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The Rationalization of Miracles


  • Date Published: March 2014
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107663053

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About the Authors
  • During the Counter-Reformation in southern Europe, Catholic Church officials developed rules to legitimize miracles performed by candidates to sainthood. The Rationalization of Miracles uncovers a tacit understanding between central religious officials and local religious activists. Each group had a vested interest in declaring miracles: Catholic Church leaders sought legitimacy in the wake of the crisis of faith created by the Protestant Schism and religious acolytes needed Church approval to secure a flow of resources to their movements. The Church's new procedure of deeming miracles 'true' when there were witnesses of different statuses and the acts occurred in the presence of a candidate's acolyte served the needs of both parties. And by developing rules and procedures for evaluating miracles, the Church rationalized the magic at the root of the miracles, thereby propelling the institution out of a period of institutional, political and social uncertainty and forming the basis of modern sainthood.

    • Provides unique data extracted from the Vatican archives
    • Includes a novel theoretical argument that sees the interaction between an organization and a social movement as a commitment instead of a conflict
    • Uses tools of network analysis to analyze historical evidence
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Parigi has done something wonderful by combining quantitative sociology with a touch of Calvino. It is both enlightening and a fabulous read.' Emily Erikson, Yale University

    'The Rationalization of Miracles is one of the most innovative works in recent years. Combining detailed archival investigations with new formal techniques, Parigi manages to re-create the social processes whereby groups of persons mobilized behind the candidacy of potential saints, shedding new light on a topic that has been studied for centuries. It will be required reading not only for the history of religion, but for students of social movements and, indeed, of the relation between culture and social networks.' John Levi Martin, University of Chicago

    'This book offers a fascinating interpretation of how and why the Catholic Church invented rules to govern the process of evaluating miracles during the Counter-Reformation. Emphasizing the largely secular challenges the Church faced in the wake of the Protestant reformation, Parigi makes the case that the Church hierarchy and local clerics joined forces to reward miracles that cross-cut social categories, thereby solidifying the organizational structure of the recently weakened Church. More organizational theory than religious history, the captivating details of early modern miracles are nevertheless the key to making this book of interest to a wide range of readers.' Katherine Stovel, University of Washington

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    Product details

    • Date Published: March 2014
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107663053
    • length: 214 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 11 mm
    • weight: 0.29kg
    • contains: 15 b/w illus. 9 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. The congregatio sacrorum rituum
    2. The living saint
    3. The acolytes
    4. The devil's advocate and the doctor
    5. Manufacturing true miracles.

  • Author

    Paolo Parigi, Stanford University, California
    Paolo Parigi is Assistant Professor in the Sociology Department at Stanford University. He received his PhD from Columbia University in 2008.

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