement of his ideas and his all-too-human life, one in which bliss and tragedy, joy and despair went hand in hand. More than is true of other intellectuals, an appraisal of the ideal legacy of this master of contemporary social science cannot be separated from an understanding of his life—a life rich in unexpected, and hitherto untold, twists. In this sense, only a full “life and times” biography written with an eye to the development of Bellah’s ideas would do justice to both the scholar and the man. The book I am writing is such a biography of Robert N. Bellah, based on fifteen years of research on archival materials and unrestricted access to his personal diaries, correspondence, and unpublished papers.