The discursive construction of freedom in the watchtower society

  • Helena Chester

    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - CDU


    Many deconstructions of Watchtower Society freedom through paradigms of power and domination yield conclusions that cannot adequately account for the unique Watchtower Society contributions to twentieth century freedoms. These contributions have taken the form of extending American constitutional freedoms, collective and personal resistance to secular totalitarian and genocidal discourses, and life-promoting transformation of subjectivity for millions of Watchtower Society members. In contrast to the more common representation of the Watchtower Society as a quasi-totalitarian religious organisation, this thesis presents a poststructural, macro-content analysis of Watchtower Society freedom, utilising insights from evolutionary sociology, expanded and triangulated by the social theories of Foucauldian Biopower and Genealogy; Hegelian Master/Slave and Cunning of Reason, and Bourdieu’s Habitus and Symbolic Violence.

    The conclusions rendered in this thesis through the above interpretive instruments align with the Watchtower Society’s historical trajectory and suggest that the Watchtower Society functions as the primate equivalent of eusocial insect colonies (superorganisms). Members subordinate personal aspirations for the common good of the Watchtower Society, regulated by discourses of fear, hope and love. Survival, longevity, productivity, belonging, meaning, and hope, emerge as the characteristic forms of Watchtower Society freedom.

    An analysis of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ life-narratives suggests that the Watchtower Society functions as an effective recovery community for various destructive addictions. However, anonymous online blogs by Jehovah’s Witnesses with same-sex attraction demonstrate that the freedom experienced in the Watchtower Society is contingent on loyalty and conformity to Watchtower Society discourses and preferred subjectivity. Thus, Jehovah’s Witnesses with same-sex attraction are used as a test case for loyal non-conformers in relation to the construction of freedom in the Watchtower Society.

    Religious discourse is identified in this thesis as a power that operates biopsychosocially to either promote or compromise life and freedom for various sectors of the Watchtower Society global population. This biopsychosocial approach acknowledges the role of evolutionary selection pressures (for survival), as well as social constructionist mechanisms for imagining ‘possible lives’ and generating cultural representations as bearers of meaning.
    Date of AwardOct 2018
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorLaurence New-Moore (Supervisor), Sue Erica Smith (Supervisor) & Nathan Franklin (Supervisor)

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