The economic and social origins of gnosticism
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This dissertation is a response to the call for the application of sociological methods to the study of Gnosticism. It treats the economic and social origins of Gnosticism as a case study in the sociology of religious movements and situates Gnosticism in relation to the social and psychological dislocations produced by the expansion of the Roman Empire. In particular, it examines the transformation in the mode of production in Egypt during the Ptolemaic and early Roman periods, and correlates changes in economic conditions to changes in outlook and ideology amongst a stratum of upper-class, Hellenized but disenfranchised Jewish intellectuals. It traces many Gnostic themes to Jewish origins, and links the emphasis on individualism in Gnostic ethos, behaviour and social organization to the process of economic privatization in Ptolemaic-Roman Egypt. Finally, the dissertation addresses the dialectical relationship between culture and consciousness in terms of the anomie and fragmentation of the Egyptian Jewish community.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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