Theoretical Perspectives, Religion & Social Change
- BELIEFS IN SOCIETY: RELIGION
- PART 1 : THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVES
- FUNCTIONALISTS, MARXISTS & FEMINISTS
- SOCIAL ACTION THEORIES (WEBER)
- ALTERNATIVE SOCIOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES (Stark & Bainbridge)
- PHENOMENOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES (Berger & Luckman)
- POST-MODERNISM & RELIGION
- PART 2: RELIGION & SOCIAL CHANGE
- RELIGION AS A CONSERVATIVE FORCE: FUNCTIONALISTS, NEO-FUNCTIONALISTS, MARXISTS, NEO-MARXISTS, FEMINISTS.
- SOCIAL CHANGE & RELIGION: PARSONS, MARX, TURNER & INDUSTRIALISATION.
- RELIGION & SOCIAL CHANGE: WEBER & THE PROTESTANT ETHIC AND THE SPIRIT OF CAPITALISM & McGUIRE
- RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALISM (CHRISTIAN & ISLAMIC)
PART 1: THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVES
DEFINING RELIGION = DIFFICULT DUE TO:
Extent of faith may differ
Variation between members needs to be accounted for
Individual faith is ignored
Way faith is expressed by each member is different
THEREFORE THE DEFINITION IS SOCIALLY CONSTRUCTED!
Despite different views, various sociologists have agreed on a common definition:
"An organised collectivity of individuals with a shared system of beliefs and a set of approved activities and practices."
Functionalism : Overview
Basis : To examine how different institutions meet the functional prerequisites of society
See society to require social solidarity, value consensus, harmony & integration between its parts
Religion is studied in terms of how it contributes to social solidarity.
"Religion is seen as promoting value consensus in society, reinforcing social solidarity and stability by re/integrating members of society, through actions like collective worship and religious rituals."
AO2: Not always social solidarity as there is conflict between religions. e.g. Sunnis And Shias. (Further supported by Marxists).
Functionalism - DURKHEIM
DURKHEIM argued society is divided into 2:
Sacred are symbols that have holy meaning
Profane is everything that makes up our daily lives
According to DURKHEIM, everything is sacred if it symbolises something.
TOTEMISM (The religion of the Australian Aborigines):
Everyone is divided into clans, each clan has a totem which is a symbol of the clan. According to DURKHEIM, the totem represents a symbol of God and society as by worshipping the totem, they are worshipping society.
RELIGION AND 'COLLECTIVE CONSCIENCE':
By people worshipping together, they are promoting social solidarity.
Functionalism - Parsons
RELIGION AND VALUE CONSENSUS:
PARSONS argues that human action is directed by norms which are provided by the social system. Religious beliefs are embedded in today's laws and norms such as the 10 Commandments.
RELIGION, ANOMIE AND SOCIAL ORDER:
At times of rapid social change, religion provides a direction of meaning to life and reinforcing social order and stability.
RELIGION AND MEANING:
Religion provides meaning by providing answers about humanity. It helps those who are suffering/evil.
BY PROVIDING ANSWERS, PEOPLE ARE ABLE TO ADJUST!.
Functionalism - MALINOWSKI
MALINOWSKI'S ideas differ from DURKHEIM on two ideas:
Religion is not seen to reflect society as a whole
Religious rituals are not seen as the worship of society
RELIGION IN LIFE CRISIS:
Anxiety disrupts social life and life crises such as 'death', 'birth' are surrounded by relgious rituals = NEEDED FOR THE FUNCTIONING OF SOCIETY.
RELIGION, PREDICTION AND CONTROL:
Events that are not fully controlled can produce tension which are surrounded by rituals
According to MALINOWSKI, "Religion promotes social solidarity by dealing with situations of emotional stress that threaten stability of society".
