From greetings and introductions, to loves and relationships, church services and dances, formality and ritual were once a central part of our lives. But form and ritual have been in retreat for more than a century. Many now see formality as outdated, an unnecessary sign of deference, and welcome a less constrained, more open culture.
Should we see formality and ritual as a power play that embeds hierarchy and prejudice and seek to eradicate it? Or might the abandonment of ritual be a contemporary mistake? Are social rules, as some in the Me Too movement have argued, a defence for the vulnerable? And can ritual lift us out of the mundane and everyday to higher and better goals?
Historian of ideas Hannah Dawson pulls no punches debating philosopher of religion Linda Woodhead and distinguished art critic Noel Carroll on the place of formality and ritual in the modern world.