interactionist perspective on religion

The interactionist perspective on religion

  • Belief systems help us to make sense of things- in our daily lives
  • They represent a mental map – chart us to chart a course for a journey though the social world
  • This mental map= our personal universe of meaning
  • Or in  Bergers phrase a cosmology-  religion helps us construct it makes life meaningful- provides rules and guide lines 
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Webers key ideas

  • Religion provides meaning to help people make sense of the world
  • Marxists/Feminists religions support and legitimate existing social structures, religion is a conservative force- Weber accepted religion functioned to justify inequality

(Theodicy how to make sense of a benevolent god) Marx also argued it did not always function this way – religion can lead to social change – formation of a capitalist system

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weber's ideas continued

  • Wanted to discover what it was like to be a Calvinist- how this linked to wider structural changes (e.g. why capitalism emerged in some countries but not others)   
  •  Also believed that as societies advance individuals would cease to rely on religious meanings, rationalisation- religion replaced by science

The growth how ever has costs- reason and rational action replaces faith/ support that faith provides= a disenchantment of the world

Desacralisation will occur loss of sacred meanings form symbols and rituals  

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Weber: How can religion bring about social change

Interested in religion and undertook a detailed study of a number of religions e.g. Confucianism in China and Hinduism

He was also interested in the origins of capitalism, capitalism developed in western Europe but not elsewhere WHY  

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Weber social change continued

Capitalism required both the right economic conditions and the right values  

Needed resources a money economy, a legal system, relevant technology. Above all needed a set of values which emphasized pursuit of profit for its own sake

China had the right economic conditions/ did not have the right values for Weber the right values would be found in Western Europe especially amongst Calvinists  

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Why did Weber think that calvinist beliefs helped

Predestination- you future is already determined my God heaven or hell, lives mapped out

Asceticism- live a simple/frugal life

Vocation or calling- God has called people to undertake particular roles    

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Weber an evaluation

  • Which came first Calvinism or capitalism: Eisentadt- capitalism occurred first in catholic Europe- Tawnely- society had already changed towards capitalism BEFOR Calvinism as Calvinism emerged it was adopted by the rising capitalist class provided a religious justification for a rational capitalism- all ready developed
  • Other religions could of lead to capitalism:  Weber misunderstood religions like Hinduism/ failed to recognise they had many elements which could have been supportive of rational economic action, also accused of underestimating the capitalist sprit of the JEWS  
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Weber evaluation continued

Interpreting Calvinism:  doubt has been cast on the attitude of Calvinists to the pursuit of profit and wealth- many preachers taught wealth was a great danger- unclear why God would view economic success as a major attribute and a sign of the elect- also unclear why Calvinists should reinvest their wealth and not give it to the poor

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Peter Berger

  • People in modern societies no longer use religion to provide their universe of meaning- simalr to Webers view- the rise of reason logic and science gives individuals a different way to create a mental map
  • Berger believes decline in religious beliefs can have profound effects e.g. Anomie and disenchantment of the world 
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