Imagined Communities and Psychological Formation

Currently reading Imagined Communities by Benedict Anderson. Five chapters in. Phenomenally insightful book. Anderson’s analysis is both scholarly and creative. He possesses a profound sense of history, and is able to weave and synthesize complex ideas and patterns almost effortlessly. It’s a genuinely exciting read. One that wants to keep you reading.

Have you read the book The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion by Peter Berger?

I couldn’t help but feel the same when I read that book. Like a veil has been lifted. There are some books that seem to describe phenomena so intuitively that they seem to reveal profound insights about the world, insights which you possess but never had the tools to express.

Because religion plays such a central role in Arnold’s analysis, I’d recommend reading Berger, if you haven’t already.

I’ve read some of Durkiem and Weber. But for some reason the ideas and concepts of their work resonated more than the narratives that they wrote. Same for Marx and Bourdieu. Perhaps too technical or dry. Or perhaps I just need to work on my reading stamina.

But there are a few sociologists who’s writing immediately resonates: Peter Berger, Thomas Luckmann, Thorstein Veblen and Georg Simmel.

I don’t have a background in sociology, so I feel like I don’t have the holistic framework for evaluating the merits of a works contribution to the subject.

When I read Anderson’s book, I feel like it’s nested within a theme of ideas.

Wittgenstein seems to provide the most meta description of community development, through his pragmatic analysis of linguistics.

Berger and Luckmanns book The Social Construction of Reality seems to take this analysis and apply it to the sociological world, and illustrate how the process of linguistic cooperation creates shares realities, ie mutual cosmologies.

Berger’s book The Sacred Canopy applies this analysis to Religion, or at least uses religion as the archetype for prototypical community formation.

Mercea Eliade’s book The Sacred and The Profane provides anthropological insights into the limits or boundaries of religious experience, which I feel illuminates the mechanism for religion’s world building effects.

And now, Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities is giving a framework for secular community or institutional development, cosmological implications. It’s really enlightening. Especially his analysis of religion/divinity and state, and the mechanisms of divergence of the two, which gave rise to a notion of nationalism for the first time, a cosmological identity which is secular.

I’m still reading, and there’s a lot I find myself going back to, but it’s just a fascinating historical journey…

Individual identity. Communities. National identity.

I also can’t help but think of Mark Granovetter’s work on “The strength of weak ties” and embeddedness, which coincides with Georg Simmel’s ideas on social geometry.

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