A repeated cultural practice builds solidarity and community.
[Module pages are works in progress]
Ritual is a repeated practice that a given culture deems significant, either implicitly or explicitly. It typically has the effect of binding the community that practices it together and of reinforcing certain governance habits.
Input: community, culture, artful norm formation
Output: self-reinforcing common habits
Ritual is among the “human universals” that anthropologist Donald Brown argues can be found in every human society. It is a phenomenon frequently associated with religion, but it is by no means religion’s exclusive purview. Rituals appear widely in childrearing, sports, the arts, and political life.
- Establishes and protects norms at lower cost of effort than other enforcement mechanisms, such as judicial sanctions
- Connects and embeds governance processes organically into broader cultural systems
- Imposes expectations and habits that can be hard to change when change is necessary
- Can defy rational explanation and thus reduce the rationality of the governance system as a whole
- Beating the bounds, an ancient practice of collectively surveying community boundaries
- Courtroom practices of respect and costume for judges
- Inauguration ceremonies for public officials
- “[Rituals],” Wikimedia Commons
- Smith, Jonathan Z. To Take Place: Toward Theory in Ritual. University of Chicago Press, 1987.