Cultural consumer markets are, to a large degree, governed by processes of social stratification, distinction, and the symbolic properties of cultural taste. Especially Bourdieu’s field theory has been influential, but in recent years criticized—often for its emphasis on cultural hierarchies and consecration agents. This chapter argues that it would be naive to conclude that symbolic differences no longer matter in contemporary cultural markets. Drawing on empirical material in the domains of globalization and digitalization—arguably two of the most important developments in cultural markets in recent decades—this chapter shows how symbolic inequalities remain important for understanding markets. It compares audience preferences with consecration outcomes and concludes that cultural mediators and consecrators often offer more cultural diversity than audience markets. Also digitalization is—so far—not the great equalizer: digital access to cultural content differs across countries, age groups, and educational levels.
This article emphasizes the importance of the Dreyfus Affair in the manner in which Emile Durkheim approached the subject of anti-Semitism between 1897 and 1899, while the Affair was in full swing in France. Although Durkheim was the founder of positivist sociology, disconnected from preconceived notions, he nevertheless courageously entered the fight to defend Dreyfus, both as a scholar and as a Jew. In a series of articles and letters, he reflected on the causes of anti-Semitism and proposed an interpretation of Jews as scapegoats, because in his view society’s suffering was resolved by ostracizing Jews as pariahs. But this interpretation is unsatisfactory. Based on impressions rather than on a sociological analysis conducted in accordance with his Rules of Sociological Method, Durkheim’s analysis of explanatory variables is not convincing and is oriented around psychological considerations rarely seen elsewhere in his work.
Durkheim’s writings on morality are examined, distinguishing his earlier, more familiar account from later developments that advance new ideas relevant to present-day debates. The question is raised of the extent to which familiar criticisms of Durkheim’s sociology of morality are justified and ways are suggested in which sociologists and anthropologists can gain from reconsidering Durkheim on morality. His attempts to demarcate the scope of the sociology of morals against the claims of the philosophers and psychologists of his time are, it is argued, relevant to how sociologists of morality should view today’s philosophers and psychologists. Durkheim’s influence on current work by sociologists of morality is considered: positive influence, whether acknowledged or not, and negative, in response to what are seen as inadequacies of Durkheim’s approach. It is suggested that apparently non-Durkheimian studies of trust, collective action, and the evolution of social norms are nonetheless Durkheimian in their object of inquiry.
Mark S. Cladis
The development of a science of morality, or what he called rational moral art (l’art moral rationnel), is one of Durkheim’s most ambitious endeavors. The very idea of rational art will strike many as an oxymoron. Yet it is precisely at the intersection, and within the tension, of these two terms—art and the rational—that we find Durkheim’s most mature efforts at establishing a science of morality. On the one hand, this science is rational insofar as it is attentive to the actual, lived social practices and institutions of humans in various cultures at various times. On the other hand, this science is a form of art insofar as it employs practical judgment and creativity as it seeks to move from the detailed studies of the social scientist to the reformist critique of social institutions and practices. In short, Durkheim recommended that sociologists join sociohistorical skill to the moral imagination.
François de Singly
Emile Durkheim’s first specialized course in Bordeaux (in 1888) was on the sociology of the family. Although his work on the topic is not his best known, and is often rather misunderstood, it is still quite interesting. Durkheim was able to perceive the two leading characteristics of the European family under the first modernity (from the 1850s through the 1960s): the personalization of ties and the increasing intervention of the state in family affairs. Understanding this change did not lead Durkheim to approve of it, however, and he worried about the weakening of rules and discipline within the family.
