Monday, September 5, 2011

Why the Sociology Theory of Religion helps give an Insight to Politics

After reading Chapter 1 of Peter Berger's The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion, I was pretty impressed. As a political science major and working towards a security studies certificate, I haven't been exposed to much sociological theory. However Berger's piece made complete sense in my mind, and it served to do more than just tell me about the creation of society.

Society gives mankind three things; externalization, objectivation, and internalization. I am not going to go over them since we talked about them in class today, but they do provide a common basis on which to start the analysis of how someone formulates their views, and consequently, lives their lives by them. I took these three pillars as being the key to understanding the lens the individual uses to make religion their own. The personalization of religion, morals, and truths; the cornerstone to understanding why a person does a specific thing. Pretty powerful if you're looking for reasons of a decision...or trying to manipulate them.

I also took these three pillars as the process of the transfer of ideas. Essentially how ideas are developed and transmitted to another person. Each generation has a different way of transferring ideas, but it all goes through these three processes. It almost reminds me of the movie "Inception".

These three processes are relevant for politics. If one is analyzing leaders of certain states, non-state actors, or movements, learning their truths - how they perceive the world to be - is an immensely important factor. There is an age old saying of "put yourself in their shoes." That's entirely true. However, you also have to walk around in those shoes. To understand the decision-making process of certain people, you need to understand their truths and how they were brought up. You need to understand how they underwent the transfer of ideas. Why are they acting like this? Why do they support something different than I do? How can I understand their point of view in order to have a sustained dialogue?

One can try to look into a person's upbringing, but sometimes its just not possible. The broader picture that I am trying to pitch is that, in politics, leaders are guided by using their worldview in a specific context. This is the constructivist concept of international relations, in a sense. But what this process shows is the root of ideas. If one can successfully understand the other side, they could potentially communicate more efficiently to advance policy goals...or solve religious conflicts.

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