This is a major new account of the nature of religion and its changing role in modern societies, by one of the most original French sociologists writing on religion today.
In a stylish and accessible study, Hervieu-Leger addresses the problem of how to distinguish religion from other systems of meaning in modern Western society. The crucial point, she argues, is the chain of memory and tradition which makes the individual believer a member of the community.
From this point of view, religion is the ideological, symbolic and social device by which individual and collective awareness of belonging to a lineage of believers is created and controlled. Modern societies, Hervieu-Le:ger argues, are not more rational than past societies, but rather suffer from a kind of collective amnesia.
They are less and less capable of maintaining a living collective 'chain' of memory as a source of meaning.
However, as major religious traditions decline, a range of surrogate memories appears, which also permit the contraction of collective identities.
These 'small memories' are creating an upsurge of 'emotional communities' and the affirmation of ethno-religions within Europe and elsewhere. This book will be essential reading for students and scholars of theology, religious studies and sociology.