Symbolism is seen in the ritual behaviour of religion.In religious studies ritual is being examined as a statement or a document of social organization or an expression of non rational imperatives in human action.
Looked from the symbolic inside out ritual can be seen as a symbolic intercom between the level of cultural thought and complex cultural meanings on the one hand and that of social action and immediate event on the other.
It commands a intrinsic values of real utilities matrixes in diffuse social contexts which it symbolically manipulates in transactions freed from the apatio-temporal determinants of these contexts.The medium is thus generalized in its capacity to convert any utility within a relevant domain or category of value that circulates between actors at a new symbolic level of social interaction.
The basis for a social theory of symbolic action was laid by N D Fustel De Coulanges in his study La Cite Antique which appeared in 1864.For him,certain rituals of ancient Greece and Rome functioned and sustained corporate identity of social groups.
We can see in his approach ,the recognition basic to any social theory of symbolism that certain material forms and modes of organizing physical space carry messages relating to the organization of social space;regulation of behaviour in the concrete sphere of social action can express and regulate relationships in the sphere of social structure.
Since social groups are constituted by conformity to cultural rules embodied in symbolic action rather than by natural association or natural affection the grounds of social order must be continuously recreated through common ritual activities.Social bonds and the structure of social units have to be perpetually reinstated in individual experience within a social process that symbolizes these bonds.
Fustel states that these old customs give us an idea of the closeness which united the members of the city.Human association was a religion;its symbols was a meal..Neither interest nor agreement nor habit creates the social bond;it is the holy communion.The ritual maintenance of social bonds requires a particular mode of individual orientation toward society one where the individual conscience is lodged within external social forms that govern it compelling it from without almost like a material bond.
In his view these traditional human societies developed a mode of social control involving the projection of the individual conscience into external symbolic forms that in turn functioned to express sociopolitical relationship.
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