Monday, October 13, 2008

Structure & informal cultural ties

In their article "Institutions and the story of American religion", Stout and Cormode make a number of interesting points.  I'll limit myself to one for now.  They reference DiMaggio's idea that formal organization structure and informal cultural ties produce taken for granted social norms.  The premise of the article itself is that religious communities and movements need to be seen as institutions that combine structure and culture.

Now this doesn't seem like an overly radical idea to anyone with much common sense.  However, it does have some far reaching implications.  One simple idea is the "symbolic universe" in which people exist is constraining (Stout, Cormode, 1998).  This somewhat out of fashion idea suggests the language of representation controls some aspects of thought. Since I don't think this idea goes very far, I think it is better to say the norms which emerge from within a culture are, in part affected by structure in a mildly recursive manner.  The way people represent this interface is probably indicative of which elements produce societally implicit resonances.  I would expect any structural control on actual thought to be pretty minor.  

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