This Article offers a theory of ritual as social control. It argues that an important function of rituals is to align personal identities with social roles. The celebratory aspect of rituals reflects the sense of felicity that accompanies the successful alignment of identity and role. Violence in ritual reflects the fact that the alignment of identity and role is compulsory and often imposes significant costs on personal autonomy. Within the framework of this theory, rituals can be classed into three general types: rituals of reformation (e.g., marriage, initiation, and installation) help align identity and role; rituals of renewal (e.g., religious services, patriotic ceremonies, and sacrifice) act as "booster shots" to maintain the alignment; and rituals of reformation (e.g., purification, confession, and cure) act to restore the connection once it has broken down. This Article analyzes rituals within a broader framework of social control including laws and norms. It conjectures that societies will tend, in general, to make efficient investments in each of these approaches. Societies that expend the most resources on ritual are likely to be small, homogenous, and tight knit; insulated from technological change; or politically undeveloped.

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