The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism

By Daniel Bell | Go to book overview

4
Toward the Great Instauration: Religion and Culture in a Post-Industrial Age

EVERY SOCIETY seeks to establish a set of meanings through which people can relate themselves to the world. These meanings specify a set of purposes or, like myth and ritual, explain the character of shared experiences, or deal with the transformations of nature through human powers of magic or techne. These meanings are embodied in religion, in culture, and in work. The loss of meanings in these areas creates a set of incomprehensions which people cannot stand and which prompt, urgently, their search for new meanings, lest all that remain be a sense of nihilism or the void. This essay, in the light of the previous chapters on the incoherence of culture, explores the relation of culture to work and to religion, and the possible direction of new meanings.1

Much of the character of men and the pattern of their social relations is shaped by the kind of work they do. If we take work as a

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1
This essay can also be read as a counterpart to another one, "Technology, Nature and Society: The Vicissitudes of Three World-Views and the Confusion of Realms," given at the Smithsonian Institution in December 1972 and included in the Frank N. Doubleday series, Technology and the Frontiers of Knowledge ( Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1975), with a foreword by Daniel Boorstin. I have not included that essay here, for its focus is more on the emergence of philosophical world-views in relation to society than on the distinctive problems of culture, yet the two can be seen as complementary.

In the opening section of this chapter, I have repeated some formulations from my book The Coming of Post-Industrial Society to establish the framework of the discussion of religion and culture.

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