Ritual as the Creation of Social Reality

  • Ana S. IltisEmail author
Part of the Philosophical Studies in Contemporary Culture book series (PSCC, volume 21)


Societies are marked by rituals, performative acts that are explicit and implicit, formal and informal. This chapter argues that rituals create and mark social reality in four principal ways. First, by creating a social reality, rituals establish or reinforce expectations, relationships, and roles; they create a web of social bonds. Second, by inviting participation in a social reality, rituals maintain social stability and harmony; they create sustaining social structures. Third, rituals by placing individuals within a social reality enable individuals to understand themselves as part of specific groups invested in particular activities, commitments, and traditions; rituals by creating social reality allow individuals to understand their position within the social geography of the world. Fourth, rituals by placing humans within a social reality disclose the significance and meaning of time, including the passages of human life, from reproduction, birth, marriage, and suffering to death. Rituals declare social boundaries.


Ritual Performative Acts Social Reality Death 


  1. Appelbaum, P. S., L. H. Roth, and C. W. Lidz. (1982) ‘The Therapeutic Misconception: Informed Consent in Psychiatric Research,’ International Journal of Law and Psychiatry 5, 319–329.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bell, Catherine. (1997) Ritual: Perspectives and Dimensions. New York, NY: Oxford.Google Scholar
  3. Bell, Catherine. (1992) Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice. New York, NY: Oxford.Google Scholar
  4. Dresser, Rebecca. (2002) ‘The Ubiquity and Utility of the Therapeutic Misconception,’ Social Philosophy and Policy 19(2), 271–294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Fan, Ruiping. (2012) Confucian Ritualization: How and Why? in D. Solomon et al (eds.), Ritual and the Moral Life. Philadelphia: Springer, pp. 143–158.Google Scholar
  6. Klapp, Orrin E. (1965) Ritual and Cult: A Sociological Interpretation. Washington, DC: Public Affairs Press.Google Scholar
  7. Poders, James. (2000) ‘The Meaning of Ritual,’ American Bar Association Journal 86(9), 103.Google Scholar
  8. Rappaport, Roy A. (1999) Ritual and Religion in the Making of Humanity. New York, NY: Cambridge.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy and Center for BioethicsHealth and Society, Wake Forest UniversityWinston-SalemUSA

Personalised recommendations