Status, Power and Ritual Interaction : A Relational Reading of Durkheim, Goffman and Collins book cover
1st Edition

Status, Power and Ritual Interaction
A Relational Reading of Durkheim, Goffman and Collins

ISBN 9780367602208
Published June 30, 2020 by Routledge
322 Pages

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Book Description

Sociologists Émile Durkheim, Erving Goffman and Randall Collins broadly suppose that ritual is foundational for social life. By contrast, this book argues that ritual is merely surface, beneath which lie status and power, the behavioral dimensions that drive all social interaction. Status, Power and Ritual Interaction identifies status and power as the twin forces that structure social relations, determine emotions and link individuals to the reference groups that deliver culture and administer preferences, actions, beliefs and ideas. An especially important contention is that allegiance to ideas, even those as fundamental as the belief that 1 + 1 = 2, is primarily faithfulness to the reference groups that foster the ideas and not to the ideas themselves. This triggers the counter-intuitive deduction that the self, a concept many sociologists, social psychologists and therapists prize so highly, is feckless and irrelevant. Status-power theory leads also to derivations about motivation, play, humor, sacred symbols, social bonding, creative thought, love and sex and other social involvements now either obscure or misunderstood. Engaging with Durkheim (on collective effervescence), Goffman (on ritual-cum-public order) and Collins (on interaction ritual), this book is richly illustrated with instances of how to examine many central questions about society and social interaction from the status-power perspective. It speaks not only to sociologists, but also to anthropologists, behavioral economists and social and clinical psychologists - to all disciplines that examine or treat of social life.

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface; Introduction; Status and power; Derivations from status-power theory; Status-power and collective effervescence: I; Status-power and collective effervescence: II; Ritual: Goffman's big idea; Situation, occasion, gathering, encounter and social relations; Reading Goffman in status-power terms; Collins's interaction ritual; Collins's power and status rituals; Talking, talks, thinking and thought; Entrainment, mutual entrainment and self-entrainment; Emotions: status-power vs. interaction ritual theory; Sex and love; Prediction and postdiction; Appendix; Bibliography; Index.

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Theodore D. Kemper is Emeritus Professor of Sociology at St John's University, New York, USA. He won the T. F. Evans prize in the Shaw Society of the UK's 'Write like Shaw' contest in 2011 for his fourth act to the George Bernard Shaw play, Candida.


'This new book by Professor Kemper presents a thought-provoking approach to the theory of social relations and interaction, based on the two concepts of status and power. At the same time it delivers a penetrating critique of a rival approach that interprets social life as a form of ritual. Exemplifications and empirical cases contribute to make the book attractive and accessible to the reader.' Carl-Göran Heidegren, Lund University, Sweden 'The question of what influences our behaviours the most, individual factors, the social and structural conditions of the environment, or the interaction of both, is still a current sociological debate. Kemper proposes a theoretical model from a radical standpoint: our behaviours, choices, and motives are status-power relational products and the self is irrelevant for sociological analyses. This book has the potential to ignite passionate and constructive theoretical debates in the fields of social psychology and social inequality... Kemper navigates with great ability classical and contemporary theories showcasing his vast knowledge of a wide range of sociological oeuvres. By doing so, he offers a comprehensive understanding of concepts such as ritual, collective effervescence, and self-entrainment. Kemper contextualizes historically and sociopolitically the work and the lives of Durkheim, Goffman, and Collins and this informs the reader of how different theoretical concepts emerged and developed over time. This book’s writing style is made accessible not only to academics who have a great interest in social theory, but also to a wider audience interested in what lies behind individuals’ choices, emotions, and behaviours... In sum, this book provides an interesting theoretical model that incorporates hierarchical relations and power to the understanding of social behaviour, something that is not always emphasized in social psychology... This original provoking book, full of meaningful examples and illustrations, has the