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By Robert Wuthnow

Sociologist Robert Wuthnow examines the outstanding similarities within the social stipulations surrounding 3 of the best demanding situations to the established order within the improvement of recent society― the Protestant Reformation, the Enlightenment, and the increase of Marxist socialism.

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During these early decades the Reformation nevertheless became officially institutionalized in several large sectors of Europe and elicited firm resistance in others. Comparing these regions' economic conditions, class structures, and political systems provides a basis for examining the ways in which religious ideology gained articulation with its social surroundings. Examining the social conditions under which the Enlightenment became institutionalized yields an opportunity to consider what was similar and what had changed with respect to cultural innovation in the century and a half after the Reformation.

To the modern mind, trained to think of religion in terms of individual piety, sincerity of intentions, and private devotion, religion in this period consisted to a much greater degree of liturgy, officially organized and sanctioned by the church, which united the entire community in corporate participation. 4 In collective ritual, and in the symbols associated with these rituals, the church mirrored the social relations of agrarian society. It reminded peasants of their dependence on landlords and landlords of their elevated social status compared with peasants.

52 The character of parish organization also reflected differences in the social relations of agrarian life. France and Spain, with more numerous and smaller estates, were organized into parishes averaging I 5 to 25 square kilometers in size, while sections of eastern Europe Contexts and Perspectives with vast grain-growing estates had parishes ranging in size from 50 square kilometers in Poland to 350 square kilometers in Lithuania. 53 In England, where manorial holdings were farmed by tenants and where newly cleared lands were often under freehold, parish government tended to be relatively more democratic, as was also true in smallholding regions of northern Europe.

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