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Volume 20, 2004

World-System Analysis: Contemporary Research and Directions

Mathias Bös
Pages 143-164

Ethnicity and Religion
Structural and Cultural Aspects of Global Phenomena

Ethnicity and religion are European concepts used to describe social patterns in the world system. Historically, the Jewish and Greek traditions exemplify two models of the relation between religion and ethnicity. In sociological theory ethnicity and religion are two aspects in the multilayered systems of cultures in human society. Structurally most religions include many ethnic groups, but most ethnic groups have one majority religion. This relation often leads to the local misperception that identifies one ethnic group with one religion. Cultural and structural features of religion and ethnicity show four mechanisms, which account for the particularizing effects of the interaction between religion and ethnicity: religion and ethnicity as meaning structures mutually enhance each other; religion and ethnicity fit together structurally on many levels; religion and ethnicity are highly efficient “mobilizing mechanisms”; and religion and ethnicity can serve as symbolic expressions of inequality.