Dmitry Kurakin 1, 2
  • 1 National Research University Higher School of Economics, 20 Myasnitskaya Str., Moscow, 101000, Russian Federation
  • 2 Yale University, 204 Prospect St., room 2004, New Haven, CT, USA, 06511

Eluding sacred: ambiguity of the sacred and its importance for the «strong program» in cultural sociology

2011, vol. 10, No. 3, pp. 41–70 [issue contents]

The paper presents short fragment of labyrinthine history of the concept of ambiguity of sacred in Durkheimian sociology. The prominence and advantages of the «strong program» in cultural sociology to a great degree result from taking Durkheim’s theory of the sacred seriously. The explanatory power of cultural sociology rests upon explanatory schemes and research techniques that draw on the properties of the sacred such as the absoluteness and the irreducibility of the sacred/profane opposition, the principles of contagiousness and mimesis, and the objectification of the sacred. However, there is a further property of the sacred which is essential for the development of cultural sociology, and yet it is not consistently engaged in research practice. This property is the ambiguity of the sacred. The paper provides historical-sociological reconstruction of the reasons of this tangential treatment. The main reason is situated in the corpus of Durkheim’s theory. Durkheim didn’t ignore the property of the ambiguity of the sacred, indeed, and defined the very phenomenon in a right way. However his account of the ambiguity of the sacred appears to be contradictory to his own theory. It allows describing certain class of phenomena in primitive societies, but it is inadaptable for the modern societies. The latter is seen as an inner reason of the lack of the attention to the ambiguity of the sacred in the «strong program». The paper provides an alternative account of the ambiguity of the sacred which overcomes current theoretical contradiction and provides more power to explanations in cultural sociology.

Citation: Kurakin Dmitry Yur'evich (2011) Uskol'zayushchee sakral'noe: problema ambivalentnosti sakral'nogo i ee znachenie dlya «sil'noy programmy» kul'tursotsiologii [Eluding sacred: ambiguity of the sacred and its importance for the «strong program» in cultural sociology] The Russian Sociological Review, 3, pp. 41-70 (in Russian)
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