As religion has gained public and scholarly attention, sociologists have critically revised orthodox secularization theory. This article revisits Emile Durkheim’s sociologie religieuse and explores its potential and limitation for analyzing contemporary religious reconfigurations in the twenty-first century. First, it reviews how the “New Durkheim” as recovered by the recent historiography of classical sociology defined, explained, and assessed religion. It argues that Durkheim’s theory of the sacred, its relation to society, and its impact on morality and knowledge displays inherent tensions reflected in his quest for social bonds in secular society. Second, having acknowledged Durkheim’s ambivalent legacy in the sociology of religion and cultural sociology more broadly, the article shows that his theory of the sacred, while failing to grasp religio-political power configurations so central to the Weberian tradition, helps discern the persistence and production of collective religious forms in a global age, ranging from nationalisms to human rights.
Hugo José Suárez
This chapter conceptualizes the basic elements of the Latin American religious experience. It argues that the most important religious expressions are “para-ecclesiastical agents,” sociological figures who administer religious life and the contents of belief, which result from a confrontation between distinctive cosmovisions and must be discussed in terms of—among other concepts—syncretism, mestizaje, and hybridization; the fiesta, seen as a space for creativity and, at the same time, as a logic of religious practice that reproduces rituals; and, finally, practitioners’ relationship to religious images and related elements that represent the sacred.
Recent decades have seen important developments in Latin American writings in the sociology of religion field. Not only has there been exponential growth in the number of publications on religious phenomena in the region, but the field itself has also shifted from sociology about Latin American religion to a Latin American sociology of religion. This field takes contemporary Latin American forms of religiosity as an empirical referent, then goes even further to propose interpretive frameworks and new methodologies that contribute to the understanding of religious phenomena at a global level. This chapter introduces four prominent Latin American sociologists of religion: Roberto Blancarte’s work on laicity; the critical analysis of Cristián Parker on popular religions within multiple modernities; Hugo José Suárez’s conceptualization of “para-ecclesiastical agents,” a key concept for understanding religious collective practice in Latin America; and Eloisa Martin’s proposal of the heuristic potential of analyzing practices of sacralization for understanding popular religion in Latin America.
From Paganism to World Transcendence: Religious Attachment Theory and the Evolution of the World Religions
Stephen K. Sanderson
This chapter draws on one of the new cognitive and evolutionary psychological theories of religion, religious attachment theory, to explain the emergence of the Axial Age religions of the late first millennium bce. These religions—Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism—introduced new kinds of gods into world history—gods that were transcendent and capable of providing release from suffering. Religious attachment theory views religion as providing “substitute attachment figures” under circumstances in which people’s social attachments have been severely disrupted. The basic argument of the chapter is that the new Axial Age gods were responses to heightened levels of anxiety and ontological insecurity that accompanied massive increases in warfare and urbanization in the period between approximately 600 bce and 1 ce. The anthropomorphic pagan gods of the ancient empires had become inadequate in the face of the new religious needs that people began to experience, and thus they came to be replaced.
Weber’s concept of Islam as a cultural configuration including religion, society, and political order was conceived against the backdrop of Europe’s supposed uniqueness and exemplary path to modernity. Yet his ambition of advancing transcultural understanding and exploring a plurality of developmental histories offers inspiration to this day also for the Islamic perspective. Repositioning his ideas about warrior Islam, Islamic beliefs, Islamic law, and patrimonialism in the context of contemporary postcolonial, postmodern, and global theory reveals details, correlations, and perspectives that Weber at the time ignored or omitted. Complementing theory with up-to-date historical research on the Middle East provides further corrections. A critical appraisal of Weber’s approach and the discussions it triggered allows recognition of the dynamics of Islamic history, such as the role of religion and religious authority in the evolution of state–society relations. It also assists in understanding Islamic features of modernity, including fundamentalism and the role of tradition, that inform the tension between moral values and politics. Going beyond the historical limitation of Weber’s assessment of prevalent features of Islam, the vitality of Islamic tradition and its particular pathway to modernity are recognizable in terms corresponding with the intention of Weber’s transcultural approach and its contemporary reinterpretations.
