RELIGIOUS DOCTRINE AS A FACTOR OF STABILITY OF POLITICAL SYSTEMS. A STUDY OF TWO NORTH AMERICAN THEOCRACIES
The article theorizes theocracy – political power based on religious legitimation – in terms of the theory of social exchange, as arising out of unequal access to and control over religious goods. It then identifies the factors of stability of a system as the actions the rulers must take to successfully counter various attempts by the ruled to neutralize unequal conditions of exchange in which the power relation is grounded. Two empirical examples are offered of the use of religious doctrines to protect the stability thus conceived. The idea of covenant was used by the authorities of 17thcentury Massachusetts to justify the persecution of dissenters as a means of maintaining the purity and unity of the community, and thereby the necessary condition of fulfilling the society’s contract with God. The doctrine of continues revelation, on the other hand, gave Mormon leadership throughout 19th century, and especially during the crisis over polygamy, the much needed flexibility to adapt to external pressure without compromising the legitimacy of their God-granted power and the stability of the system.
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