Synopses & Reviews
Status and Sacredness provides a new theory of status and sacral relationships and a provocative reinterpretation of the Indian caste system and Hinduism. Milner shows how in India and many other social contexts status is a key resource, and that sacredness can be usefully understood as a special form of status. By analyzing the nature of this resource Milner is able to provide powerful explanations of the key features of the social structure, culture, and religion. He argues against the widely held view that the Indian caste system is best understood as a unique cultural development, demonstrating that many of the seemingly exotic features are variations on themes common to other societies. Milner's analysis is rooted in a new theoretical framework called "resource structuralism" that helps to clarify the nature and significance of power and symbolic capital. The book thus provides a bold new analysis of India, an innovative approach to the analysis of religion, and an important contribution to social theory.
"One of the very best books by a sociologist published in recent years. Profound and significant, both for scholars and educated lay people. A must read for all interested in the subject and its numerous implications."--Amitai Etzioni, author of The Spirit of Community
"A distinguished and superior piece of sociological analysis which is bound to elicit enthusiastic responses by readers in sociology but also in other social science domains as well as in schools of theology. I believe much of what he has to say is bound to influence scholars who will come after him."--Lewis A. Coser, SUNY Stony Brook and Boston College
"Milner's analysis of Indian society has the comprehensiveness and depth of a masterwork. The book bears favorable comparison with Louis Dumont's Homo Hierarchicus, the modern classic on this topic. It is likewise an important work of general theory, examining India as a crucial case where the principles of the status order may be seen in their most extreme form, and laying bare the nature of struggle over the appropriation of status resources."--Randall Collins, University of California, Riverside
"This elegant and imaginative construction of a general theory of status via a detailed study of the caste system displays sustained argumentation of a high order. It wouldn't be extravagant to compare it with Durkheim's theory of the religious life. The difference is that Milner takes the most complex, instead of the most elementary, case."--David Lockwood, University of Essex
"Probably destined to become a major work in the sociology of religion....Tightly reasoned and schematic, this book will likely interest a broad array of scholars concerned with the relation of religion to social inequality. Certainly it is the most ambitious new interpretation of caste to appear since the competing theories of Louis Dumont and McKim Marriott, which have dominated the scholarly discussion about Hindu society for the past twenty-five years. Recommended for all academic libraries."--Religious Studies Review
Analyzing a crucial case to convey a new theory is an honored tradition in social analysis. Marx analyzed England to explain the dynamics of capitalism, and Durkheim studied Australian aborigines to develop a theory of religion.In Status and Sacredness, Milner analyzes the Indian caste system and Hinduism to develop a general theory of status relationships. Moreover, he argues that sacredness and legitimacy are special forms of status and, hence, his theory also organizes much of what we know about political legitimation and religion -- as well as throwing new light on these subjects.
The analysis is built upon in a new theoretical framework, "resource structuralism," that clarifies the nature of power, the types of elites and nonelites, the significance of symbolic capital, and more generally the nature of social resources.
This book will be essential reading for those interested in South Asian studies, social stratification, religion, and general social theory.