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Title: Talcott Parsons's sociology of religion and the expressive Revolution: The problem of western individualism
Authors: Turner, B.S. 
Keywords: Expressive revolution
Romantic love
Issue Date: Nov-2005
Citation: Turner, B.S. (2005-11). Talcott Parsons's sociology of religion and the expressive Revolution: The problem of western individualism. Journal of Classical Sociology 5 (3) : 303-318. ScholarBank@NUS Repository.
Abstract: Immanuel Kant distinguished between religion as cult in which people seek favours from God through prayer and offerings to bring healing and wealth, and religion as moral action that commands human beings to change their lives. Kant further defined religion as a 'reflecting faith' or 'moralizing faith' that compels humans to strive for salvation through faith alone. The Kantian distinction was fundamental to Max Weber's view of the relationship between asceticism and capitalism. Talcott Parsons's early sociology of religion engaged with this theme in Kant and Weber, but in his later work Parsons came to a re-appraisal of Emile Durkheim. In the concept of the expressive revolution, Parsons followed Durkheim in studying individualism as a major transformation of society. There is, however, a contradiction between individualism as either the legacy of Protestant pietism or the product of modern consumerism. Parsons's sociology of religion remains distinctive because he did not subscribe to the secularization thesis, but instead saw American liberalism as the fulfilment of Protestant individualism. The paper concludes with a critical assessment of the differences between the values of the expressive revolution and the legacy of Kantian individualism. Romantic love in modern society is an aspect of the expressive revolution, but it is also a legacy of the emphasis on emotional conversion and attachment to the person of Jesus in pietism. The expressive revolution developed this legacy of emotional expressivity, but combined romantic love with a consumer ethic. Religiosity survives in the context of consumerism as an aspect of what Robert Bellah called the 'civil religion in America'. Copyright © 2005 SAGE Publications London.
Source Title: Journal of Classical Sociology
ISSN: 1468795X
DOI: 10.1177/1468795X05057868
Appears in Collections:Staff Publications

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