Enacting community in progressive America: Civic rituals in national music week, 1924

Paul Dimaggio, Ann L. Mullen

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This paper explores civic rituals in the late Progressive Era U.S. by focussing on an effort to replicate one ritual observance simultaneously in many locations: National Music Week, 1924. To gain insight into the changing relationship between localities and centers during this period, we examine the organizational strategies Music Week's promoters employed, before focussing on the local observances. Because the same stimuli elicited responses in 452 places, we can explore how variation across places in community structure, organizational styles, and institutional logics is reflected in civic ritual. We do so ideographically, focussing closely on four observances, and quantitatively, using data on sponsorship, content, and participants for 419 observances and a sample of 833 specific events. Observances in small places were dominated by traditional rituals of ratification, which affirmed the existing social order and the place of elite voluntary associations in it. Rituals of intergenerational unity celebrated community as families and youth achieving together in the public sphere. Rituals of civic identity constructed communities as aggregates of individuals, celebrating community en masse as citizen/consumers. In large cities, rituals of incorporation, reflecting urban machine politics and an inchoate corporatist logic, enacted community by symbolically annexing problematic subgroups to the whole.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)135-162
    Number of pages28
    Issue number2-3
    StatePublished - 2000

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Cultural Studies
    • Language and Linguistics
    • Communication
    • Sociology and Political Science
    • Linguistics and Language
    • Literature and Literary Theory


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