To say that religion has power in the public sphere is not to say that it can be easily absorbed or that it should be. It is a basis for radical challenges and radical questions; it brings enthusiasm, passion, indignation, outrage, and love. If enthusiasm is sometimes harnessed to unreflective conviction, passion is also vital to critical engagement with existing institutions and dangerous trends. The public sphere and the practice of public reason have power too. And they not only take from religion but also offer it opportunities to advance by reflection and critical argument.Read the rest of Religion’s many powers.
Craig Calhoun is director of the London School of Economics and Political Science. Before taking up his post at the LSE, he was University Professor at New York University, director of the Institute for Public Knowledge, and president of the Social Science Research Council. Calhoun has written widely on culture and communication, technology and social change, social theory and politics, and on the social sciences themselves. He is co-editor of a handful of recent and forthcoming volumes on secularism and religion, including Varieties of Secularism in a Secular Age and Habermas and Religion.
Posts by Craig Calhoun:
In my last post, I closed with two questions relating to Jurgen Habermas’s recent work on religion and the public sphere: First, is a genealogical or language-theoretical reconstruction of reason adequate without an existential connection between social and cultural history on the one hand and individual biography on the other? Second, is “translation” an adequate conceptualization of what is involved in making religious insights accessible to nonreligious participants in public discourse (and vice-versa)? The two questions are closely related, for the issue is how communication is achieved across lines of deep difference. Helpful as translation may be, it is not the whole story. [...]Read the rest of Translation and transformation.
Religion appears in liberal theory first and foremost as an occasion for tolerance and neutrality. This orientation is reinforced by both the classification of religion as essentially a private matter, and the view that religion is in some sense a “survival” from an earlier era – not a field of vital growth within modernity. [...]Read the rest of “Recognizing” religion.
Cosmopolitanism is not realistically imaginable as the transcendence of all forms of belonging. To propose a leap into traditionless secular reason is to propose the tyranny of the pure ought, and indeed, an ought without a can. It is also to privilege a class and a cultural group able to identify its traditions – including secularism – with neutral reason. Global solidarity will be achieved – if it is ever achieved – by transformation of religion and other forms of cultural belonging rather than by escape from them. And it will be achieved on the basis of hope and critical perspectives and solidarity that inform public reason but are not produced simply from within it.Read the rest of Cosmopolitanism and the ideal of postsecular public reason.
One of the main arguments of Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age is that people, at least modern secular Westerners, have come routinely to think that the world as it is must be all there is. The contrast between immanence and transcendence is thus one of Taylor’s main organizing themes. Immanence locates both our sense of reality and our sense of the good within the world around us; transcendence gives us a sense of something beyond. Taylor develops this in conjunction with a notion of “fullness” to try to evoke what it means to live in more constant engagement with that which is beyond the immediately given, the spiritual which might infuse nature, for example, or the Divine which might lift morality above a notion of ethics as mere fairness. [...]Read the rest of Going beyond.
Benazir Bhutto was my classmate at Oxford in the 1970s. That is not the opening sentence of a feel-good encomium to cosmopolitanism. Nor is it the start of a personal reminiscence or statement of regret, though I am sad. It is a small note of personal connection to the growing political tragedy in Pakistan. What follows is a reflection on that tragedy. It is also a warning to those who would think their personal connections offer adequate bases for understanding an ever more integrated but deeply troubled world and a plea for pursuing necessary knowledge. [...]Read the rest of The assassination of Benazir Bhutto.