Social Myths and Collective Imaginaries.

Author:Davis, Cindy L.
Position:Book review
 
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Bouchard, Gerard. Social Myths and Collective Imaginaries. University of Toronto Press, 2017. 176 pages. Paperback, $24.95.

Gerard Bouchard's Social Myths and Collective Imaginaries is a timely work for readers hoping to examine the contentious socio-cultural political environment of the twenty-first century. The interdisciplinary nature of the text is displayed in how it could be used to study topics in and across multiple disciplines. Bouchard takes a sociological perspective and analytical approach to the examination of myths in the collective imaginary (premodern and modern) to create a model to examine myths theoretically and empirically. The collective imaginary connects with the mental psyche and consists of the symbols and representations of society. Bouchard's focus is on how myths develop and become sacralized--how they become part of the subconscious of culture and society.

Bouchard explains that myth is a collective representation that is made up of six features which include an archetypal foundation; hybridity, where the myth can shift between dichotomies; driven by emotion, sacredness, instrumentality, and narrativity. "In light of these statements, the beginnings of a definition emerge: rooted in the psyche, strategically produced and used, social myth is a collective representation that is hybrid, beneficial, or harmful, imbued with the sacred, governed by emotion more than by reason, and a vehicle of meanings, values, and ideals shaped in a given social and historical environment" (p. 25). For Bouchard, sacredness is the most definitive of the foundations and is what distinguishes myth from other representations.

Bouchard provides a loose typology of myth with categories that are based on how the myths are constructed rather than on their substantive content or their uses and include the following: religious, philosophical, allegorical, and scientific. Bouchard differentiates myth from ideology by explaining that myths are engines of ideology, in that the underlying myth is the basis for an ideology's ability to mobilize people, where ideology is connected to reason and myth is connected to emotion and symbols. Bouchard then differentiates myth from other concepts such as stereotypes, cliches, evolutionary vision, and rituals.

Myth is produced by social actor(s), and it takes time for myths to go through and influence society. Bouchard provides an overview of the definitions of myth found in scholarship which provides the...

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