Ernest Becker 5: Build Me A Sacrificial Altar

As promised, more Becker. Every day, for the next month, more Becker.

Roger Albert - Always a Sociologist: Now Living With Myeloma

Ernest Becker 5: The Power of Ritual or Build Me A Sacrificial Altar

Becker was a master synthesizer.  He didn’t really do any empirical research himself.  His arguments are based on a careful distillation, combination, and re-combination of the work of many other writers, among them A. M. Hocart, Otto Rank, Johan Huizinga and Norman O. Brown.  In Chapter 1 of EFE, entitled The Primitive World:  Ritual as Practical Technics, Becker introduces the work of the anthropologist A. M. Hocart (1883-1939).  Hocart was a major influence on Becker and provided him with a number of basic insights upon which Becker built his elegant and provocative analysis of the thing that drives humankind to distraction…the striving for immortality.

Ritual.  As well as being creatures of habit, we are also creatures of ritual.  Human beings love ritual.  Our lives are frequently punctuated by ritual.  Becker writes:

Hocart…saw the universal human ambition as…

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