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  • Print publication year: 2004
  • Online publication date: June 2012

3 - Tradition and Modernity in East and Southeast Asia: Religion


in theprevious chapter, we examined the concept of tradition and compared it to the idea of modernity. I suggested that it was useful to think about tradition in relation to community, and in particular the notion that in a traditional society people had a much stronger bond of affinity to place and family than they do in modern society. Traditional societies were based on agriculture, and most people lived in villages with little contact with the outside world. There was little mobility, either geographically or socially. People lived and died in the village and class into which they had been born. Traditional societies therefore tended to be rather static, although not completely unchanging. Patterns of behaviour – rituals, customs, the habits of daily life – were passed on from one generation to the next, and things were done in a particular way for the simple reason that they had always been done that way. Behaviour became habitual. The lack of outside influences strengthened the force of habit that was a hallmark of traditional societies. Modernisation, industrialisation and urbanisation changed the structure and function of the family. In particular, the extended family and stem family gave way to the nuclear family; people gained greater choice in the selection of their marriage partner; families became smaller; and the role of women changed (although more so in some societies than others).

Guide to further reading
Bancroft, Anne. 1974. Religions of the East. New York: St. Martin's Press. Contains useful summaries of the major religions of East and Southeast Asia
Carey, Hilary M. 1996. Believing in Australia: A cultural history of religions. St Leonards: Allen & Unwin. An interesting and thoughtful analysis of religion and religious change in Australia
Hamilton, Malcolm B. 1998. Sociology and the World's Religions. New York: St. Martin's Press. Provides useful sociological perspectives on religion and religious change in the major religions
Mathews, Warren. 1995. World Religions. Minneapolis: West Publishing Company. A comparison of the doctrines of the world's major religions