The Meaning of Culture: Moving the Postmodern Critique Forward

By Kenneth Allan | Go to book overview

dividual rituals are the presence of a single focus of attention, a strong, consistent emotional reaction, and patterned, rhythmic behaviors. People must experience both the cognitive and emotional focus of attention for an individual ritual to occur. But this focus is obviously not sufficient to produce ritual effects; the individual must also perform patterned behaviors around this emotional and psychic focus. The greater the level of emotional and psychic focus and the more rhythmic the patterned behaviors, the more likely is it that the individual will produce a ritual that will be performed for the experience of affect- meaning-reality construction, and the greater will be the level of emotional energy. A music fan who produces for a given song a particular set of sequenced actions that are repeatedly performed in a similar manner with a similar focus, for example, a dance, is an example of a private ritual. Oftentimes these kinds of rituals incorporate certain patterned behaviors, like lighting candles and burning incense, that aid in the focus of attention and recreating the proper emotional mood. Again, this person will have the tendency to try and translate this private experience into a group ritual by performing it at a concert, preferably with other fans. This link will objectify the individual's reality, confirm their membership in a social collective, and add to the level of affect-meaning experienced.


NOTES
1.
My summary of Bellah ideas includes work from sources he co-authored with others: Richard Madsen, William M. Sullivan, Ann Swidler, and Steven M. Tipton . For ease of discussion, I generally refer to this corpus as simply "Bellah." The corporate work is distinctly defined by Bellah, as a comparison with Swidler ( 1986) work will testify, and represents a continuation of his earlier theorizing.
2.
The association between differentiation and problems of coordination and control was first discovered by Herbert Spencer ( 1873). Also see Jonathan H. Turner ( 1985; 1995) for an elaboration.
3.
It is interesting to note that many of Wuthnow's central concepts--uncertainty, decoupling, and systemic shock--have a great affinity with the literature on organizations. Uncertainty is a central dynamic in DiMaggio and Powell's account of institutional isomorphism ( Paul J. DiMaggio and Walter W. Powell, "The Iron Cage Revisited: Institutional Isomorphism and Collective Rationality in Organizational Fields," American Sociological Review, 1983, 48:147-160). Meyer and Rowan argue that conflicts between the ceremonial rules of an organization and the demands of efficiency are resolved by decoupling formal structure from actual work activities ( John W. Meyer and Brian Rowan, "Institutionalized Organizations: Formal Structure as Myth and Ceremony," American Journal of Sociology, 1977, 83 [ 2]:340-363). And the concept of institutional shock is explicitly used by Neil Fligstein. He argues that a shock to an institutional field will provide a "turbulence" in the field which in turn will create a gap in the normative,

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