|2010||When Judaism became boring: The McCauley-Lawson model applied to Judaism.|
Invited talk given at: Workshop on 'Judaism and Emotion', October 7, 2010, University of Bern, Switzerland. Slides.
Abstract:In 1990, Thomas Lawson and Robert McCauley introduced a model of the structure of
religious rituals, strongly motivated by contemporaneous generative linguistics, and
distinguishing two types of rituals. A decade later, this model became the basis of
their theory of the dynamics of ritual systems. Only if the two ritual types are in
balance, will a ritual system be stable. Namely, 'special agent rituals' are
associated with a higher level of emotional arousal than 'special patient/special
instrument rituals', and the two must complement each other to yield a transmittable
system. If 'special agent rituals' are lacking, then a 'tedium effect' is predicted to
emerge, paving the way to 'imagistic' splinter group outbursts.
The present talk will summarize the McCauley-Lawson model. After pointing to some
details that need reformulation in the light of Judaism, we shall ask how much of
Jewish history can be analyzed in this framework. I shall conclude that the cognitive
perspective has the potential to complement the more traditional (historical, socio-
economic) perspectives in Jewish studies.