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Remembering Robert N. Bellah

Robert N. Bellah, Elliott Professor of Sociology Emeritus, former CJS chair, and a member of our faculty for more than thirty years, passed away at the end of July, 2013. Bellah was among the preeminent sociologists of religion of the postwar era. Beginning with "Civil Religion in America" (1966) and continuing with collaborative works including Habits of the Heart (1985) and The Good Society (1991), he sought nothing less (as one commentator put it) than "to map the American soul." At the same time, as a student of Talcott Parsons, and through him of Weber and Durkheim, Bellah pursued a lifelong interest in the evolution of religion as such: his final work, Religion in Human Evolution (2010), was the culmination of a half-century's reading and reflection.

Needless to say, a flood of obituaries and tributes has appeared in major newspapers and journals and on the websites of a range of academic and religious organizations. They note that although Bellah began his academic life as a Japan specialist, he was known principally for his work on the United States. Yet as he often said, his thinking about Japan directly influenced his critique of American society in ways that most readers would not be able to discern.

For the field of Japanese studies, however, Bellah was "one of us": the author of Tokugawa Religion (1957) and a string of major essays later collected in Imagining Japan: The Japanese Tradition and its Modern Interpretation (2003). His decades-long intellectual friendship with Maruyama Masao (1914-96) was nurtured here at Berkeley, and in 2007, Bellah delivered the Maruyama Lecture on Political Responsibility in the Modern World, sponsored by CJS. As a tribute to one of the leaders of our field, CJS makes available here a short essay exploring the Maruyama-Bellah relationship and its significance for the study of Japanese thought.

— Andrew Barshay