Imposing church and social discipline

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

9 Scopus citations


Social and church discipline are historiographical concepts which have been developed to describe a general trend exhibited by all states and confessional churches during the early modern period of establishing control mechanisms over their subjects or flock. Originally, the concept of social discipline (or disciplining) was developed by Gerhard Oestreich as an alternative to the etatistic term “absolutism’. Oestreich described “social disciplining’ (Sozialdisziplinierung) as a process in which, based on neo-stoic philosophy, the early modern state strove to control the behaviour of its subjects in all areas of life, thus turning them into “obedient, pious, and diligent subjects’. The concept of “social discipline’ was also taken up by historians working on the religious history of early modern Europe. “Church discipline’, the very diverse measures used by the confessional churches of early modern Europe to discipline their flock, was consequently regarded as part of the larger process of “social disciplining’. Church and social discipline are very complex phenomena and their complexity has to be taken into account in at least four aspects: first, the development of church and social discipline between the late Middle Ages and the period of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation; second, the confessional variations of church discipline, i.e., the attitudes to and expectations of church discipline were decisively influenced by the Protestant reformers’ theological attitudes and by the Catholic reform movement and the decisions of the Council of Trent; third, as a consequence of different religio-political structures in different parts of Europe, there came into existence a wide variety of institutions and procedures of church discipline.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge History of Christianity
Subtitle of host publicationReform and Expansion 1500-1660
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781139054843
ISBN (Print)9780521811620
StatePublished - Jan 1 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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