The article is concerned with the role played by rituals in the politics of advanced industrial societies. First, after considering the disputes of the anthropologists, a working definition of ritual is offered. The central, critical part of the paper discusses a range of attempts that have been made to apply a particular theory of ritual—the Durkheimian theory—to the politics of modern societies, specifically the United States and Britain. These 'neo-Durkheimian' analyses (of Shils and Young, Blumleret al., Lloyd Warner, Bellah and Verba) are criticized for using too simple a notion of social integration, and for making too narrow a selection and offering too narrow an analysis of political rituals. Their approach is further criticized for closing off a whole range of significant and critical questions about political rituals—questions which bring out their cognitive role and the cognitive dimension of the exercise of power in stratified, conflictual and pluralistic modern industrial societies. Finally, it is suggested that, once those questions are asked, one arrives at a view of many political rituals that pictures them, not as promoting value integration, but as crucial elements in the 'mobilization of bias'.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science