Robert Alexander Nisbet was born on September 30, 1913 in Los Angeles, the oldest of three boys born to Henry. His association with Berkeley proved both long and fruitful. He completed his Bachelor’s degree in 1936, and his Ph.D in 1939. Upon obtaining his Ph.D., he accepted an instructor’s position at Berkeley, subsequently rising through the ranks to full professor there in 1953.
Nisbet served in World War II, enlisting in the army in 1943 and serving in the pacific eventually achieving the rank of staff sergeant. In 1953, he left Berkeley to become the founding deans of the college of letters and Science at the new Riverside campus of the University of California, later becoming vice chancellor there in 1960. In 1963, he left academic administration, believing that “administrative work, sufficiently prolonged, has a sterilizing effect upon the creative or the scholarly mind”. After 30 years, Nisbet retired from the University of California in 1972, first accepting a position at the University of Arizona, and then moving on to the Albert Schweitzer Chair at Columbia University in 1974 working with Robert K. Merton. While at Columbia, Nisbet taught both history and sociology. At the age of 65 he retired from university teaching. Moving to Washington in 1978, he became affiliated with the American Enterprise Institute until 1986. Even after full retirement from university and think tank, bisb et continued to write until his death from prostate cancer on September 9, 1996, just 21 days shy of his eighty-third birthday. His scholarship included over twenty books and more than 150 articles, book chapters, and review essays. More than a serious academic, Nesbet was a public intellectual, writing for a broad general audience. Robert A. Nisbet is primarily a follower of Emile Durkheim. This influence can be seen in his basic understanding of modern sociocultural systems Interdependent.
The major work of Durkheim
Robert mentions here in this book that men are like an animal if there is not fellowship, mean society. The societies make differences of mankind from animal. “The society has carried man’s individual psychic faculties “to a degree of energy and productive capacity immeasurably greater than any they could achieve if they remained isolated one from the other…richer by far and more varied than one played out in the single individual alone.”(72) He stated that society has stimulated us to grow Comparing teamwork versus doing it alone. Team work have much more valuable than individual, we can see it In Matthew four men carried a person to Jesus on a mat. If it is for one person then he could do it “A man is far freer in the midst of a throng than in a small coterie.” (72)
His use of religion and the category of the sacred to explain not merely the binding character of the social bond, not merely the origins of human thought and culture, but he very constitution of the human mind, must surely rank as one of the boldest and most brilliant contributions of modern society. “The concept of the sacred is one of the constitutive elements of Durkheim;s analysis of social behavior.”(74) he said, “the sacred elements of social life are what make up religion.”
Durkheim attributed Weber’s view of religion, he saw religion as an area of motivation for change in the development of society. Both of them view that religion as a major and indispensable area of sociological research. (74) Religious is the basic ground for changing the society. Religious life is still the center of the heart of human being in our social context. Which depend on its social context. So as our social context have been changing our religious perspective have changed. Religions is the root.
“Turning to Emile Durkheim, Nisbet describes the strong concern of still another major figure in sociology with the influence and the possibilities of community. In Durkheim, the community is prior to the individual in that it is the communal that shapes the individual’s reason. Thus the community inevitably has a powerful influence, and truly an unbreakable hold, on the individual. This influence is most convincingly demonstrated by Durkheim in his famous study of suicide. Periods of social decay and atomization bring on increased suicides, according to Durkheim. The chief forms of suicide encouraged by communal disintegration Durkheim calls “egoistic suicide” and “anomic suicide.” The first form is associated with the decline of communal life to the point that it no longer gives the individual ego sufficient support. Closely related to egoistic suicide in its connection with social disintegration is “anomic suicide” which is “caused by the sudden dislocation of normative systems, the breakdown of values by which one may have lived for a lifetime, or the conflict between ends desired and abilities to achieve them.” He stated there are two forms of suicide.. Egoistic which is when someone ego is damaged they tend to kill themselves. Anomic suicide is when someone e loses they support system like sponsor and family they resort to killing themselves.(69) His very is more practical, So he believes the community is the first form of socialization which is the root to one’s behavior, Its more function based Practical reasoning. It is more on how the community shapes one perspective. He believe that Religious is not primary or absolute force, but society is. If one is living in India then he automatically becomes Hindu, in china then he becomes Buddhist. So religious do not form us, it is our community. If our communities say it is good then we say it is good. We believe or we practice what our society has been practicing.
He talked about ancient people that their religious found all the principle catteries of though.(Cause, force, mass , space, and time.) we categories things through our experience.(good or bad, dangerous or secure) For instant , we experience the time like past, present and future through our experience we know. Precisely the same process with the conception of cause, for instant the cause of things like big bang theory. That big bang causes the world. There are impersonal things. All of that cause is equally true of those force, mass, infinite, these conceptions which give structure to human sense data.
Two forms of communal life
Another important classification of Durkheim’s, showing again his concern for viable forms of communal life, is his two types of social solidarity: the mechanical and the organic. The mechanical kind of solidarity is the kind that is practically unavoidable for the individual living in a society in which it is prevalent. It is tribal in its influence over the person. Organic solidarity, however, has room for individual innovation and a diversity of ways of life; it is a loose confederation of persons united by some values in common. Yet, Nisbet observes, Durkheim believed that the second form of solidarity had to be firmly rooted in the first; that is, the organic must be growing out of the mechanical without ever separating from it completely. If separation occurs, anomie sets in.
