“Effervescence” Spreads from
the Council to the World
What happened at the Council, and subsequently, to sweep away the old structures? In her deft and brilliant study of the Council, Melissa Jo Wilde invokes a theory of collective behavior to explain the astonishing events (Wilde 2002). The tradition of collective behavior theory and research (e.g., Zald and Berger 1978 and McCarthy and Zald 1994) is impressed by the frequently observed phenomenon of the experiences of individuals merging into a group experience that is (or seems) more powerful than the sum of the individual experiences, a group experience that often overrides and even reverses the emotions the individuals bring to it and produces a mobilization of resources toward achieving the goal of the group (whether it be a religious revival or a lynching).
French sociologist Emile Durkheim, observing the religious rites of aboriginal Australians, noted how these rituals generated exuberance and joy that had not been present in individuals before the ritual and were more than the sum of individual input into the group experience. He suggested that the “effervescence”