millenarianism

A term used to refer to a religious movement which prophesies the coming of the millennium and a cataclysmic end of the world as we know it; or, more formally, which anticipates imminent, total, ultimate, this-worldly, collective salvation. Examples include Christadelphianism, Mormonism, Seventh Day Adventism, Fifth Monarchy Men, North American Indian Ghost Dance Movement, and Jehovah's Witnesses. As will be evident from this list of examples, these movements display great variation in the degree of activism expected among followers; the extent to which they are Messianic or charismatic; and the organizational structure of the movement as a whole.
Millennial movements occur inside all religions, including early Christianity and Islam , but also develop outside organized religions. Millenarianism therefore can take many different forms. However, it usually involves explosions of discontent, a rejection of the status quo, and the proposal that the coming millennium will see the installation of a new social order. This new society is usually constructed as egalitarian and just. Millenarianism often develops in a colonial situation and can have grave consequences for the dominant political order. There is little chance of political compromise since the followers of millenarian movements are not afraid of death; for example, they have been known to run against the guns of an army, believing that the millennium is about to end anyway. Millennial doctrines are often anti-reproduction, and ban sexual intercourse and the planting of crops, since there will be no next year. There is always the tension within millenarianism between an other-worldly message with no earthly content and one where the divine returns into the political process to rule justly. Inevitably, the millennium does not come, and the movement collapses. It either fades away or part of the message is recovered and institutionalized-as in the case of Christianity.
The best-known modern examples of millenarianism are the so-called cargo cults in Melanesia. These usually believe that the ancestors or a culture hero are on their way back to this world in a magic ship to create a timeless order which has been interfered with by Europeans. There will be the return of a cargo of precious material goods to their rightful Melanesian owners, bringing about an era of universal happiness and plenty, where the colonized people will be liberated from White domination. Explanations of the emergence of these cults abound. Peter Worsley (The Trumpet Shall Sound, 1957) argues that Melanesian cargo cults are not irrational ‘madness’, but are the result of frustrations caused by colonialism . The movements are fundamentally opposed to imperialism and use a religious idiom to attempt to explain the power of colonizers. This mystical power comes from the ability of Whites to intercept riches (cargo) bound for local peoples. Millenarianism is invoked as a last resort in dealing with this power when political opposition has failed. Alternative interpretations include those of Kenelm O. L. Burridge (Mambu, 1960), who argues that cargo cults express certain moral and emotional imperatives in Melanesian society, and Peter Lawrence (Road Belong Cargo, 1964), who offers a historical and structural account which emphasizes the ‘mismatch’ between Western and Melanesian norms of reciprocity and exchange .
At a more general level, the numerous theories of millennial movements as a whole include interpretations in terms of relative deprivation ; those which see such movements as being rooted in the strains associated with rapid social change ; and some which emphasize the social isolation, disruption, and normlessness characteristic of situations of anomie . A fairly representative selection of such accounts will be found in the collection edited by Sylvia L. Thrupp (Millennial Dreams in Action, 1962).

Dictionary of sociology. 2013.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Millenarianism — Mil le*na ri*an*ism, Millenarism Mil le*na*rism, n. The doctrine of Millenarians. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Millenarianism — Millenarism redirects here. It is not to be confused with Millerism. Millenarianism (also millenarism) is the belief by a religious, social, or political group or movement in a coming major transformation of society, after which all things will… …   Wikipedia

  • millenarianism — noun Date: 1829 1. belief in the millennium of Christian prophecy 2. belief in a coming ideal society and especially one created by revolutionary action …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • millenarianism — See millenarian. * * * …   Universalium

  • millenarianism — noun A belief that a major change is about to happen …   Wiktionary

  • millenarianism — Any religious movement that predicts the collapse of the world order as we know it, with its replacement by the millennium, or period of justice, equality, salvation, etc. Millenarian movements are thought to be an extreme example of the use of… …   Philosophy dictionary

  • millenarianism — belief that an ideal society will be produced in the near future Philosophical Isms …   Phrontistery dictionary

  • millenarianism — mil·le·nar·i·an·ism || ‚mɪlɪ nerɪənɪzm / neÉ™r n. belief in the Christian millennium (in which Jesus will reign on Earth); belief that an ideal world will be achieved in the near future …   English contemporary dictionary

  • Millenarianism —    The expectation of the thousand year period of blessedness as promised in the Book of Revelation …   Who’s Who in Christianity

  • millenarianism — noun belief in a future thousand year age of blessedness, beginning with or culminating in the Second Coming of Christ (central to the teaching of the Adventists, Mormons, and Jehovah s Witnesses). ↘belief in a future utopian period. Derivatives… …   English new terms dictionary

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.