Durkheim's Theory Of Ritual Analysis

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Ritual is one of the key concepts in the sociology of religion. Emile Durkheim (1965) posited a relationship between ritual behavior and the adherence to social order, putting collective veneration of the sacred at the heart of his theory of social solidarity. Ritual, organized around sacred objects as its focal point and organized into cultic practice, was for Durkheim the fundamental source of the “collective conscience” that provides individuals with meaning and binds them into a community. Participation in rites integrates the individual into a social order both in one’s “day-to-day relationships of life” and in those celebrations of the collective “which bind [one] to the social entity as a whole.” Veneration of an object held to…show more content…
Rituals provide a focal point for emotional processes and generate symbols of group membership. They help people to experience a shared sense of exaltation and group transcendence. This feeling, which is only experienced through ritual veneration, is collective effervescence. The unique condition of ritual participation is that people systematically misunderstand the emotional energy they experience in the ritual process as having a supernatural origin. This misunderstanding thus confirms their religious beliefs and the exhilaration they experience leads them to return to their community to re-experience it through sacred rites. Durkheim’s theory implies that (a) any object could become socially defined as sacred and (b) repeated veneration of sacred objects creates stable social relations. His theory of rituals provides a powerful social mechanism that reinforces group coherence and produces social solidarity, but he does not explain how social groups originate or how they change, dissolve, fracture, and so on. Innovations in social life – including the formation of new solidary groups – seem to occur only because of exogenous events, since, in Durkheim’s sense, rituals are merely forces for…show more content…
From a functionalist perspective, social and cultural innovations, however rare, are quickly normalized and institutionalized through ritual practices. Stark and Finke (2000) jettison the functionalism of Durkheim and focus exclusively on religious rituals, rather than all repeated social interactions, arguing that confidence in religious explanations increases with ritual participation. Rituals generally follow customs or traditions, but they are deliberate ceremonies in which the object is exchanged with a god or gods and the outcome is reinforcement of the “central ideas and ideals of the group.” Rituals are thus intentional features of religious life and can shift with alterations in either the demand or the supply of religious goods. Rational-choice accounts argue that rituals are ubiquitous features of social life because they provide the common focal points and common cultural knowledge that provide actors with information about how others will act. This makes mutual assurance possible and helps actors solve the coordination problems that usually bedevil and obstruct effective collective action. Armed with common knowledge, actors can more credibly make commitments to one another and mutually orient their actions to one another, often without the need for

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