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Conservation in Communication by James W. Carey Essay

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Updated: Feb 13th, 2022

Communication implies a process of transmitting information from one person to another to exchange ideas and express thoughts or feelings. However, communion does not only assume mere speaking; it also suggests using non-verbal means. Since ancient times people were adapted to a non-verbal way of contacting each other through rituals, rites, etc. Therefore, the ritual view of communication is thought to be archaic, though it was effective as the societal way of life used to be in order (Strathern, 2016). The purpose of this paper is to find out whether communication is possible without exchanging information and to identify the perspectives of ritual communication in the works of James W. Carey and Jessie Weston.

First and foremost, there is a necessity to identify what ritual communication is composed of. According to Carey (1989), the ritual view of communication is listed as “archaic” and is linked to such terms as “sharing,” “association,” “fellowship,” “possession of common faith,” etc. This perspective views various sides of communication through religious texts, sermons, or prayers. Carrey considers that ritual intercourse brought commonness and togetherness among folks (Carey, 1989). He also claims that “a ritual view of communication is directed not toward the extension of messages in space but toward maintenance of society in time” (Carey, 1989, p. 18). The statement denotes that the spread of religion and rites drew people together into commonality. For instance, one would not go to church and start singing and praying on their own, but when an entire town goes on a Sunday service, they would actively join. Therefore, such a view excludes the transmission of information but instead highlights the importance of manifesting the communication maintenance of a meaningful cultural world capable of controlling human activity.

On the other hand, this view lacks explicit spiritual origins as the society tries to make another world by substituting existing elements. Thus, there is a “projection of the ideals created by the community” (Carey, 1989, p. 19). This projection implies the embodiment of community ideals into material form (dance, music, play, etc.) to provide confirmation and not the information. The main goal of such verification is not to change someone’s opinion but to demonstrate the underlying order of things and to unveil a continuous social process (Carey, 1989). Therefore, people can observe an artificial, but existing symbolic order and the ritual act turns into a part of shared culture preserved in time.

The author resorts to mass media to reveal his thoughts upon ritual communication. Carey (1989) asserts that “news reading and writing is a ritual act, and moreover, a dramatic one” (p. 20). While reading a piece of news, a person does not merely receive a bit of information but becomes a part of this so-called drama as they somehow participate in the activity (Strathern, 2016). Thus, considering the media under the ritual view of communication, it can be stated that they serve not for the information exchange but social integration.

The other significant work explaining the rites is called From Ritual to Romance by Jessie Weston. The author tried to establish the roots of the Arthurian legends and the ones of the Holy Grail. The whole fable represented a quest consisting of elements tied with the ancient religious rites and symbols. The saga begins when a wounded king of a fallen land observes a bleeding lance and a cup full of jewelry. These objects serve as specific symbols because the entire story is dedicated to the rituals of fertility and how the king’s physical health and land productivity are interrelated (Weston, 1922). Both Gnostic and Christian perceptions of the saga of Grail lead to a union of oneness with Goad and the quest for fertility.

While exploring the origins, the author alludes to different literature sources to define the parallels between the Grail legend and the other ones. Therefore, she referred to Rig-Veda poems and hymns, which belonged to the population which used the dramatic rituals for obtaining God’s blessing onto their well-being, land fertility, etc. (Weston, 1922). She also stated that “the main object of the primitive Dramas was that of encouraging, we may say, ensuring the fertility of Earth” (Weston, 1922, p. 27). Moreover, such hymns were usually performed not by a single person but at least by two dramatic performers. By implementing these cultural dramas, people have created their own way of ritual communication. The author states that among such rituals was the Indian marriage procedures that subsist even today (Weston, 1922). These were the dramatic rites inherent to Vedic Indian people, and that united large groups by a common intention.

In conclusion, it is necessary to state that a ritual view of communication is antique, though it has relevance even these days. The ancient people proved that efficient conversing could be established without exchanging information. Moreover, those populations’ social maintenance was properly structured by the ritual communication implied common faith and provided togetherness amongst people. As a dramatic form, rituals tend to unite the community instead of producing information.


Carey, J. (1989). A cultural approach to communication. In Communication as culture: Essays on media and society (pp. 13-26). Unwin Hyman.

Strathern, A. (2016). Ritual. Routledge.

Weston, J. (2003). From ritual to romance. Dover Publications, INC.

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