Functionalism - Criticisms
CRITICISMS OF FUNCTIONALISM:
- Based on primitive societies
- Small scale societies used
- All assume religion plays a positive part in society
- In a multi-faith society, consensus is not always possible/positive
- Assume all societies have a religion (ignores Atheists)
A02 e.g.s SPLITS WITH RELIGION:
- Islam - Sunnis And Shias
- London Tube (7/7)
- American Towers (9/11)
THESE ARE EXAMPLES OF WAYS TO SHOW SOCIETY IS NOT ALWAYS STABLE AS CLAIMED BY FUNCTIONALISTS...
Neo-Functionalist: Bellah : Civil Religions
(This study is used to overcome DURKHEIM)
- BELLAH argued that in a modern multi faith society, the bonding function is performed by 'civil religion'.
- He says that in America, religious phrases are used to promote national identity.
- Coins are inscribed with 'God Bless America'.
- American flag cannot be 'desecrated'. (Its sacredness cannot be disrespected).
- Remembrance Sunday for end of WW1.
- Queen's Golden Jubilee & Princess Diana's Funeral.
- Religion is an illusion, easing the pain produced by exploitation and oppression.
- Religion is seen as a myth that justifies and legitimates the subordination of lower classes and domination and privilege of the ruling class.
- Hence, religion distorts reality and reinforces false class-consciousness.
"Religion is seen as a tool of social control used by the ruling class to keep the masses in their place, and to legitimise ruling class domination".
Marxism: Engels & Althusser
RELIGION AND THE OPIUM OF THE PEOPLE
Religion is seen as a drug to dull pain and does not solve problems but makes life more bearable, not bringing true happiness.
RELIGION AND SOCIAL CONTROL
Is seen as a 'mechanism of social control'.
Recognised that in order for the ruling class to maintain the 'status quo' and people need to be kept ordered through religion.
Religion is an example of 'ideological apparatus' where the working class are brainwashed into social class inequalities.
Marxism: Strengths And Limitations
- Caste system in India is justified by Hindu religious beliefs.
- Egyptian Pharaohs combine God & King in one person
- Slave owners In Southern America approved conversion of slaves, believing they would have a more controlling influence.
- Emphasises too much on exploitation
- Religion does not always support ruling class (homosexuality. abortion)
- Not everyone is religious
RELIGION AND COMMUNISM: MARX:
Religion will disappear in a communist society as distortion of reality is not needed.
Neo Marxist: Gramsci
Argues in order to control society, one will need to persuade the masses that the existing system is good and fair for everyone.
GRAMSCI called this HEGEMONY:
The ideological control that the ruling class elite have over the masses.
Religious justification for the liberation of oppressed people. Often seen as the duty of the poor to take control of their situation and accept the responsibility for ending their poverty.
- See religion as a product of patriarchy, rather than capitalism.
- Religion is seen to serve the interest of men and although women are seen to have made great advances in many areas of social life, this remains limited in religion.
- Interested in how women are subservient within most religions and how religion can be used to promote patriarchal power.
"Religion is seen as being infused with patriarchal ideology- theuniversal system of male domination over women".
Feminism: Holm, Simone de Beauvoir, Nawal El Saada
Argued that in 'classical teachings', there is a stressed equality between genders, but in practice, women are far from equal. This is due to Periods & Childbirth.
EXAMPLES: Orthodox Judaism: Only men can take part in ceremonies and Hinduism: Only men can become Brahmanic priests.
SIMONE DE BEAUVOIR:
Religion is seen to give women the false belief that they will be compensated for their suffering. Women socialise children into religion and introduce children to religious beliefs.
NAWAL EL SAADAWI:
Argues that oppression of women is caused by men and used at their advantage and men are seen to misinterpret religious beliefs.
Feminism: Women & Signs Of Hope & Social Action: W
Women & Signs Of Hope:
- BADAWI: Emphasises the positive aspects of Islam (e.g. women keeping maiden name after marriage).
- WRIGHT: In Judaism, women can become Rabbis.
- WATSON: the veil for Muslim women is beneficial
AO2: Can be argued that the meaning of religion needs to be carefully interpreted as the way in which religion is seen by its believers needs to be accounted for.
