One of the more interesting sections of a research proposal is the one called “Principal Theories,” where a certain theory or model is suggested as a means of unpacking the key research question. Analysing intentional communities (ICs), it seems, can utilise any number of these approaches but, not so obviously, some are more helpful than others.

What happens when your supervisor and another referee disagree on the Principal theory? In this case, Max Weber’s sociological theory of authority is suggested as one way of analysing a given IC. I think the study of charismatic vs legal-rational vs traditional leadership is indeed a suitable approach. Juxtaposed to this is an anarchist model that appears to suit new monastic communities in particular (that is, its North American interpretation).

Now, the principal theorists for this latter position are writers like Jacques Ellul and Vernard Eller. While their theory makes a lot of sense for me personally and anti-Empire ICs, I do not think they suit South African ICs which are largely ‘apolitical’ (for want of a better word). It depends, I suppose, on what you’re looking at in an IC: their identity or their mission? Should Eller replace Weber? Do they they preclude each other?

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