The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays

By Clifford Geertz | Go to book overview

Chapter 6/Ritual and Social Change: A Javanese Example

As in so many areas of anthropological concern, functionalism, either of the sociological sort associated with the name of Radcliffe-Brown or of the social-psychological sort associated with Malinowski, has tended to dominate recent theoretical discussions of the role of religion in society. Stemming originally from Durkheim The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life and Robertson-Smith Lectures on the Religion of the Semites, the sociological approach (or, as the British anthropologists prefer to call it, the social anthropological approach) emphasizes the manner in which belief and particularly ritual reinforce the traditional social ties between individuals; it stresses the way in which the social structure of a group is strengthened and perpetuated through the ritualistic or mythic symbolization of the underlying social values upon which it rests.1 The social-psychological approach, of which Frazer and Tylor were perhaps the pioneers but which found its clearest statement in Malinowski classic Magic, Science and Religion, emphasizes what religion does for the individual--how it satisfies both his cognitive and

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1
E. Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life ( Glencoe, Ill., 1947); W. Robertson-Smith, Lectures on the Religion of the Semites ( Edinburgh, 1894).

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