This is the first (hopefully many more will come in) book review that I have received (8/96). I have not read this book although I've read several essays that Mauss has written.
I just completed the book "The Angel and the Beehive" and thought a book
report might add to the discussion. The author is Armand L. Mauss,
publisher is University of Illinois Press. The interesting thing about
this book is the author is a Mormon scholar but does a very good job of
being objective. The book is filled with facts and reads somewhat like a
book about Micro-economics but if you like that sort of thing this book
is right up you alley. This book was encouraging because the author is
an active Mormon but is very objective about the Mormon religion. It
seems to me the church needs more people who can take an uninhibited look
at their religion and not be labeled as apostate or have the stigma's
associated with any criticism's of "God's church".
The intellectual arguments of the author are fascinating. He runs through
the evolution of the Mormon church from beginning to present. His theory
is that the church as well as any active sect must maintain an "optimal
tension". Meaning they must be integrated into society and be accepted
but have distinct peculiarities in order to keep their membership
functioning at an optimum level. In other words it benefits the church
to have their members do odd things like wear funny underwear and have an
us against them mind set in that it produces loyalty and hence forward
evolution of the movement. He goes to great pains to show how the church
first became integrated into American society in the early 20's and 30's
then began to return to the more fundamental stance we see today. This
is the "optimal tension" idea. The book is replete with surveys on
everything from marriage trends to how people would react to leadership.
The book is a wealth of statistical data but I do not agree with all of
his conclusions from that data.
This is definitely a scholarly work and as such might put you to sleep
while reading it. I like though how it shows the dynamics behind the
church from a scientific point of view instead of the usual religious
mumbo jumbo, i.e. Christ is at the head....
This book is a good one for all you fact junkies out there.