Faculty Research at Morehead State University


Anonymity and the Rise of Universal Occasions for Religious Ritual: An Extension of the Durkheimian Theory

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In this research, Durkheim's theory of the universalization of religious beliefs is extended to analyze the occurrence of religious rituals. Drawing upon Schutz's phenomenology of social relations, we amplify theoretically the Durkheimian perspective and suggest that the universalization process is stimulated by an increase in anonymity (as opposed to intimacy) in society. Structural factors consistent with anonymity - i.e., increasing population density, political and economic differentiation, and monetary exchange - are hypothesized to influence the universalization of ritual occasions. A recursive path model is devised for the hypothesized relationships in the universalization process. We find support for the model using data from a cross-cultural sample of nonindustrial societies. The implications of these results for understanding religious rituals in contemporary complex societies are then discussed.