Social Myths and Collective Imaginaries

By Gérard Bouchard
Translated by Howard Scott

© 2017

Myths are commonly associated with illusions or with deceptive, dangerous discourse, and are often perceived as largely the domain of premodern societies. But even in our post-industrial, technologically driven world, myths – Western or Eastern, ancient or modern, religious or scientific – are in fact powerful, pervasive forces.

In Social Myths and Collective Imaginaries, Gérard Bouchard conceptualizes myths as vessels of sacred values that transcend the division between primitive and modern. Myths represent key elements of collective imaginaries, past and present. In all societies there are values and beliefs that hold sway over most of the population. Whether they come from religion, political institutions, or other sources, they enjoy exalted status and go largely unchallenged. These myths have the power to bring societies together as well as pull them apart. Yet the study of myth has been largely neglected by sociologists and other social scientists. Bouchard navigates this uncharted territory by addressing a number of fundamental questions: What is the place of myth in contemporary societies and in the relations between the cultural and the social? How do myths take form? From what do they draw their strength? How do they respond to shifting contexts?

Myths matter, Bouchard argues, because of the energy they unleash, energy that enables a population to mobilize and rally around collective goals. At the same time myths work to alleviate collective anxiety and to meet the most pressing challenges facing a society. In this bold analysis, Bouchard challenges common assumptions and awakens us to the transcendent power of myth in our daily lives and in our shared aspirations.

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  • Page Count: 176 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 0.5in x 9.0in
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Quick Overview

In Social Myths and Collective Imaginaries, Gérard Bouchard conceptualizes myths as vessels of sacred values that transcend the division between primitive and modern. These vessels become so influential as to make an indelible impression on people’s minds.

Social Myths and Collective Imaginaries

By Gérard Bouchard
Translated by Howard Scott

© 2017

Myths are commonly associated with illusions or with deceptive, dangerous discourse, and are often perceived as largely the domain of premodern societies. But even in our post-industrial, technologically driven world, myths – Western or Eastern, ancient or modern, religious or scientific – are in fact powerful, pervasive forces.

In Social Myths and Collective Imaginaries, Gérard Bouchard conceptualizes myths as vessels of sacred values that transcend the division between primitive and modern. Myths represent key elements of collective imaginaries, past and present. In all societies there are values and beliefs that hold sway over most of the population. Whether they come from religion, political institutions, or other sources, they enjoy exalted status and go largely unchallenged. These myths have the power to bring societies together as well as pull them apart. Yet the study of myth has been largely neglected by sociologists and other social scientists. Bouchard navigates this uncharted territory by addressing a number of fundamental questions: What is the place of myth in contemporary societies and in the relations between the cultural and the social? How do myths take form? From what do they draw their strength? How do they respond to shifting contexts?

Myths matter, Bouchard argues, because of the energy they unleash, energy that enables a population to mobilize and rally around collective goals. At the same time myths work to alleviate collective anxiety and to meet the most pressing challenges facing a society. In this bold analysis, Bouchard challenges common assumptions and awakens us to the transcendent power of myth in our daily lives and in our shared aspirations.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 176 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 0.5in x 9.0in
  • Reviews

    "…Social Myths is an intriguing and potentially valuable analysis of cultural development."


    Scott Duchesne
    Canadian Literature 236 2018

    "By the early 1990s, Gérard Bouchard had become one of the few prolific authors who always deserved close reading. The wonderful translation of his latest book will further increase his reputation for rigorous thinking, wide-ranging reading, and engaging writing."


    Chad Gaffield, University of Ottawa
    The Canadian Historical Review, vol 99 4, December 2018

    "Social Myths and Collective Imaginaries is a brilliant work, written with great clarity and purpose. Gérard Bouchard displays clear mastery over the role and place of myth in modern society. Drawing upon philosophy, social science, and popular culture, Social Myths and Collective Imaginaries should become a staple in cultural sociology courses."


    Ronald Eyerman, Department of Sociology, Yale University

    "In Social Myths and Collective Imaginaries Gérard Bouchard successfully develops a very thoughtful and very ambitious framework for analyzing the role of cultural myths in social life. Bouchard’s scholarship is sound and reflects his vast knowledge of sociological studies by both English and French scholars."


    Scott Schaffer, Department of Sociology, Western University
  • Author Information

    Gérard Bouchard is a professor in the Department of Human Sciences at the Université du Québec Á Chicoutimi. He is a past winner of the Governor General’s Award as well as the John A. Macdonald Prize.


    Howard Scott and Phyllis Aronoff won the 2018 Governor General’s Literary Award for their translation of Descent into Night by Edem Awumey.
  • Table of contents

    Introduction

    Chapter 1 - Myths and Collective Imaginaries

    Chapter 2 - What is a social myth?

    Chapter 3 - The Mythification Process

    Chapter 4 - The Conditions for the Effectiveness of Myth

    Chapter 5 - Social Myths: A Pyramidal Structure

    General Conclusion

    Bibliography

    Notes

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