A2 Sociology, religion & social change.

These revision cards are summary of the A2 AQA Sociology textbook, for religion chapter 2 - religion and social change.

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  • Created by: Mizgin
  • Created on: 29-12-11 12:56

Religion as a conservative force

1) conservative beliefs: oppose changes that allow freedom in personal and sexual matters. e.g Catholic Church forbids divorce, abortion etc. upholding traditional family values. 

2) conservative functions: maintains status quo (MX, FEM, FUNC). Religion and consensus: religion maintains social stability, helps people deal with stress etc. Marxism and Feminism: religion acts as a mean of social control, stability in the interests of the powerful the ruling class and men, respectively). 

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Religion as a force for change - WEBER

Capitalism; religious beliefs of Calvinism helped bring about capitalism in Northern Europe in 16th and 17th centuries.  Modern capitalism is unique - profit for its own sake - the spirit of capitalism, there's an unconscious similarity to Calvinists' beliefs-->elective affinity. 

Calvinist beliefs: 


2)inner loneliness, a salvation panic

3)asceticism (not over-indulging)

4)work for a calling

so wealth had psychological functions: it helped them cope with their salvation panic and they reinvested in businesses because 'no over indulgence'. Thus, this is the spirit of capitalism. This was ONE of the causes of capitalism. Other societies failed to develop capitalism bec they lacked religious beliefs like Calvinism. Thus, religion has brought about social change!

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Criticisms of Calvinism & Weber

Eisenstadt: the first upsurges of capitalism occurred in Catholic Europe.

Tawney: soc had already changed in a radically capitalist dimension

Hinduism and Islam - more capitalist than Weber acknowledged?

Why was Calvinism attractive? Little to offer as a religion e.g. work not affecting anything bec already predestined.

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- Weber: material factors aren't enough to bring abt capitalism - we also need cultural factors (beliefs and values of Calvinism)

- Marxists: Kawtsky: Weber overestimates economic factors. Capitalism preceded rather than followed capitalism

- Tawney: Tech change caused the birth of capitalism, it was after capitalism was established that the bourgeoisie adopted Calvinist beliefs

- Criticism: capitalism did not develop in every country where there were Calvinists e.g. Marshall: this was bec of the lack of investment, capital and skilled labour --> therefore, both material and cultural factors need to be present.

- Calvinists were among the first capitalists not because of their beliefs, but bec they had been excluded by law from many professions and from the political office. As an alternative, they turned to businesses. But Weberians reply: other religious minorities were excluded but did not become successful capitalists!

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Religion and social protest


1) American Civil Rights Movement: against segregation in 1950s-60s. - black clergy were the backbone e.g. Martin Luther King. churches became places of meeting, rituals - identity, able to shame whites by appealing to Christian values e.g. "love thy neighbour". Gained wide national support. Ways in which religious org's are equipped to support social change: 

Taking moral high ground (love thy neigh.), channelling dissent, acting as honest broker (church respected by both sides in a conflict - higher than mere politics), Mobilising public opinion.

= Religion becoming involved in secular struggle and helping to bring about social change, movement achieved aims bec it shared same norms and values as wider soc and those in power - embodied American Constitution.

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Religion and social protest continued

2) The New Christian Right: (politically and morally conservative. Protestant fundamentalist movement, 1960s. Opposing the liberalising of American soc.

Aim: take America 'back to good'. v.traditional. 

Made good use of media and networking, especially Televangelism. 'Moral Majority' pressure group became focus for political campaigning and strengthening links with the Republican Party. 

Largely unsuccessful bec 'MM' (PG) was never really a majority and 15% at most, campaigners found it hard to coop with ppl from other religious groups even on the same issue. Strong opposition groups standing for freedom of choice e.g. Planned Parenthood and Ppl for the American Way. 

Bruce: this is a failed movement for change - v.few ppl support theocracy. They have impossible demands in a mature democracy. 

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Marxism, religion and change

Rel can have a dual character (change and stability)

Engels: rel can help maintain but also challenge status quo e.g. slavery and misery.

Bloch - Principle of hope: dreams of a better life, images of Utopia, can deceive but also shows what can be changed on Earth, vision of better world combined with effective pol org and leadership = social change.

Liberation Theology: Movement 1960s bec of deepening rural poverty, HRs abuses, growing commitment among priests. Emphasis on 'praxis' (practical action guided by theory e.g. literacy progress, raising awareness etc). Democracy in Latin American countries - therefore Maduro & Lowy: rel can be a revolutionary force. Other Marxists: Lib Theol helped democ but didn't threaten stability of capitalism.

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Millenarian Movements

example of the desire to change things here and now as rel raises hope of a better world. 

Thousand years - Christ coming for 2nd time and ruling for 1000 yrs before end of the world. Create heaven on Earth. Appeal largely to the poor - often arise from colonial situations. European colonialism --> economic exploitation, cult and rel domination etc. 

Worsley: studied M.Movements in Melanesia: cargo cults. Islanders felt wrongly deprived when cargo arrived for the colonists - they said it was for themselves. Movements combined elements of traditional belief and Christianity. Many secular nationalist leaders and parties that were to overthrow colonial rule in 50s and 60s developed out of M.Movements. 

Engels: they represent the first awakening of 'proletarian self consciousness'.

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Gramsci: rel and hegemony

use of ideas --> hegemony, so less need for coercion. e.g. 1920s and 30s: immense cons ideological power of Catholic church helping to win support for Mussolini's fascist regime. 

Hegemony is never guaranteed. W/c can develop an alternative vision = counter - hegemony (bec of seeing how soc can be organised)

Rel has dual character: depends on circumstances

Vision of better world, organic intellectuals, support w/c org's such as Trade Unions.

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Religion and class conflict

Billings' study on the coalminers and textile workers. Coalminers had good leadership, independent churches for meetings, kept morale high, support e.g. group singing. The textile workers lacked leadership, spaces and under control of owners, opposition.

Mining relies on teamwork; maybe why the had a stronger sense of solidarity.

The same religion can be used to defend the status quo or justify struggle to challenge it. Rel can play a 'prominent oppositional role'. 

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