Magic represents a category used in the study of religion and the social sciences to define various practices and ideas considered separate from both religion and science. The category developed in Western culture although has since been applied to practices in other societies, particularly those regarded as being non-modern and Other. Various different definitions of magic have been proposed, with much contemporary scholarship regarding the concept to be so problematic that it is better to reject it altogether as a useful analytic construct. The concept of magic has been an issue of debate among academics in various disciplines. Scholars have defined magic in different ways and used the term to refer to different things. One approach, associated with the anthropologists Edward Tylor and James G. Frazer, suggests that magic and science are opposites, with the former based on hidden sympathies between objects that allow one to influence the other. An alternative approach, associated with the sociologists Marcel Mauss and Emile Durkheim, emphasises an opposition between magic and religion, arguing that the former takes place in private, while the latter is a communal and organised activity. Many scholars of religion have rejected the utility of the term magic, arguing that it is arbitrary and ethnocentric; it has become increasingly unpopular within scholarship since the 1990s. The term magic comes from the Old Persian magu, a word that applied to a form of religious functionary about which little is known. During the late sixth and early fifth centuries BCE, this term was adopted into Ancient Greek, where it was used with negative connotations, to apply to religious rites that were regarded as fraudulent, unconventional, and dangerous.
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