Sociological Analysis of the Theology of Quakers. The Silent Revolution

Author: Dandelion, P.
This book represents the first major sociological investigation into present-day Quakerism in Britain. Its main focus is how belief has become individuated within the group and the consequences of this postmodern condition. It is argued that Quakers in Britain have become post-Christian, and that unity and cohesion are provided by adherence to a behavioral creed, that a liberal belief culture operates alongside a conservative and conformist culture. The relationship between these two aspects of the Quaker double-culture is explored, as is the way aspects of the behavioral creed, especially the sacralisation of silence, have accommodated and promoted a paradigmatic shift in the nature of Quaker theology in the last thirty years, a silent revolution. The study examines alternative ways in which membership of a group can be constructed, at how apparently contradictory sets of values can be accommodated within a single culture, how liberalism can be both promoted and constrained simultaneously, and how organisational change can occur without any explicit or common agreement over the nature of change. This book will interest specialists in Quaker studies, those in the study of sects and denominations, and those involved in the wider sociology of religion and in organisational studies.


“Dandelion’s study challenges conventional Quaker self-perceptions in various respects. It also underscores the limitations of certain practices in the empirical study of religion, including the use of theological belief as a measure of orthodoxy and the omission of items for assessing ‘optimistic agnostics,’ . . . . Whether specifically interested in the Quakers or not, researchers should find the lengthy chapter on methodology particularly informative, especially the sections on the advantages, potential limitations, and ethics of insider research; on techniques and problems of participant observation; and on the difficulties of scale construction, especially for use by liberally religious groups. . . . With 58 figures and tables illustrating the textual material and an appendix containing the questionnaires, this book deserves a wider circulation. . . “ – Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion

"This book is closely argued and possesses a great wealth of detail. It is impossible to do justice to the complexity and inciseveness of Ben Pink Dandelion's analysis or adequately to represent his conclusions. His account of 'the culture of silence' for example, is particularly important. The book is equipped with numerous helpful tables and diagrams, and Friends can do for themselves the questionnaires that form the basis of the research. . . . It is one of the few, if any, resources we have that is based in research rather than opinion or speculation." - Friends Journal

"This is an essential volume for every Quaker Meeting in Britain, however modest its library. . . This should encourage a fresh approach to the question of Britain Yearly Meeting's membership of the Council of Churches for Britain and Ireland. . . . The eye of any serious Quaker browser is sure to be caught by the chapter title 'Control'. The section headings look like Quaker heresy: authority, constraint, management, leading the leaderless group, influence. Once inside the chapter, we find attention drawn to 'weight' - as in 'weighty Friend' - and to the related subject of the 'theory and practice' of nominations committees. I shall not be surprised if library copies soon start to fall open at this chapter. . . . Much as been revealed, the basis for complacency weakened or removed. Above all, perhaps, much opinion has been replaced by hard evidence." - The Friend (The Quaker Weekly)