Merton’s example of the Hopi rain dance in Appelrouth and Edels (2008) of how manifest actions (rituals) have stronger underlying latent effects appear out of date neo Freudian but upon this theoretical observation may hold some merit. Merton (1949; as cited in Apperlrouth & Edels, 2008: 390) says (when countering the attacks of those calling the Hopi rain dance as ignorant, superstitious etc.) that, “Given the concept of latent function, however, we are reminded that this behavior may perform a function for the group, although this function may be quite remote from the avowed purpose of the behavior”. For example, there are certain meal consumption “rituals” followed by many ethnic Mexican families especially here on the El Paso/Juarez region which appear to be just normal invitations to go over to relatives’ houses to eat (ethnic foods) such as menudo. This dish which takes a considerable amount of work to prepare brings the family members together to fix the meal and later to eat it.
The meal itself which consists of pig feet, beef tripe, hominy, seasoned in red chile sauce in a stew-fashion is not all that tasty but the family eats it with together bringing even extended family over. The members may be separated all week and may be even for longer periods but at the meal (preparation and consumption “the manifest part”) the unity or familial solidarity in a way is rekindled. So like Merton’s rain dance the meal may not taste great or even do away with your hunger (the meal is usually limited to a bowl) but the latent aim (ie bringing or keeping the family together) is fulfilled. In your personal/family life can you think of “rituals” you take part in that may appear to be old-fashioned, unfulfilling which might in reality be serving other (hidden) positive purposes? What’s your menudo?
Applerouth, S. & Edles, L. D.2008.Classical and Contemporary Sociological Theory:
Text Readings.Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press