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Émile Durkheim, in his classic The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, theorized that a collective effervescence resulted from groups of people participating in a common action and potentially created a sense of group unity. The idea that distinctive forms of social action—ritual—create social cohesion and motivation for future social activity has been of interest to psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, political scientists, and historians alike. From a presidential campaign to a papal visit, from a carnival to a military parade, from a trial to a public beheading, from a war commemoration to the opening of an Olympic games, those holding on to power and those resisting power use standardized forms of meaningful social action which crucially can also engage emotion. Rituals matter.

Defining what we mean by ritual ...

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