The purpose of this thesis is to develop a new perspective for the classification of sectarian forms of organisation and the study of their dynamics. It is not intended as a definitive study of any particular group, or of the British far-left as a whole.
Existing typologies of sectarianism in the sociology of religion are subjected to a critique on two grounds:
1) They often have a theological character, based on the content of the belief systems of sects rather than on the social structure.
2) Their roots lie in an 'essentialist' tradition of static hierarchical classifications of dynamic phenomena.
One of the reasons for studying political groups in this context is that they have not been subjected to these classificatory assumptions, and can be approached more objectively in the development of new perspectives.
The argument proceeds to the exposition of grid and group, both as a 'polythetic' system of classification and as one based on a matrix rather than a hierarchy. This provides us with a potentially dynamic classificatory approach.
In order to test and advance the model, two themes are selected for special attention in terms of grid and group, from and historical review of the far-left since the second world war. These are the schismatic character of the groups and their tendency toward utopianism which are examined in selected groups over the decade that followed their watershed of 1968.
Utopianism is discussed in the framework of the relationship posited by grid and group, between spatial and temporal aspects of the cosmology and the social structure. It is argued that this approach is more informative than traditional general notions of relative deprivation. Splits and alliances are examined in terms of the organisation dynamics and mode of exercise of power in sectarian forms; and conclusions are drawn about the patterns of relative stability which emerge as groups are distributed across the grid/group matrix.
Finally, the distribution of power within the selected groups is compared with the perceptions of the members of how power is exercised.
The implications of the 'false-consciousness' of sectarians about their own organisational forms leads to an examination of the potential for their cosmologies to conceal certain aspects of the world, such as the source of political power, at the same time as making the world comprehensible.