The Disagreement of Durkheim on Kant and Hume
He rejects both views. For kant, he argued that additive, individual experience alone would never be sufficient to create in a mind the requisite authority over thought that each of these ideas has. But he would agree with Hume, apriority is not so much an explanation as an evasion. For Durkheim, religion is not a primary or absolute force, society alone has the metaphysical attributes of absoluteness and omnipotence in explanations of man’s conduct and thought. He concluded that religious representations are collective representation, and that what makes religion binding in man’s life is not religion as idea but religion is basically the authority of society, but it is given an intensity that no to her aspect of social life reveals. Religion is society, but it is a focus of those aspects of society which are endowed with sacredness. (77)
There are five great theorist of sociology of religions that Robert Nisbet mention in this book. He clearly explain about sacred within religious analysis. Religious life actually depends on social context. Robert Nisbet starts his exploration toward five great theorists of sociology of religion. He explores the concept of sacred by investigating the change of religious perspectives into superstitious domain as result of Enlightenment and rationalization of all human’s life sphere. Then the process created such segregation between sacred and secular (profane) in religious discourse. It also moved conversely by reaction to secularism of Enlightenment and scientific revolution with four fundamental perspectives ( 79)
The distinction between sacred and profane is a point of departure of the emergence of religious analytical perspectives. Nisbet then scrutinizes religious perspectives evolved by Tocqueville, Fustel de Coulanges, Durkheim, Weber, and Simmel. His critical elaboration of their thoughts in general delivers to us a variety of religious perspectives sociologically. Religious discourse gets a different emphasis but it generates a consciousness that religious life and social dynamic have very closely link. Sacred and secular is what we call a dichotomy. “He concluded the notion of right of property comes from the sacredness originally diffused in things and fixed by ritual. He rejects the view that religion is defined by belief in gods or transcendent spirits. He stated that the essence of religion is the community of believers, the indispensable feeling of collective oneness in worship and faith.(83)
Tocqueville, for instance, understood religion as the ultimate source of man’s conceptions of physical and social reality. Religion has an integrative function that enables individuals to internalize external diversity into intellectual order. Fustel stated religion is an example of the intimate relation which always exists between men’s ideas and their social state. (83) He showed further on his analysis of ancient family as religious rather than a natural association.
Negative and Positive of Cult
Every cult presents a double aspect: Negative and Positive. Like Tocqueville, Durkheim used the sacred to explain the solid nature of society. For Durkheim, the sacred and the social are inseparable. They are distinguishable but not separable. Durkheim regarded that the cult is fundamental due to it is not simply a system of signs by which the faith is outwardly translated; but it is a collection of the means by which this is created and recreated periodically. The idea of sacred becomes the basis of Durkheim’s interpretation of the character of religion.(82)
He differentiated religious and magic. Religious are always common to a determined group, which makes profession of adhering to them. They are not merely received individually by all the members of the group: they are something belonging to the group, they make its unit. Magic can be diffused throughout considerable sections of the populations, and among some peoples it has as many adherents as religion. (83) Nisbet mentioned that Durkeim’s views of magic is not to be “judge rightness or wrongness”, his emphasis on the collective, communal character of religion.
Nisbet shape, conclusion of Durkheim, “our entire study rests on the postulate that the unanimous sentiment of the berlievers of all times cannot be purely illusory”. The sociology of religion must begin with religion as it is practiced, as it is experienced.
He makes plain that the social and the religious are closely linked; that religious behavior does not exclusively depend on religious contents, but that it is a generally human form of behavior which is realized under the stimulus not only of transcendental objects but also of other motivations (deriving from community, authority and status). Nisbet’s scrutiny on those five theorists explicitly demonstrates that analytical perspectives to religious phenomenon shifted significantly from mental sphere to social sphere. It does not means that mental sphere not important but rather he attempts to position religious phenomenon within a wider social analytical framework. Religious studies, therefore, evolves beyond theological hermeneutic into the social context in which religions or religious human being develops their comprehensive understanding about religions contextually.  Our community shape how the way we see God in our life. As Dukheim conclude sociology of religion must begin with religion as it is practiced, as it is experienced. Even in theologian they could wrong because it is all about creed and dogma. So he said religion is community (cult), or it is nothing. In that community we impress each other and we make better place and better person. Every religion (cult) represent double aspect Negative and positive. Both are important which flow in the community. Negative cult is to free man from contamination. For instant, in a full glass of water, we pour out an ink than all of it has changed it to dirt. Negative cult is pulling out someone from that glass like self-denial (separate themselves), self-abasement (through this they move forward profane to sacred). But in positive cult is important to the gods as to man themselves. Gods needs man to worship him and man also need god to worship. Gor Durkheim society need religion to construct as a whole. The effect of religious ceremonies is to put one in to action. He presents there are two essential rites, Sacrifice and imitation.
Spiritual deliverance and spiritual abasement is necessary for religion and to society, the senses of sin is the only force that can cause the mobilization of moral values. There is functional interplay in between Religious and society.
- How does those symbol and ritual help us to see God?
- How do you think of Durkhim’s view on these “the sacred elements of social life are what make up religion”.