Michel DUBOIS, « Sociological Explanation of Collective Beliefs », International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences, 2nd edition, Elsevier, 2015, pp.163–168., , 2014

new extended version, see also first edition

available online : http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780080970868320207

The explanation of collective beliefs is a central question for sociologists and generally for all social scientists. If the ‘market’ of ideas and beliefs is frequently described in terms of individualization, this should not be overinterpreted by asserting that the realm of collective beliefs is over. The dissemination of individual beliefs frequently converges in collective trends that can be sociologically identified and analyzed. We propose to distinguish five main modes of sociological explanation of collective beliefs – positional, interactional, emotional, cultural, and rational – and analyze their conditions of scientific robustness.

Belief; Ideology; Knowledge; Rationality; Religion; Sociology of knowledge; Symmetry (principle of)