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Performing Freemasonry: The practical-symbolic Constitution of a Civic Habitus in Eighteenth-Century England

Issue: Vol 1 No. 2 (2010)

Journal: Journal for Research into Freemasonry and Fraternalism

Subject Areas: Religious Studies

DOI: 10.1558/jrff.v1i2.184


From the eighteenth century onwards the fraternity of freemasons in England has aimed to spiritually and morally refine its members and modify their behaviour patterns. In other words, it has striven to create a performative habitus that is consolidated beyond the routine of the lodge to achieve practical application in everyday life. The struggle for approbation of a private space for civil self-realisation gave rise to the modern ethics of conscience. Its tendency to internalise morals led away from outward modes of behaviour and, thus, away from the body. Yet, the constitutive process of modernity also required a reformation of manners that established the modern “performative ethics of habitus” and remained inextricably linked to physical actions. In this sense the fraternity of freemasons pursues the formation of enduring moral dispositions that initially find expression in, and are acquired through, physical action. In its effort for recognition, this programmatic practice and formation of a masonic habitus is always directed towards performance. My study analyses the masonic claim to self-invention as a case study of an ethics of habitus rooted in the Aristotelian tradition and renewed in the eighteenth century.

Author: Kristiane Hasselmann

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