The Practice of Pluralism: How Ritual Strengthens Democratic Politics

In: International Journal of Public Theology
Joel Gillin Doctoral Researcher, University of Helsinki Finland

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This article argues that ritual can play a positive role in democratic politics in conditions of pluralism. It situates discussions of ritual and pluralism in the context of anthropological and social theory. It examines two insights scholars have made with regards to ritual that make it both compatible with and enabling of pluralism: ritual creates cohesion without agreement and a ‘subjunctive’ space for managing ambiguity. Finally, it develops an account of how these important social benefits of ritual are connected to a democratic pluralist politics, especially its formal, institutional dimensions. Drawing on the work of Luke Bretherton and Chantal Mouffe, it argues that ritual can strengthen the informal dimensions of citizenship and thus affective bonds toward the political community. The claim is also made that ritual constructs shared discourse by creating forms of life from which agreement can emerge in discursive political contexts.

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