One book you may want to look at is Philip Rieff's "Triumph of the
Therapeutic: The Uses of Faith after Freud." In it, amongst other
observations, Rieff notes how the role of the priest in society (especially
as a leader of the community, advisor, moral center, etc.) has been assumed
by the therapist. This coincides with the last steps of the privatization of
the faith and the movement of the role of the priest to the vocation of the
therapist (The growth of the middle class is also a factor). There is so
much more in the book I hardly do it justice, but really it is one you
should look into to get his take on the shifting role in society with the
loss of faith binding a community and how that has been replace by the
"well-being" of the individual. Keep in mind with the 'democratization of
technology' comes the loss of faith in revelation and the emergence of
"faith" in science. The therapist steps up as a "scientific" replacement to
the therapeutic role that priesthoods had. Lastly, a recent new addition by
ISI books has a useful introduction and is now the version to get.
Date: Wed, 19 Mar 2008 12:03:37 +0000
From: Alan Pritchard <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Some help wanted on the decline of priesthoods
This is a bit of a ramble, but you are such a wide-ranging academic group &
it does slightly impinge on aspects of the topic
I was talking to my son the other day who is doing a PhD on the history of
the photographic industry in the UK, 1837-1914, and looking at a poster he
has done. His comments on Kodak & the rise of popular photography started me
thinking and talking about what I said was the 'democratisation of
technology' or what I am now thinking of as the 'decline of priesthoods'
Unfortunately he has now asked me for references. I wish I had kept my mouth
Examples seems to abound in all areas of society, the common feature being
the decline of a priesthood that controlled access to something and the rise
of direct access by individuals. Examples:
Protestantism with the move from the Catholic priesthood controlling access
to God to each individual with their bible having direct personal access to
Photography. At one time you had to go to a professional photographer and
have your photo taken. Kodak put the power of taking photos in the hands of
Computers. The rise of the PC in the the '80s onwards took (some) power away
away from the IT Department to controlled access to mainframes and the
programs that ran on them to individual departments who could run Lotus or
dBase and get the programs that would meet their own needs. I can remember
that there were discussions in the popular computer press of the time
debating just this issue. This is the area that I am most familiar with.
Wikipedia. Move away from the formal encyclopedias with very controlled
access to a more popular, democratic approach to encyclopedias.
One can also consider it as a move from the passive to the active - from
having things done to you or for you to doing them oneself. Having ones
photo taken to taking them oneself. Or, asking someone to write a program
for you to writing a spreadsheet or database oneself. Once this happens the
priesthood loses control of the temple and a 'thousand flowers bloom'
(Protestantism or uncoordinated computer program).
Now, either this idea is very obvious and there is lots of literature on it,
or else it is so original that *I* should be doing a PhD!!!
I'm more inclined to think the former, but I do not have access to a decent
library to try to find anything.
So the question is are there any books or papers on this topic treating it
in an eclectic fashion - drawing on examples from a wide range of social and
technological fields, bringing the idea together?
Did Tawney's book (*Religion and the rise of capitalism*) cover this aspect
at all. I read it around 1960 when I was at university, but don't remember
any thing from it.
Any leads would be appreciated, and thank you for your indulgence. I hope it
is not to much OT.
Alan Pritchard MPhil FCLIP MBCS
Tel: +44 (0)1202 417477