Rational myths of the society

I went to the bank. Not because I want to get a haircut. For that I’ll go to a saloon. The bank is where people deposit money. I know that. I went there to renew my card.

When I say bank, you wouldn’t be thinking about fish or food. Instead you will be thinking about money. That’s because we have attached this name to a group of people who provide a particular financial service. You know, those who own ATMs. We cannot use that name to refer just any group of people.

The concept of Bank is kind of like a supernatural being. A myth, a rationalized myth with special powers similar to the myths of the early days. Like the myth of Zeus who had special power over lightning, the bank has special power over money. Zeus is an old myth, Bank is a modern myth. It is a very real myth though. But Zeus too was real for a time. If we asked people of Rome who lived 2000 years ago about the reality of Zeus, they would say that He was very real.

Big brands like IBM, Apple, and McDonalds did not exist 100 years ago. But today they are very real. The United Nations is less than 80 years old. But no one would deny its existence. They function very similar to myths.

There are more complicated myths than this. Take a look at the organization itself? Or equality, government or democracy? Our society will not function without such myths. The money itself we use is a form of myth. The moment we refuse to believe it, it becomes worthless. 100 Indian rupee, so valuable in India becomes worthless in Maldives.

Modern myths are all around us. On TV on social networks, and so on. It is part of our daily life.

Berger, Peter L., and Thomas Luckmann. 1967. The Social Construction of Reality.
Goffman, Erving. 1967. Interaction Ritual. Garden City,
Scott, W. Richard. 1975. “Organizational Structure.” Annual Review of Sociology.
Essays in sociology Max Weber
Institutionalized Organizations: Formal Structure as Myth and Ceremony
Interaction ritual chains, Randall Collins
Sapiens Yuval Noah Harari

Original: 29 January 2021