Bringing anthropology in to the realm of religion, Douglas enters into the ongoing debate in religious circles surrounding meaning and ritual. The book not only provides a clear explanation to four distinct attitudes to religion, but also defends hierarchical forms of religious organization and attempts to retain a balanced judgement between fundamentalism and established religion. Douglas has since extensively refined the grid/group theory and has applied it to consumer behaviour, labour movements and political parties.
Douglas and Ney state that Economic Man, from its semitechnical niche in eighteenth-century economic theory, has taken over the realms of psychology, consumption, public assistance, political science, and philosophy. They say that by distorting the statistical data presented for policy analysis, the ideas of the solipsist self and objectivity indeed often protect a political bias. The authors propose to correct this by revising the current model of the person. Taking cultural bias into account and giving full play to political dissent, they restore the "persons" who have been missing from the social science debates.
Drawing from anthropology, economics, political science, and sociology, the authors set forth a fundamental critique of the social sciences. Their book will find a wide audience among social scientists and will also interest anyone engaged in current discussions of poverty.
This book is a copublication with the Russell Sage Foundation.
Natural Symbols is a book about religion and it concerns our own society at least as much as any other. It has stimulated new insights into religious and political movements and has provoked re-appraisals of current progressive orthodoxies in many fields. As a classic, it represents a work of anthropology in its widest sense, exploring themes such as the social meaning of natural symbols and the image of the body in society which are now very much in vogue in anthropology, sociology and cultural studies.
In this reissue and with a new Introduction, Natural Symbols will continue to appeal to all students of anthropology, sociology and religion.
Contributors include: Mary Douglas, Norman Cohn, Peter Brown, Keith Thomas, Alan Macfarlane, Alison Redmayne, R.G. Willis, Edwin Ardener, Robert Brain, Julian Pitt-Rivers, Esther Goody, Peter Rivière, Anthony Forge, Godfrey Lienhardt, I.M. Lewis, Brian Spooner, G.I. Jones, Malcolm Ruel and T.O. Beidelman.
First published in 1970.
Prompted by public outcries and by the confusion and uncertainty surrounding risk management policy, social scientists have begun to address themselves to the issue of risk perception. But as anthropologist Mary Douglas points out, they have been singularly reluctant to examine the cultural bases of risk perception, preferring to concentrate on the individual perceiver making individual choices. This approach leaves unexamined a number of crucial social factors—our concepts of what is “natural” or “artificial,” for example; our beliefs about fairness, and our moral judgements about the kind of society in which we want to live.
This provocative and path-breaking report seeks to open a sociological approach to risk perception that has so far been systematically neglected. Describing first some exceptions to the general neglect of culture, Douglas builds on these clues and on her own broad anthropological perspective to make a compelling case for focusing on social factors in risk perception. She offers a challenge and a promising new agenda to all who study perceptions of risk and, by extension, to those who study human cognition and choice as well.
"An altogether brilliant piece of writing—far-reaching and a joy to read." —Amartya Sen, Oxford University
A Volume in the Russell Sage Foundation's Social Science Frontiers Series
This volume is part of a 2001 reissue of a selection of those important works which have since gone out of print, or are difficult to locate. Published by Routledge, 112 volumes in total are being brought together under the name The International Behavioural and Social Sciences Library: Classics from the Tavistock Press.
Reproduced here in facsimile, this volume was originally published in 1969 and is available individually. The collection is also available in a number of themed mini-sets of between 5 and 13 volumes, or as a complete collection.
In this collection of recent essays, Mary Douglas develops a programme for studying risk and blame that follows from ideas originally proposed in Purity and Danger. She suggests how political and cultural bias can be incorporated into the study of risk perception and in the discussion of responsibility in public policy.