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Inner-Worldly Individualism and the Institutionalization of Puritanism in Late Seventeenth-Century New England

Adam Seligman
The British Journal of Sociology
Vol. 41, No. 4 (Dec., 1990), pp. 537-557
DOI: 10.2307/590667
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/590667
Page Count: 21
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Inner-Worldly Individualism and the Institutionalization of Puritanism in Late Seventeenth-Century New England
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Abstract

This paper argues that one important 'moment' in the development of the modern notion of the ethically autonomous individual was predicated on a particular set of historical circumstances connected with the transformation of Puritanism in the late seventeenth century. These included: a) the introjection within the individual of a particular dimension of grace, b) the development of a new set of individual and collective identities, c) the emergence of the above as a result of the particular problems of institutionalizing Puritan salvational doctrines within the orders of the world. Argument is made that these developments can only be properly appreciated when treated as a particular instance of the articular instance of the articulation and institutionalization of charisma in society. Analysis concentrates on seventeenth-century New England Congregational Puritanism as a paradigmatic case of the institutionalization of sectarian or ascetic-Puritanism. The problems of the early communities of 'visible saints' to construct a polity based on 'grace are analysed in terms of the particular contradictions inherent to Puritan ideas of grace as a charismatic model for social and political organization.

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