Priesthood of Believers

Priesthood of Believers July 17, 2006

At various points in Discipline and Punish , Foucault notes how monastic discipline provided a model for early modern society forms. Factories were compared to monasteries not only in their organization but also in the spiritual dimension of factory management. Time-tables and rigorous time-keeping, as David Landes and others have pointed out, originated in monastic communities in order to keep track of liturgical hours. And this effort to “establish rhythms, impose particular occupations, regulate the cycle of repetition” (Foucault) was applied to schools, hospitals, workshops, and other modern institutions.

Here’s a question to investigate: Between the formation of disciplined monastic life and the modern institutions more or less modeled on theme, a Reformation intervened, which insisted on the priesthood of all believers and broke down the religion-secular distinction that existed among the medieval clergy. The question is: To what extent was the “secularization” of monastic disciplinary practices an effect of the Reformation? Or, to put it differently, can we integrate Foucault and Weber?


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