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Kai T. Erikson uses the Puritan settlement in 17th-century Massachusetts as a setting in which to examine several ideas about deviant behavior in society. Combining sociology and history, the author draws on the records of the Bay Colony to illustrate the way in which deviant behavior fits in the texture of social life generally.
The main argument of Wayward Puritans is that deviant forms of behavior are often a valuable resource in society, providing a point of contrast, which is necessary for the maintenance of a coherent social order. In a new Afterword, the author offers new conclusions, fresh insights, and noteworthy reflections on his work and its impact forty years after its original publication
“I keep coming back and coming back in my writing and teaching to WAYWARD PURITANS. Kai Erikson's deep appreciation of the ritual dimensions of social life remains a refreshing alternative to rational-choice reductionism. And for social scientists who have recently discovered 'symbolic boundaries,' the idea was already here. My advice to each new cohort of aspiring social observers: read WAYWARD PURITANS.”
Robert Wuthnow, Princeton University
“WAYWARD PURITANS is a true sociological classic. Kai Erikson has produced a brilliant theory of social deviance as well as one of the most remarkable attempts to identify boundaries as a critical sociological phenomenon. One of the most spectacular products of the Durkheimian tradition, this is sociology at its best.”
Eviatar Zerubavel, Rutgers University
“Sociological classics speak to all people at all times about the social condition of humanity. For almost forty years, WAYWARD PURITANS has thrown light on that condition. In the new millennium we need that light, for our moral boundaries have shifted radically. Kai Erikson's classic helps explain those shifts, and, explaining them, relates the state of our society to our own moral dilemmas. It is a great book that speaks to us more loudly and clearly today than ever before.”
Barry Schwartz, University of Georgia
“Boundary crises come in all flavors. This book describes both the Puritan instance and the general theory. Erikson came up with a fundamental discovery of human life. It's a great theory and a great book, as important now as when it first came out.”
Albert J. Bergesen, University of Arizona
Foreword to the Classics Edition.
1. On the Sociology of Deviance.
2. The Puritans of Massachusetts Bay.
The Puritan Ethos.
Law and Authority.
3. The Shapes of the Devil
The Antinomian Controversy.
The Quaker Invasion.
The Witches of Salem Village.
4. Stabilities and Instabilities in Puritan Crime Rates.
5. Puritanism and Deviancy.