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Unmasking and disclosure as sociological practices : contrasting modes for understanding religious and other beliefs
Journal of Sociology
  • William Peter BAEHR, Lingnan University, Hong Kong
  • Daniel GORDON, University of Massachusetts Amherst, United States
Document Type
Journal article
Publication Date
  • Bourdieu,
  • disclosure,
  • Durkheim,
  • false consciousness,
  • Freud,
  • James,
  • Marx,
  • Nietzsche,
  • Runciman,
  • social theorists,
  • tertiary understanding,
  • unmasking,
  • Weber

Unmasking is a recurrent feature of modern sociology and cultural criticism. While false consciousness is imputed by intellectuals to religious groups and to certain social classes, unmasking is, or claims to be, a corrective performed by intellectuals themselves. Unmasking supposes that enlightened enquirers are able to help the less rational to understand their real interests; a type of exposure, it offers a cognitive tool of emancipation. This article (a) examines unmasking; and (b) contrasts it with an approach to understanding that we call disclosure. Our claim is that disclosure is more attuned to the full keyboard of social action, and less demeaning of its players, than unmasking is. Disclosure attempts to grasp what actions are like for those who enact them. Nothing has been more often or consistently unmasked and with more venom than religion. It is the main example explored in this article.

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Copyright © 2012 Sage Publications

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Citation Information
Baehr, P., & Gordon, D. (2012). Unmasking and disclosure as sociological practices: Contrasting modes for understanding religious and other beliefs. Journal of Sociology, 48(4), 380-396. doi: 10.1177/1440783312458225