Five PlenaryThemes will be held parallel at 13:45-15:15 during 5 days, from Monday through Friday, July 12-16, 2010. Each Plenary will focus on a different theme which will be developed in five sessions.
Plenary sessions are solicited directly by the ISA Programme Committee and only selected scholars are invited to present papers or participate in round table debates.
|Theme 5. Religion and Power|
Coordinators: Grace Davie, University of Exeter, UK, Hans Joas, University of Erfurt, Germany, Björn Wittrock, Swedish Collegium for Advance Study, Sweden
For a long time most social scientists – and not only they – have believed that secularization is a necessary corollary of modernization processes. In the last two decades, however, this (often tacit) assumption has been challenged very forcefully. Religions revitalization in several parts of the world, new forms of the instrumentalization of religion by political power, but also the religious inspiration of social movements against oppression have become crucial topics of social research and social theory. Moreover, this rethinking of ‘religion and power’ throws new light on the history of secularization and on current religious trends in a global perspective.
Session 1: Theoretical challenges
Monday, July 12, 2010, 13:45-15:15
Organizer: : Hans Joas, University of Erfurt, Germany
The widespread critique of the secularization thesis constitutes a major challenge not only for the sociology of religion, but for the self-understanding of modernity in general. There is a growing awareness of a fact David Martin had already emphasized in his pioneering studies, namely that there is not one process of secularization, but several, depending on the institutional constellations in different countries. The historically oriented sociology of religion has more and more focused on the phases in which the crucial features of the ‘world religions’ emerged. Others analyze the consequences the long-term coexistence of secular and religious world views will have on social and political processes. This session will present responses from three leading scholars to these theoretical challenges.
Session 2: The Importance of history
Tuesday, July 13, 2010, 13:45-15:15
Organizer: : Björn Wittrock, Swedish Collegium for Advance Study, Sweden
The formation of modernity has been coterminous with redefinitions and contestations about the relationship of societal and political institutions to religious practices. This session will examine the secularization thesis in historical context. It will also involve an analysis of forms of secularity in a long-term and non-European perspective. Furthermore it will try to demonstrate that social and political power has been profoundly shaped in interaction with religio-cultural reforms. As a consequence standard sociological theories of the formation of the modern state may have to be reconsidered against the backdrop of a re-examination of religion and power in historical context.
Session 3: Religion and public spheres
Wednesday, July 14, 2010, 13:45-15:15
Organizer: : José Casanova, Georgetown University, USA
Both, liberal political theories and sociological theories of secularization had presupposed the privatization of religion either as a functional requirement of modern democratic politics or as a functional consequence of modern differentiation. Global historical developments in the last decades have shown the thesis of privatization of religion to be empirically untenable and normatively problematic in so far as it was grounded on secularist assumptions concerning religion. Modern theories of the public sphere shared similar secularist assumptions concerning moral discursive traditions and the use of public reason, which also have been undergoing their own critical revisions. The field is now open for a truly comparative historical analysis across civilizations of the complex and changing interrelations between religions and public spheres. This panel explores the transformations in those interrelations in the world of Islam, in Latin American Catholicism, and in the heartland of secularization, in Western Europe.
Sessions 4 and 5 in this plenary stream will offer a series of case studies taken from different parts of the world. Session 4 will open up a global perspective, paying particular attention to the exponential growth of Pentecostalism in the modern world and to what is currently happening in China. Clearly these questions overlap – Pentecostalism is growing fast in China amongst other places. Both, moreover, involve many millions of people.
Session 5 will concentrate on the European case, asking in particular whether this should or should not be considered an exception is global terms. The central question can be put as follows. Is Europe secular because it is modern, or is Europe secular because it is European? A second question follows from this. If Europe is an exceptional (or at least a distinctive) case in global terms, are the tools, concepts and paradigms which have emerged primarily from this part of the world helpful for our understanding of what is happening elsewhere – including the examples in Session 4?
Session 4: Empirical applications 1: Thinking globally
Thursday, July 15, 2010, 13:45-15:15
Organizer: Grace Davie, University of Exeter, UK
Religion and power in Pentecostalism
David Martin, The London School of Economics, UK
Part 1: Sociologists talk about empowerment, which is a form of positive evaluation embedded in the language of a social science. Sociologists also talk about agency as if it were a good thing to have (provided, presumably, one is not Pol Pot). Pentecostals talk about being empowered by the Holy Spirit, personally and collectively, and this also represents a positive evaluation embedded in the language of theology. What, then, is the relative status of these evaluations when it comes to 'explaining', and how do we take the accounts provided by informants into our account? What do the personal accounts of Pentecostals tell us about its power and about the nature of conversion? Is there, for example, such a thing as spiritual causation, as when Havel attributed the fall of communism in part to the triumph of truth over lies?
