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Bostonians’ Puritan Values From Durkheim’s Perspective


Every community thinks within the framework of religious and social principles that were formed long ago. The United States, as a society and a state, has a unique genesis, whose foundations are the city of Boston and Puritanism. However, American society has undergone many dramatic social, economic, and ideological changes. To have a complete understanding of the local communities of the United States, such as Bostonians, and the American Nation as a whole, the examination of its structure and genesis through the prism of sociology is needed. The purpose of this work is to find out whether Boston society has preserved the Puritan principles and to explain its structure through the sociological theories of Emile Durkheim.

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Puritan Work Ethic as Part of the Law

Some Puritan values ​​have transitioned from religious tradition to legal practice. Condemning fraternization in the working environment is one of the key tenets of the Puritan work ethic (Hutson, 2012). In February, Boston’s Zoning Board of Appeal announced that “…board members cannot vote on matters in which they have held financial interests…” previously and after voting (Borchers, 2020, para. 2, para. 3). The measure was taken to eradicate lobbying in the building business and provide better social inclusion for new entrepreneurs. According to Durkheim’s theory of social integration, it leads to stronger social connections, which improves society’s functioning as a whole.

The revival of Puritan High Literacy

The Boston community is currently undergoing a revival of another Puritan value, the high literacy rate. It is worth mentioning that it originally arose from the symbiosis of the Puritan Bible printing tradition and the virtue of striving to be independent (“Puritan New England: Massachusetts Bay,” n.d.). According to officials, “over the past twenty years, the Boston Public Schools (BPS) has been transformed from a failing school district to one of the most renowned urban public school systems in the country” (“Facts and figures,” n.d., para. 1 ). Durkheim’s concept of social conscience can explain this social phenomenon. A significant part of human socialization takes place in an educational environment, where thinking, feeling, and behavior patterns are formed. Boston’s schools and college systems were based on Puritan traditions (“Facts and figures,” n.d.). It explains the resurgence of high literacy in Boston society.

New Idea of “City Upon a Hill”

Religious intolerance is a peculiarity not only of Puritanism but also of most Abrahamic religions. Many religious Bostonians today face a religious and ideological crisis, as children and young adults tend to be of secular values. It is worth noting that older people also stop adhering to the Christian faith, whether Catholic or Protestant (Trickey, 2020). The new ideology values are “…higher education’s critical thinking, science’s demand for evidence, technology’s drive for results, liberal politics’ notions of progress and social justice” (Trickey, 2020, para. 7). It is worth mentioning that these trends also dominate the modern media. It may be assumed that it is a rethinking of the Puritan idea of “city upon a hill,” which consisted of two concepts, escapism, and criticism of the Anglican Church. It can also be interpreted through Durkheim’s theory of social integration as the desire of people to rethink collective conscience and strengthen community ties by bringing greater inclusivity into society.

Self-Reliance as an Economic Principle

It is safe to say that self-reliance is a recognized American value. This concept’s origins are both the philosophical features of Puritanism and the external factors that the first colonists had to face ( Editors, 2019). As the COVID-19 crisis shows, Bostonians continue to adhere to the self-reliance principle in terms of economic relations with the federal government. In late March, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center faced a shortage of swabs due to supply problems (Mufson, Timberg, and Tiku, 2020). The federal government also failed to provide financially and supply support, thereby showing their incompetence (Mufson et al., 2020). The medical center’s management and staff were able to organize their production of swabs in cooperation with local private manufacturers. According to Mufson et al. (2020), “now, hundreds of thousands of these swabs… are being churned out each day with the help of 3-D printers” (para. 3). It can be said that such cooperation and interdependence are examples of Durkheim’s organic solidarity.


The work analyzes how modern Bostonians understand and manifest Puritan values ​​and beliefs. The author of this essay used the social theories of Emile Durkheim to explain current social processes in politics, education, family, media, and economics. It has been found out that Puritan values ​​such as self-reliance and condemning of fraternization in the workplace continue to exist in economic and political spheres. It is due to the desire of the Bostonians to strengthen the local community based on organic solidarity. High literacy is again becoming a sought-after value that is the achievement of an educational system based on Puritan principles. The “city upon a hill” idea is undergoing a paradigm shift as society rethinks itself to achieve greater social integration.


Borchers, C. (2020). Walsh orders tougher ethics standards for Boston Zoning Board. WBUR News. Web.

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Facts and figures. (n.d.). Web. Editors. (2019). Puritans. Web.

Hutson, M. (2012). Still Puritan after all these years. The New York Times. Web.

Mufson, S., Timberg, C., & Tiku, N. (2020). When these Boston doctors ran out of virus-testing swabs, they mobilized an army of 3-D printers. The Washington Post. Web.

Puritan New England: Massachusetts Bay. (n.d.). Web.

Trickey, E. (2018). Has Boston given up on God? Boston Magazine. Web.

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