Discourse and the Construction of Society: Comparative Studies of Myth, Ritual, and Classification

Overview

In this bold theoretical work, Bruce Lincoln explores the ways in which myth, ritual, and classification hold human societies together -- and how, in times of crisis, they can be used to take a society apart and reconstruct it. Without overlooking the role of coercive force in the maintenance (or overthrow) of social structures, Lincoln argues his thesis with compelling illustrations drawn from such diverse areas as Platonic philosophy, the Upanishads of India, ancient Celtic banquets, professional wrestling, and...
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Discourse and the Construction of Society: Comparative Studies of Myth, Ritual, and Classification

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Overview

In this bold theoretical work, Bruce Lincoln explores the ways in which myth, ritual, and classification hold human societies together -- and how, in times of crisis, they can be used to take a society apart and reconstruct it. Without overlooking the role of coercive force in the maintenance (or overthrow) of social structures, Lincoln argues his thesis with compelling illustrations drawn from such diverse areas as Platonic philosophy, the Upanishads of India, ancient Celtic banquets, professional wrestling, and the Spanish Civil War. This wide-ranging interdisciplinary study offers challenging new insights into the complex dynamics of social cohesion and change.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Discourse and the Construction of Society is a game changer—simple as that—and so a book that I've passed along to countless people over the years. Each chapter is an example of how the academic study of religion ought to be done if it is to be something other than well-meaning cheerleading or idle voyeurism (to name two roles Lincoln himself has time and again critiqued convincingly). Having a new edition, with new material, invites yet another generation to take seriously issues of power, identity, rank, contest, the past, the future, and the always crafty ways that we try to signify this world of ours." —Russell T. McCutcheon, Chair of the Department of Religious Studies, University of Alabama

Reviews of the Previous Edition:

"I read Bruce Lincoln's Discourse and the Construction of Society with pleasure and profit; he has the art of stating complicated ideas plainly without simplifying them, and the gift for finding telling examples; together these two qualities make his book engaging—and also useful. It is a kind of kit for thinking about society."—James Redfield, University of Chicago

"Offers a perspective on how different processes of orally delivered discourse can be used for the creation, maintenance, or disintegration of society. It raises our consciousness of the power of discourse, not only as narrative that informs but also as polemic that can create and destroy."—Oral History

"Lincoln's works always bring a breath of fresh air, and this one no exception....His use and treatment of a multiplicity of fields make his work relevant to many disciplines, including the history of religions, anthropology, sociology, political science, and semiotics. Highly recommended."—Religious Studies Review

"Discourse and the Construction of Society is a helpful monkey wrench for canonbusters, cultural and political activists, and other demystifiers of dominant discourse. In this cross-disciplinary study...Lincoln...examines the role of symbolic discourse and its ugly cousin, force, in constructing society."—Voice Literary Supplement

"The book's heterogeneity is vivid and its author adroit—his sense of loose links among rituals of resistance from highbrow politics and lowbrow media events alike should make good classroom fare."—American Anthropologist

"I read Bruce Lincoln's Discourse and the Construction of Society with pleasure and profit; he has the art of stating complicated ideas plainly without simplifying them, and the gift for finding telling examples; together these two qualities make his book engaging—and also useful. It is a kind of kit for thinking about society."—James Redfield, University of Chicago

"Lincoln's splendidly eclectic cultural critique unveils both the conceptual rigidity and the flexible uses of classification in social and political life....An exemplary achievement, arrayed in arrestingly lucid prose."—Michael Herzfeld, Choice

"Deserves to be widely read by people interested in social history."—Journal of Social History

"A masterful and imaginitive argument for the centrality of symbolic action in modern societies."—P. Manning, Michigan State University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199372362
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 7/2/2014
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Bruce Lincoln is Caroline E. Haskell Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions in the Divinity School, the University of Chicago. He has published four other books, including Priests, Warriors, and Cattle: A Study in the Ecology of Religions, which won the American Council of Learned Societies Prize as Best New Book in History of Religions in 1981.

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Table of Contents

Preface to the Second Edition
Introduction

Part I: Myth
1. Myth, Sentiment, and the Construction of Social Forms
2. The Politics of Myth
3. Competing Uses of the Future in the Present

Part II: Ritual
4. Ritual, Rebellion, Resistance: Rethinking the Swazi Ncwala
5. Banquets and Brawls: Aspects of Ceremonial Meals
6. Festivals and Massacres: Reflections on St. Bartholomew's Day
7. Revolutionary Exhumations in Spain

Part III: Classification
8. The Tyranny of Taxonomy
9. The Dialectics of Symbolic Inversion
10. The Uses of Anomaly

Part IV: Affinity, Estrangement, Alterity
11. The Mythic Sisterhood of Europe and Asia
12. ''We are all related'': The Limits of Inclusion at a Lakota Sun Dance
13. Food, Filth, and Religious Community

Notes
Bibliography
Acknowledgments
Index

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