Bryan S. Turner and Rosario Forlenza
While Max Weber wrote extensively on a range of religions—Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, and most extensively Protestantism—there is no fully developed sociology of Catholicism. This chapter attempts to construct Max Weber’s missing sociology of Catholicism from the various scattered comments across his works. While Weber saw Protestantism influencing the growth of capitalism (and more broadly modernization), his view of Catholicism was largely negative: it was ritualistic, magical, bureaucratic, and traditional. What would Weber have made of Catholicism in the twentieth century and twenty-first century? This chapter first examines developments in nineteenth-century Catholicism that lay behind Weber’s critical commentary. The second half asks how changes in Catholicism after the Second Vatican Council (informally known as Vatican II, 1962–1965) have brought about a modernization of Catholicism. The chapter argues for the relevance of Weber’s views today by considering the impact of Vatican II on Catholic teaching and practice, arguing that it represents the political modernization of Catholicism. Vatican II represented a radical departure from the political conservatism of the nineteenth century. In principle, the church was no longer critical of secular democracy, pluralism, the party system, and state sovereignty. This modernization, however, began to undermine the universalism of the church and pushed Catholicism toward denominationalism. However, the church did not modernize its teaching on contraception, abortion, marriage, divorce, and family life. This tension between political modernization and what we might simply call “familial conservatism” still haunts the church today.
W. Watts Miller
This article tracks key changes and continuities in Durkheim’s approach to the modern individual, beginning with the landscape of his thesis on the division of labor. A period of transition then helped to generate his increasing belief in the dynamics of creative effervescence, both as a foundation of an irreducibly social realm and as a way to tackle a modern crisis and get going processes of reform. He nonetheless never abandoned his commitment to the importance of social structures, as in his call for a web of new intermediate groups linking the individual with a wider society, or in his view of the division of labor as a source of modern ideals and route to combining autonomy and solidarity. He was also well aware that times of effervescent upsurge come with serious risks. Indeed, risk is built into the freedom and indeterminacy they entail.
Alexandra Maryanski and Jonathan H. Turner
The human propensity for religious behavior and, eventually, religious organization is the by-product of natural selection working on the neuroanatomy of low-sociality and non-group-forming hominins to become more social and group oriented as a necessary strategy for survival on the African savanna. Using cladistic analysis to determine the behavioral and organizational propensities of the last common ancestor to present-day great apes and humans’ hominin ancestors, while at the same time engaging in comparative neuroanatomy of extant great-ape and human brains, the neurological basis of religion is isolated. Religion emerged under early selection pressures to make hominins more social and able to form stable groups. From the combination of dramatically increased emotionality and cognitive functioning, the transition from Homo erectus to Homo sapiens approximately 300,000 year ago created the neurological platform for religious behaviors among early humans.
Practices of Sacralization: A Theoretical Proposal for a Sociology of (Popular) Religion from Latin America
The concept of “popular religion” is among the most frequent to arise in debates on religion in sociology. Nevertheless, there is often disagreement on the scope of this concept and its definition, which are the result of an implicit and indiscriminate notion of religion. This chapter identifies three main groups of work that describe and apply different definitions of popular religion. The first considers popular religion as the religion of the “people.” The second focuses on the “functions” that popular religion fulfill among the poorest sectors of the population as a way of dealing with deprivation. The third group suggests the existence of a “different logic” to analyze religious events. Based on the main literature produced in Latin America on the subject, this chapter proposes a workaround to the problems raised by coining and discussing the concept of “practices of sacralization.”
Cristián Parker Gumucio
Religious diversity and pluralism are increasing in Latin America. The religious field that some decades ago was mainly Catholic has changed radically. In addition to Pentecostalism and Neo-Pentecostalism, other Evangelical as well as independent churches of various denominations and forms, non-affiliated believers, and many diverse (ethnic, Afro-American, New Age, etc.) and diffuse religious expressions are growing. These religious changes toward pluralism can be understood from a revised theory of multiple modernities. The classical sociological concepts and theories, beginning with secularization, need to be criticized and replaced with a new theoretical approach. Latin American historical processes must be compared with what is happening in other regions of the world and not only with Western history. To understand key changes, popular religions worldwide need to be carefully analyzed. Latin American religions offer a good example of popular forms of religious revitalization that are useful to contrast with the Northern European case. This comparative exercise demonstrates new ways of producing sense and spiritual search in non-Western geocultural areas that are framing specific relationships between religion and modernities, bringing about new religious pluralisms.