Part 2: Of course, Pentecostalism is adopted differentially, and its distribution must suggest explanations for its success. For example, it has little impact in Europe, but with interesting exceptions – with something turning on how you categorise the broader charismatic movement. Something also turns, particularly in North America, on how you understand its relation to Evangelicalism. The remainder of the presentation will examine Pentecostalism's distribution in the two-thirds world, for example China, understanding it as a primary carrier of the voluntaristic transnational impulse, as contrasted with birthright religion which is organically related to a territory.
The theoretical foundation for the current Chinese policy toward religion is based on classic secularization theory. The theory is wrong and the policy is a failure, on its own terms. The Communist Party is trying to construct an old policy, which seems to be based less on Marxist-Leninism and more on precedents established by Ming-Qing emperors. This leads to more flexibility toward many indigenous forms of Chinese religion, but is problematic in an era of globalization.
Atheism has been part and parcel of the official Chinese Communist ideology, which has been indoctrinated to all people through the education and mass-media propaganda systems for decades, yet the real atheists are no more than a small minority in the Chinese population today. Christianity has suffered the most severe and systematic suppression under Communist rule, yet it has grown the fastest among the institutional religions in China. In an attempt to explain these ironies in a systematic way, I will provide a definition of religion that is useful for examining religious, quasi-religious and pseudo-religious phenomena in Chinese society. These various forms of religion/spirituality compete in the same broad religious and spiritual economy. It is evident that the heavy regulation on religion imposed by the atheist Chinese Communist Party has led not to religious decline, but to chronic shortage of religious supply, resulting in the complex triple markets of religion – the red (legal) market, the black (illegal) market, and the gray (both or neither legal/illegal) market. The empirical evidences come from the Chinese Spiritual Life Survey 2007 and other sources.
Session 5: Empirical applications 2: The (exceptional) European case
Friday, July 16, 2010, 13:45-15:15
Organizer: : Philip Gorski, Yale University, USA
Europe and the USA: When and why did one of them become ‘exceptional’?
Hugh McLeod, University of Birmingham, UK
In the years after World War II, levels of religious practice in the United States were slightly above the west European average, but lower than in Ireland and similar to those in Italy, Austria, Belgium or the Netherlands. The trends were similar too. Europe like the USA saw an upturn in church-going and in the public prominence of the churches in the later ‘40s and early ‘50s. The USA, like Europe, saw a marked downturn in the ‘60s. Only in the 1970s did the two paths diverge. While the drop in church-going and church-membership continued apace in western Europe, levels of religious practice stabilised around 1972 in the USA, and in the later 1970s the rise of the ‘religious right’ gave religion a new degree of political prominence. Historians interested in contrasts between a more ‘religious’ America and a more ‘secular’ Europe, should stop looking at what happened in 1791 and start looking at what happened in the 1970s.
Recent cases in Europe, including the treatment of conspicuous religious symbols (like veils, minarets, and crucifixes), raise the possibility that Europe does not have as strong a tradition of protecting religious liberty as the USA. This suggestion is explored in relation to the historic and current situation of European law (including new equalities and anti-discrimination legislation), state policies, migration regimes, and cultural projects in civil society. The European situation is then compared with the American. The issue is a useful prism through which to view a number of social, political, and legal differences – as well as some shared inheritances.
McLeod and Woodhead compare the European and the American cases, the former in terms of religious activity, the latter in terms of particular policies. They both note similarities as well as differences. Drawing on recently published work, the first part of this paper reflects on this material, weighing the balance between long and short-term changes in both Europe and the US. In order to do this, it will look in particular at two aspects of the debate: the presence or otherwise of territoriality and contrasting understandings of the Enlightenment.
The second part will consider the implications of these differences in two respects: firstly for policy-making and secondly for the social sciences more generally. If the philosophy of social science, and the tools and concepts which emerge from this, come primarily from the European case, to what extent are these ideas applicable elsewhere, not only in the US but beyond? In engaging these issues this paper will draw together the themes of both sessions 4 and 5.