A cargo cult is a belief system among a relatively undeveloped society in which adherents practice superstitious rituals hoping to bring modern goods supplied by a more technologically advanced society. These cults, millenarian in nature, were first described in Melanesia in the wake of contact with advanced Western cultures. The name derives from the belief which began among Melanesians in the late 19th and early 20th century that various ritualistic acts such as the building of an airplane runway will result in the appearance of material wealth, particularly highly desirable Western goods (i.e., \"cargo\"), via Western airplanes.Cargo cults often develop during a combination of crises. Under conditions of social stress, such a movement may form under the leadership of a charismatic figure. This leader may have a \"vision\" (or \"myth-dream\") of the future, often linked to an ancestral efficacy (\"mana\") thought to be recoverable by a return to traditional morality. This leader may characterize the present state as a dismantling of the old social order, meaning that social hierarchy and ego boundaries have been broken down.Contact with colonizing groups brought about a considerable transformation in the way indigenous peoples of Melanesia have thought about other societies. Early theories of cargo cults began from the assumption that practitioners simply failed to understand technology, colonization, or capitalist reform; in this model, cargo cults are a misunderstanding of the systems involved in resource distribution, and an attempt to acquire such goods in the wake of interrupted trade. However, many of these practitioners actually focus on the importance of sustaining and creating new social relationships, with material relations being secondary.Since the late twentieth century, alternative theories have arisen. For example, some scholars, such as Kaplan and Lindstrom, focus on Europeans' characterization of these movements as a fascination with manufactured goods and what such a focus says about Western commodity fetishism. Others point to the need to see each movement as reflecting a particularized historical context, even eschewing the term \"cargo cult\" for them unless there is an attempt to elicit an exchange relationship from Europeans.

Example Sentences

  • Objects on screen move in ways that bear no relation to how anything moves in Earth or in space, the centerpiece of movie is the thoroughly debunked face on Mars (which makes as much sense today as pitching a movie set in a lush jungle of Venus), genetics and evolution are portrayed in their cargo-cult versions.

  • This could be due to saturation, but another explanation is that marketers fetishize brands and nurture the self-serving cargo-cult belief that the brand itself is the success factor, not the product quality it used to promise.

  • I might not even wait to mock you: Sitting around and hoping for a Verizon iPhone to descend from the skies, year after year, starts to resemble cargo-cult behavior.

  • Public life in Italy often evinces these pious but oddly inscrutable outcomes, produced with alarming regularity by legal and political institutions that are like cargo-cult copies of those possessed by other nations.

  • The result was a cargo-cult fascination with idols the rest of the world had replaced long ago.

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