Religion is used to explain why some have wealth, status and power - a religious explanation of social inequality. (theodicy of privilege or non-privilege).
Alternative Sociological Perspectives, Phenomenolo
STARK AND BAINBRIDGE:
- Believe everyone has human desires, but only some can achieve these desires.
- They see religion as a way to help them live and think they will be compensated with a reward in the afterlife.
- If religions compromised their belief in the supernatural, people will turn to different religious organisations e.g. sects and cults.
BERGER AND LUCKMAN:
- Religion is used to provide meaning for the world they live in.
- Religion provides meaning and answers about reality.
Post-modernism & Religion
KEY CHARACTERISTICS: Media in ICT, TV, internet, consumerism, movement of people, risk and uncertainty as environment we live in is dangerous, globalisation as boundaries are being broken.
A DECLINE OF PREVIOUSLY DOMINANT RELIGIOUS ORGANISATIONS: Globalisation has led to increased exposure to rival explanations, including a wide range of contradictory religions and philosophies, and repeated exposure to alternative versions of the truth undermine people's confidence.
A GROWTH OF FUNDAMENTALISM IN ALL WORLD RELIGIONS: Fundamentalist groups are highly dependant on ICT to mobilise ideas, money and social links.
THE SPREAD OF NEW TYPES OF RELIGIOUS ORGANISATIONS, MOVEMENTS AND NETWORKS: People are encouraged to select beliefs to suit their identities and this freedom has led to spread of new religious movements.
Part 2: RELIGION AND SOCIAL CHANGE
1. Religion As A Conservative Force: Theories
Functionalism: DURKHEIM : Religion promotes social order, & religion acts as a conservative force - encouraging harmony, prevents 'social order' breakdown.
Neo-Functionalism: BELLAH believes civil religion acts as a conservative force as it unites groups of people through religion.
Marxism: It acts as a conservative force to support the interest of the ruling class and no social change should occur as this could threaten ruling class wealth and power.
Neo-Marxist: GRAMSCI: Religion can be used by people against their oppressors.
Feminism: (disagree with functionalists) Feminists believe social change would disrupt traditional roles of men being in dominance.
2. Social Change & Religion
Society has changed and has become developed, so religion has lost some of its functions e.g. link between CHURCH and state.
The infrastructure of society (majority of population) has to change to create changes in the superstructure (government).
Society has changed from feudalism (marriage to maintain wealth in upper class) to capitalism, religion has lost its function of transfer of property.
This is argued to have led to a more secular society.
3. Religion And Social Change: Weber
"The primary function of religion is to provide people with meaning and sense of identity. They are also seen to develop differently due to different religious beliefs". WEBER argues that religious beleifs and religious movements can help produce social change.
THE PROTESTANT ETHIC AND THE SPIRIT OF CAPITALISM:
- Capitalism developed in areas where Calvinistic Protestantism was influential.
- Capitalism developed as capitalism id dependant on hard work and this creates greater productivity, products & expansion of business.
- Protestants attacked time wasting and anything that diverted people from heaven was forbidden.
CRITICISMS: Material factors ignored and Calvinistic protestantism did not develop in societies such as Scotland and Switzerland.
Support For Weber: McGuire
Beliefs Of The Religion:
Change may be likely to occur if members are critical of society.
Culture of Society:
If beleifs are central to culture then this can justify change (Shariah)
Social location of the religion:
Greater the importance of religion, greater impact it has on producing change.
Internal organisation of religious institutions:
Religions with strong centeralised source of authority have more chance of producing change. They are better focused, with someone in charge.
Seen by its followers as return to basics of religion & involves literal interpretation of religious texts.
- Many views such as opposing divorce rates and *********** on the internet was supported by Ronald Reagan.
- George Bush set up faith-based programmes.
- The Iranian Revolution in 1979 displays Islamic fundamentalism where people threw the Shah and an Islamic state was established.
Fundamentalist movements are conservative forces, look backwards for their inspiration for the future but want change - leading to revolution.