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Communes, Religion and Cooperation Sosis (2000) ; Sosis & Bressler (2003) Vikki Chiang & Jasmine Yip University of Washington.

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Presentation on theme: "Communes, Religion and Cooperation Sosis (2000) ; Sosis & Bressler (2003) Vikki Chiang & Jasmine Yip University of Washington."— Presentation transcript:

1 Communes, Religion and Cooperation Sosis (2000) ; Sosis & Bressler (2003) Vikki Chiang & Jasmine Yip University of Washington

2 Sosis (2000): Religion and Intragroup Cooperation: Preliminary Results of a Comparative Analysis of Utopian Communities Abstract: ●Testing whether religious beliefs acts as a way of communicating commitment and loyalty to in-group members and its role in the promotion of intra-group cooperation and overcoming of the “free-rider” problem

3 Introduction ●Dilemma in human social interactions: inability to guarantee a commitment to cooperate ●Large-scale cooperation difficult to achieve without social mechanisms in place ●The role of trust and advertisement of willingness to cooperate ●Religion as a “costly-to-fake” credible commitment signal

4 Hypothesis ●To evaluate if religion promotes intra-group cooperation o By comparing how religious and nonreligious groups solve collective action problems o Looking specifically at utopian communities  longevity

5 Methods ●Building upon Kanter’s work (1968,1972) ●Using Oved’s list of U.S. communes o Data set consisted of 200 of the original 277 communes  Concentrated the analysis on 19th century and early 20th century communes  All Hutterite Colonies eliminated from this analysis  Cases with insufficient information on whether a commune is ideologically secular or religious eliminated. ●“Socialist,” “Anarchist,” “Owenite, or “Fourierist” classified as non- religious or secular communes and communes coded as “Religious” or “Shaker” classified as religious communes ●Each commune’s year founded and year dissolved checked against Pitzer’s compilation

6 Results ● Significant difference of religious longevity over the secular longevity ● Religious communes better at solving problems of collective action?

7 Results ● Owenism o Socialist (non-religious) ● Foureierist o Transcendentalist ideals (non-religious) o From Charles Fourier ● Shakers o Christian (religious)

8 Results continued... ● Secular communes twice as likely to dissolve in first 5 years ● 4 times more likely to dissolve in first 2 years

9 Discussion ● Religious longevity > secular longevity ● Limitations o Assumption that communes dissolved as a result of inability to overcome collective-action problem of cooperative labor o Alternative hypotheses of religion promoting intra- group cooperation has not been eliminated (group selection)

10 Costly Rituals and Kibbutz ●Celibacy = super costly ●Kanter (1972) ●Secular groups and costly rituals? o Fraternities/armies o Initiation rites to increase commitment, but not sustaining lifetime commitment ●Israeli Kibbutz = second most successful o Predominantly secular

11 Sosis and Bressler (2003) : Cooperation and Commune Longevity: A Test of the Costly Signaling Theory of Religion Abstract: ● Testing rituals and taboos of religious vs secular communes and the effect on solving collective action problem

12 Introduction ●Function of religion: increase intra-group solidarity and cohesion ●Costly-to-fake commitment signals in religious behaviors (ie. Islamic ritual obligations) ●3,000 utopian experiments (especially in the 19th century and 60’s) ●Shared goals of survival and longevity are used as a measure of commune ability to overcome problems of collective action

13 Hypotheses 1) Communes imposing greater costly requirements on members will have higher survivorship than communes with less costly requirements 2) Communes imposing costlier requirements on members are less likely to dissolve as a result of inability to overcome collective action problems than communes with less costly requirements

14 Method ●Survey = 50 questions and 14 topics ●Undergraduate students collected data independtly o Reliability r = 0.81 ●N = 83 (30 religious and 53 secular) ●Data omission bias(F= 0.16, N = 83, p = 0.69) ●Available information bias (F = 0.39, N = 83, p = 0.53) ●Costly Signals

15 Costly Signal Requirements ●Costly requirements must exhibit: o behaviors required by a communed entailing time. energy or financial costs not directed towards accomplishing somatic or reproductive goals OR limits an individual’s ability to achieve these benefits from non group members o behaviors entailing somatic or reproductive benefits that are restricted by a commune or restrictions that limit an individual's ability to achieve these benefits from non group members ●Requirements/Constraints coding o Prohibited: not allowed under normal circumstances o Restricted: rules regulating free use of items o Not prohibit or restrict


17 Cause of Commune Dissolution ●Internal dispute (n = 48) and economic failure (n = 43) were cited more than twice as often as other causes ●Both causes interpreted as a measure of communal reluctance to cooperate and inability to overcome problems of collective action

18 Results ●Both religious and secular communes in this subsample survived slightly longer than in the data set used in the preliminary analyses (Sosis, 2000)

19 Results




23 Discussion ●Mixed support for the costly signaling theory of religion ●Costliness may be a necessary condition to promote group solidarity, but it is not a sufficient condition o Roy Rappaport: Ritual and Sanctity  Communicative abilities of secular and religious rituals  “Whereas the semantic content of the secular ritual is exhausted by the psychological, physiological, or social information transmitted in the ritual, this is not so in religious rituals. Religious rituals always include, in addition to messages of social import, implicit or explicit reference to some idea, doctrine, or supernatural entity.”

24 Discussion ●d’Aquili and Newberg (1999) o Not only are religious experiences perceived as true, they “appear to be ‘more real’ than baseline reality and are vividly described as such by experiencers after they return to baseline reality..So real do these experiencers appear when recalled in baseline reality that they have the ability to alter the way the experiencers live their lives.” ●The role of how communication within the ritual language occurs

25 Limitations ●It is assumed in this analysis that each constraint has an equal impact on increasing trust and commitment. o It is obvious that come constraints are costlier than others - but how to operationalize the differential costs of constraints? ●Did not take into consideration the impact of social structure and leadership style on commune longevity

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