Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version



Hill, Michael R. 1990. “Bureaucracy, Institutional Change, and Deegan’s Theory of Core Codes and Liberating Rituals.” Paper presented to the Midwest Sociological Society, Chicago, Illinois, April 11-14.


Copyright 1990 Michael R. Hill


In American Ritual Dramas: Social Rules and Cultural Meanings (Greenwood Press, 1989), Mary Jo Deegan presents a theory of core codes and communitas that implicitly challenges the present organization of sociological practice in bureaucratic structures such as universities. The rituals of modern academic sociology are permeated by the same core codes that Deegan finds in many modern participatory and media-constructed rituals, specifically: the codes of oppression (class and sex codes) and the codes of repression (bureaucracy and time codes). Sociology remains little more than a rationalization for repressive and oppressive social control mechanisms unless it convincingly demonstrates and acts upon its own capacity for communitas and emancipatory change as an organized academic discipline. Empirically, this argument is grounded in a brief analysis of the shift from communitas to increasingly bureaucratized alienation and control at the University of Nebraska in the early 1900s. Deegan's analyses suggest that bureaucratic alienation is not inherently a necessary feature of modernity, but can be reversed through the cooperative invention of new rituals that celebrate rather than hegemonically exploit the anti-structural possibilities of ritual activities.