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Chapter 3: The Death System
In every society there is a protect from death, with the dead and to inflict death.
The fact that you have not seen a corpse is a way how society protect you from it
A World Without Death
Overcrowding would lead to infringements on privacy, mobility, and other individual liberties.
Birth control would be enforced. This control would be an exercise of power and prestige.
New laws would be needed.
Society would become very conservative and slow to change its ways.
Economic structure of society would be seriously impacted.
Moral beliefs and practices could change in many ways.
Death might take on a radically different aspect.
We would organize ourselves differently.
We would be free from the fear of death.
Our personal relationships would extend indefinitely, creating new opportunities and new challenges.
Our ideas about the purpose and meaning of life would change.
The main point is that our individual and societal patterns of functioning are connected with death in one way
Basic Characteristics of the Death System
We live and die as individuals.
We are linked with each other by language, expectations, customs, and needs.
We face death alone but also as part of a society whose expectations, rules, motives, and symbols
influence our individual encounters.
Components of the Death System
The death system is made up of people, places, times, objects, and symbols.
-All of us are potential components in the death system
-Core participants Funeral directors, memorial industry, life insurance agents, florists,
lawyers, cemetery association, health professionals, clergy, scientists, etc.
-Some occupations may not exist without death
-Cemeteries, funeral homes, and hospitals and have become identified with death
-Once a place has become associated with death, we no longer think and feel the same
way about it
-Memorial Day and the Mexican tradition of the Day of the Dead
-Prayers for the dead are offered on regular occasions
-The hearse, death certificate, noose, gallows, electric chair, and nuclear devices are
objects of death
Symbols and Images
-Particular colours and symbols associated with death
-Death symbols tell us about a culture’s attitudes towards death
-The words we use and those we refrain from using also reveal much about the nature of
the culture's death system
Functions of the Death System
Warnings and Predictions
All societies issue warnings and predictions intended to stave off threats to life
Can be based on folk customs, science, pseudoscience, organized religion, or individual revelation
May be accurate, exaggerated, or completely imaginary
Society may choose to respond or ignore the threats
It can be difficult to determine which warnings should be taken seriously
We must decide what we are going to do about the warnings
In Western society, there are health professionals, firefighters, police, and researchers striving for
preventions, cures, or safety improvements
Unequal opportunities for preventing disease in poorer people
Caring for the Dying
Prevention and comforting can be encompassed within the same philosophy and carried out by the same
people in many situations
Patients and their families may play an active part in the decision making, and health care providers may
function as a team to care for the patient (e.g. hospice care)
Disposing of the Dead
There is a need to dispose of the physical remains.
The funeral and memorialization process tells much about the overall stability and cohesiveness of a
culture as well as what that society makes of death.
Corpse smell in hot weather, sign of threat to public health, so they are buried or cremated immediately
seemingly creating a barrier since it has nothing to do with the person and instead is something fearful
The Amish Way of Life and Death
Family members dress the deceased in white garments
Funeral is a home-oriented event, takes place in a large room cleared for only a simple wooden coffin
and hundreds of friends, neighbors, and relatives
Funeral service is in a house or a barn and neighbours dig the grave
The Amish response to death is very much in keeping with the Amish way of life
China Way: whoever touched it last is responsible of disposing
Social Consolidation After Death
Death can challenge society’s ability to survive
In small societies, the impact of every death challenges the integrity of the entire group
In a mass society, this challenge only becomes obvious when death unexpectedly strikes down a
The sudden, unexpected death of a significant person makes ordinary people feel vulnerable
Social consolidation after death is vital if the survivors are to continue and as confident and competent
members of the culture