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Journal Article

Constructing Cultist "Mind Control"

Thomas Robbins
Sociological Analysis
Vol. 45, No. 3 (Autumn, 1984), pp. 241-256
Published by: Oxford University Press
DOI: 10.2307/3711480
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3711480
Page Count: 16
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Constructing Cultist "Mind Control"
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Abstract

Allegations against religious movements for using "mind control" to produce "forced conversions" are interpretive. Underlying such interpretations are a number of assumptions, definitions, epistemological rules and conventions of reasoning and rhetoric. These include: (1) The simultaneous employment of a critical external perspective to evaluate processes within religious movements and an empathic internal perspective to interpret social control processes impinging on religious movements (e.g., deprogramming); (2) An "epistemological manicheanism" which takes the accounts of hostile ex-converts at face value while nullifying the accounts of current devotees as manipulated false consciousness; (3) The employment of a broad and poorly bounded concept of "coercion"; (4) The assumption that it is coercive or reprehensibly deviant for messianic movements to "target" unhappy or otherwise "vulnerable" persons; and (5) Exaggeration of the extent and consequences of deceptive proselytization. Mirror opposite premises may operate in sophisticated defenses of stigmatized movements. The debate over mental coercion will necessarily be inconclusive because it is constituted in terms of arbitrary premises, definitions, interpretive frameworks and epistemological rules.

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