Religious globalisms are ways of understanding the global environment as expressed through specific religious world views. The literature tends to see a dichotomous relationship between religious and secular globalisms, with the former in opposition to the latter. The issue was put in focus by the impact of post-Cold War globalization and the contemporaneous return of religion to international relations, which had much to say about the “soulless” nature of market-based globalization and the advance of capitalism to the detriment of religious values and norms. This chapter contends that there are various religious globalisms and that it is not a straightforward relationship per se between religious and secular globalism.
This chapter analyzes the philosophical import of the notion of reputation along two main axes: (1) reputation as a motivation for action, and (2) reputation as a special kind of social information. Is reputation a rational motive of action? Can it be an ultimate aim or is it always reducible to some kind of self-interest? Is reputation a rational means to extract information from the social world? Should we rely on other’s evaluations? By reconstructing the philosophy of reputation in the history of thought and analyzing the contemporary approaches to reputation in philosophy, the chapter also provides also some rudiments of an “epistemology of reputation.”
The Sociality of Mind: Key Arguments, Inner Tensions, and Divergent Appropriations of Durkheim’s Sociology of Knowledge
Ever since Durkheim, the question of the sociality of mind has remained both contentious and fruitful. This article discusses the Durkheimian contribution to the sociology of knowledge in three steps. First, by drawing on Durkheim and Mauss’s “Primitive Classification” (1903) and on Durkheim’s The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1912), two key arguments of the Durkheimian sociology of knowledge will be distinguished. Second, it is argued that the differences between these two key contributions reverberate through the reception of Durkheim’s sociology of knowledge, resulting in two quite different lines of reception: one that focuses on classificatory homologies (Lévi-Strauss, Bourdieu, Boltanski) and one that focuses on ritual, the sacred, and the emergence of nonordinary realities (Bellah, Joas). Finally, the continuing provocative force of Durkheim’s sociology of knowledge is explained by systematizing the various tensions within Durkheim’s arguments as well as within and between its appropriations.
Sociology of the Sacred: The Revitalization of the Durkheim School at the Collège de Sociologie and the Renewal of a Sociology of Sacralization by Hans Joas
This article analyzes three key stages in the development of the sociology of the sacred: the Durkheim school, the Collège de Sociologie, and the work of Hans Joas. First, it shows that the Collège de Sociologie was deeply influenced by the Durkheimians’ studies on religion and the gift but interpreted them in a very specific way. Whereas the Collège and the Durkheim school agree on the importance of the sacred for social cohesion, they disagree on other important theoretical, methodological, and political issues. Second, it compares Hans Joas’s studies on sacralization processes to the Durkheimian sociology of religion and the sacred sociology of the Collège. It argues that Joas’s analyses, even though they are inspired by Durkheim, in particular go beyond the Durkheim school and the Collège in three respects: (a) they provide an account of the articulation of the experience of the sacred; (b) they ground sacralization processes in a theory of action; and (c) they contextualize sacralization processes in terms of a sociology of institutions and power.
When Max Weber began his work on the historical importance of the relationship between the Protestant ethic and modern capitalism, he committed himself to the most enduring of his theoretical interests, the economic ethic of the most important religions. Investigating central issues in Max Weber’s study on ancient Judaism, this chapter points to its relevance for the understanding of contemporary populism. For this purpose, two key aspects of his work are emphasized: this religion’s rationality—inescapable for the understanding of Western modernity—and the charisma of the biblical prophets, based on their social and political position as well as on the affective bond they formed with the masses. Both aspects provide important insights for the assessment of contemporary populist movements.