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Chapter 8 - John Chrysostom and the Strategic Use of Fear

from Part III - Knowledge, Power, and Symbolic Violence

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 September 2020

Kate Cooper
Affiliation:
Royal Holloway, University of London
Jamie Wood
Affiliation:
University of Lincoln
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Summary

The writings of John Chrysostom reveal a great interest in the emotion of fear and a deep appreciation for its utility in the service of ethical formation. He understood that through fear people could be restrained from doing wrong and goaded into doing right, and, to these ends, he favoured and promoted the telling of frightening stories. He also believed that a lively sense of fear could promote compassion for the misfortunes of others and strengthen group solidarity. But, above all, Chrysostom exploited the ‘deliberative aspect’ of fear: its ability to trigger reflection on the value of threatened goods and the proximity of apparent danger. By inciting fear, he called into question the value of material goods and drove home belief in the reality and immanence of the Last Judgement. Fear, in his writings, has thus not only a repressive, but also a creative – even imaginative – aspect.

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Social Control in Late Antiquity
The Violence of Small Worlds
, pp. 173 - 187
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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