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Ritual and Its Consequences: An Essay on the Limits of Sincerity Paperback – March 24, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-0195336016 ISBN-10: 0195336011 Edition: 1st

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Editorial Reviews

Review


"In this whirligig world we do not know what to do apart from the done thing. Ritual and courtesy are, in contemporary parlance, suspect activities surplus to requirements. Like conformity, ritual attracts the adjectives 'mere,' 'meaningless,' 'external,' 'empty' and 'inauthentic.' This book brilliantly expounds the creative potential and the necessity of ritual, and exposes the destructive possibilities of sincerity. It could be seen as part of a Jewish riposte to Christianity or a Confucian one to the Enlightenment, but Catholics and members of enclosed orders will like it too. Everybody should read it, especially American Protestants and post-Protestant secularists who suffer more than most from the ills of sincerity." --David Martin, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, London School of Economics


"In this whirligig world we do not know what to do apart from the done thing. Ritual and courtesy are, in contemporary parlance, suspect activities surplus to requirements. Like conformity, ritual attracts the adjectives 'mere,' 'meaningless,' 'external,' 'empty' and 'inauthentic.' This book brilliantly expounds the creative potential and the necessity of ritual, and exposes the destructive possibilities of sincerity. It could be seen as part of a Jewish riposte to Christianity or a Confucian one to the Enlightenment, but Catholics and members of enclosed orders will like it too. Everybody should read it, especially American Protestants and post-Protestant secularists who suffer more than most from the ills of sincerity." --David Martin, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, London School of Economics


"An enormously important and paradigm-changing book. The audacity of its scope is refreshing--a turn to grand theory in an academic culture whose trend is to say more and more and less and less."Common Knowledge


"...A new, interesting, and very fruitful approach towards understanding and using the concept of 'ritual.'"--Religion


About the Author

Adam B. Seligman is Professor of Religion and Research Associate at the Institute for Culture, Religion, and World Affairs at Boston University. Robert P. Weller is Professor and Chair of the Department of Anthropology and Research Associate at the Institute for Culture, Religion, and World Affairs at Boston University. Michael J. Puett is Professor of Chinese History at Harvard University. Bennett Simon is Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Training and Supervising Analyst at Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (March 24, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195336011
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195336016
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 0.8 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #812,355 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
This book has one of the ingredients for building a healthy society: ritual. The four authors, who co-wrote the whole thing, are very serious about the importance of ritual and how an ignorance of rituals tears apart societies. But they operate in a world where ritual is doing battle with another power: "authenticity", or "sincerity". "Ritual and sincerity offer alternative modes of framing social thought, action, and interaction." (p. 104) They believe that this is a struggle in which ritual must come out the victor over our "sincere feelings".

This way of framing things clouds the book badly. It sounds kind of bad, after all, if you participate in rituals like church or peace negotiations for insincere reasons. But in fact the authors' "authenticity" is not authentic, and their "sincerity" is not sincere. Their use of these terms is essentially therapeutic and has no basis in traditional understandings of sincerity, not even among the Calvinists whom they cite as the origin of the irritating current they are trying to suppress.

Ritual is central to the Chinese understanding of civic religion, generally called Confucianism. In Confucianism, though, the sincere and the good are the same thing. Acknowledging your commitments, to your family, your friends, and others around you, is the path to really being honest with yourself; ignoring those commitments and following your whims is dishonesty and the road to evil. The Japanese Confucian Kure Tomofusa has offered the example of a woman who cheated on her husband and divorced him. She declared to the Japanese press, "I just want to live honestly." But marriage, of course, is an eternal vow -- infidelity and divorce break a vow that you have made.
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giving a whole new prospective to ritual and its meaning. Interesting for both scholars and laymen who try to make sense of our needs for ritual in our daily and religious lives.
The introduction chapter provides a full outline of the theory advanced in the book and is very readable and thought provoking. The other chapters bring examples to the main theories and various angles but are a bit too academic and not very readable for layman.
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