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Religion and social change 2


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AQA A2 Sociology, Marxism, religion and change.

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Religion and social change 2

  2. 2. O Marxists are thought of seeing religion as an entirely conservative ideology. However, they recognise that religious ideas can have ‘relative autonomy’. That is, they can be partly independent of the the economic base of society. So, they conclude religion can have a dual character.
  3. 3. O For example, Marx doesn’t entirely view religion negatively: “It is capable of humanising a world made inhuman by exploitation”. O Engels agrees that religion has a dual character. It inhibits change, but it can also encourage it. E.g. sometimes, it preaches liberation from slavery and misery.
  4. 4. The Principle of Hope O Bloch accepts that religion often inhibits change, but he emphasises that it can inspire protest and rebellion. Religion can create a vision of a better world, which, if combines with politics, could bring about social change (‘the principal of hope’).
  5. 5. Liberation Theology This theology was committed to the poor and opposed military dictatorships. What led to this theology? O The deepening of rural poverty and the growth of urban slums O The abuse of human rights (e.g. torture in countries such as Brazil) O The growing commitment of Catholic priests to support an ideology that supported the poor
  6. 6. Liberation Theology O The emphasis in liberation theology is on ‘praxis’ – practical action guided by theory. O (An example of liberation theology is in El Salvador – Archbishop Oscar Romero) O Liberation theology set out to change society…
  7. 7. Liberation Theology O Priests helped the poor to set up support groups called ‘base communities’ O They helped peasants to fight oppression under the Church’s protection O They educated the poor, raised awareness and mobilised support.
  8. 8. Liberation Theology O During the 1970s, the Catholic priest resisted state terror and took the side of the oppressed. O During the 1980s, Pope John Paul II condemned liberation theology on the grounds that it resembled Marxism, and told priests to focus on pastoral activities, not political struggle. O Since then, the movement has lost it’s influence.
  9. 9. O However, Casanova says the theology played an important role in resisting state terror and bringing about democracy. O Also, Maduro (neo-marxist) said religion can be a revolutionary force to bring about social change. E.g. peasants seeing working for the poor was part of their Christian duty. O Löwy also questions Marx’s view that religion legitimates social inequality.
  10. 10. O Löwy and Maduro see liberation theology as an example of religiously inspired social change. O Marxists argue that it did not threaten the stability of capitalism.
  11. 11. Millenarian Movements O Because religion raises the hope of a better after life, this could create a desire to change things here and now. O This movement refers to the idea that Christ would come into the world for a second time and rule for 1,000 years before the day of judgement.
  12. 12. Millenarian Movements OWorsley said such movements expect total and imminent transformation of the world by supernatural means. By creating a heaven on Earth, the whole group will be saved, not just individuals.
  13. 13. Millenarian Movements O The appeal of this movement is largely to the poor seeing as it promises immediate improvement and arises in colonial situations. Europe colonialism led to economic exploitation and religious domination. It shattered traditional tribal structures and the cultures of colonised people.
  14. 14. Cargo Cults OWorsley studied cargo cults in Melanesia. The islanders felt wrongfully deprived when ‘cargo’ arrived in the islands for the colonists. A series of cargo cults sprang up during the 19th and 20th centuries and said the cargo was meant for the natives but had been diverted by the whites for themselves. This unjust social order was about to be overturned.
  15. 15. Millenarian Movements OWorsley said the movements combined elements of traditional beliefs with elements of Christianity. The movements are ‘pre-political’ (use religious images and ideas, but they united native populations in mass movements that spanned tribal divisions) O Engels argues millenarian movements represent the first awakening of ‘proletarian self-consciousness’.
  16. 16. Religion and Hegemony O Gramsci explains how the bourgeoisie use religious ideas to maintain control (‘hegemony’) through ideological domination or leadership of society. When hegemony is established, the bourgeoisie can rely on popular consent to their rule, so there is less need for coercion.
  17. 17. Religion and Hegemony O However, hegemony is never guaranteed. It is possible for the proletariats to develop an alternative vision of how society should be organised. Gramsci, like Engels, sees religion as having a dual character and it can challenge the bourgeoisie. Some clergy can act as ‘organic intellectuals’ to help workers see the situation they are in and support working class organisations.
  18. 18. Religion and Class Conflict Billings compares class struggle in two communities of working class protestants. O Militant miners O Quiescent textile workers
  19. 19. Religion and Class Conflict O He found three ways that religion is supported or challenged by the employers’ hegemony…
  20. 20. Leadership O The miners had leadership of organic intellectuals, so they helped to convert the miners to the union cause. Textile workers didn’t have this so they were easily influenced by the views of the clergy who saw employers’ and denounced unions as ‘ungodly’.
  21. 21. Organisation O Miners use independent churches to hold meetings, but the textile workers had no space but that run by mill owners.
  22. 22. Support O The churches kept miners morale high (through prayer/group meetings). Textile workers met with opposition who branded them as communists.
  23. 23. O Billings shows religion was an important factor in class struggle but recognises that other things played a role. For example, the miners had teamwork for safety, so had a strong solidarity. O Religion can play a ‘prominent oppositional role’ by defending status quo or justifying the struggle to change it.