Posts Tagged ‘post-secular’

October 3rd, 2016

A cautious rapprochement: Habermas and Taylor on translation and articulacy

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Conversation Statue Downtown Calgary WinterIn the past ten to fifteen years, discussions around the contested role of religion in the political public sphere have often centered on Jürgen Habermas and Charles Taylor, for many obvious and legitimate reasons. Not only are the two thinkers some of the most well-established in their fields, but they also share a deep appreciation of one another. Habermas’s reflections have perhaps drawn the bulk of attention and pushback, as religion had previously gone nearly unmentioned in his good half-century of academic work. Taylor also rarely discussed religion explicitly in his early career, but his more recent reflections seem to flow more naturally from his oeuvre, and come as less of a surprise to his readers.

In 2015, Taylor and Habermas were honored together in their shared reception of the Kluge Prize. While the two share significant overlap in their general push for a more accommodating role of religion in secular society, it is still worth taking a closer look at their divergences, particularly with regard to their views of language. Taylor has just released the first installment of what is to be a two-volume series entitled “The Language Animal.” We haven’t heard much from Habermas in recent years, but much of the secondary literature still focuses on his notion of the “post-secular,” mentioned in his 2001 speech in Frankfurt, as well as his 2005 volume Between Naturalism and Religion. His 2012 essay collection, Postmetaphysical Thinking II, has received less attention but shows a slight shift in emphasis. In what follows, I seek to provide an overview of Habermas’s and Taylor’s respective notions of “translation” and “articulacy,” and to accentuate their differences in order to consider where this discourse may go from here.

May 25th, 2016

Faithfully secular?

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Resurrecting DemocracyCommunity organizing is faith-based, at least in its best-known form. Since the 1940s, organizers in the mold of Saul Alinsky have worked with local congregations and civic groups to identify issues of shared interest and to marshal energies into action for social and economic change. Scholarship on community organizing, however, is surprisingly sparse. Work that treats religion non-reductively—as more than an interchangeable component in organizing—is sparser still. There are fine sociological studies, and earlier this century, reports of Barack Obama’s three years in Chicago brought bursts of scholarly and journalistic attention. But with Resurrecting Democracy: Faith, Citizenship, and the Politics of a Common Life, Luke Bretherton joins Romand Coles and Jeffrey Stout as one of the few scholars who treat community organizing as essential to discussions of political theory and the place of religion in the public square.

August 26th, 2013

CFP: Post-Secularism Between Public Reason and Political Theology

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Guest Editors Camil Ungureanu and Lasse Thomassen are requesting submissions for a special issue of the journal The European Legacy scheduled for late 2014.

July 1st, 2013

No Longer Invisible: Religion in University Education

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In their recent publication, No Longer Invisible: Religion in University Education, Douglas Jacobsen and Rhonda Hustedt Jacobsen discuss how religion has increasingly become more intertwined with the work higher education as well as how the “religious” and “secular” are blending together.

September 12th, 2012

CFP: 2013 Telos Conference

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The 2013 Telos Conference is currently seeking paper submissions on the subject of Religion and Politics in a Post-Secular World.

September 6th, 2012

The Post-Secular in Question and What Matters? reviewed

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Over at The Revealer, James S. Bielo reviews What Matters? Ethnographies of Value in a Not So Secular Age and The Post-Secular in Question: Religion in Contemporary Society, jointly published with the SSRC by Columbia University Press and New York University Press respectively.

August 20th, 2012

Religion and modern communication

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There has been considerable amount of research on how commodification and the Internet are transforming the religious lives of young people. For young Muslims, Internet use is an important means of building a consensus about, for example, whether the use of henna for cosmetic purposes is com­patible with Muslim tradition or whether dating and premarital intimacies are compatible with the life of a “good Muslim.” Whereas the religious sys­tem of communication in an age of revelation was hierarchical, unitary, and authoritative, the system of communicative acts in a new media environment are typically horizontal rather than vertical, diverse and fragmented rather than unitary, devolved rather than centralized. Furthermore, the authority of any message is constantly negotiable and negotiated. The growth of these diverse centers of interpretation in a global communication system has pro­duced considerable instability in the formal system of religious belief and practice.

August 16th, 2012

Enter the Post-Secular

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It was, then, a stirring sight to see Habermas sit down with Cardinal Ratzinger in 2004 for a philosophical dialogue. It is hard not to miss a breath at the image of both men in conversation, one the arch-defender of reason and rationality, described by Habermasian scholar Thomas McCarthy as the “last great rationalist,” and the other, renowned as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (and subsequently as Pope Benedict XVI), for his steadfast theological defense of Catholic tradition and moral teaching. At the same time, the twinning of the two Germans made for a fitting tableau: through their long careers, both have shown little interest in sociological realities and have remained intellectually aloof from lived experience.

June 28th, 2012

American civil religion in the age of Obama: An interview with Philip S. Gorski

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Philip S. Gorski is Professor of Sociology and Religious Studies and Co-Director of the Center for Comparative Research at Yale University. His work as a comparative historical sociologist has been influential in recovering Max Weber and asserting the strong influence of Calvinism on state formation in early modern Europe. In his recent book, The Protestant Ethic Revisited (Temple, 2011), he challenges Charles Tilly’s thesis that the technologies of war drove the creation of stable nation-states and argues that post-Reformation religious conflicts were the primary impetus of European state formation. In addition to co-editing The Post-Secular in Question earlier this year as part the SSRC’s series with NYU Press, Gorski is editor of another volume coming out early next year entitled Bourdieu and Historical Analysis (Duke, 2012). He and I sat down in Theodore Roosevelt Park in New York City, where we discussed the book he’s writing on civil religion, joked about Obama’s messianic burden, and considered what present-day America might learn from Émile Durkheim.

March 26th, 2012

Public religions and the postsecular

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The latest issue of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion contains the presidential address of British sociologist James Beckford. In it, Beckford critically reflects on the concepts of public religion and the postsecular.

March 14th, 2012

Imagining radical refusal

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In Reviews in Cultural Theory, Erin Wunker reviews Exit Capitalism: Literary Culture, Theory, and Postsecular Modernity by Simon During.

November 29th, 2011

The resurgence of the civic

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Occupy Wall Street and cognate groups around the world are part of a protest movement that is both global and local. It is global in terms of geographic scope, thematic range, and social composition. It is local in terms of the specific objects of protest and the protesters’ goals. The organic blending of the global with the local is reflected in the very unfolding of this worldwide wave. As the Egyptian activist Asmaa Mahfouz has remarked, the various groups “work in symbiosis, learning from and imitating each others’ strategies . . . the call for Occupy protests came from Canada, the General Assembly structures came from Spain, and the outcry of ‘We are the 99%’ came from Italy. Many occupiers took inspiration from our Tahrir Square; now the Occupy movement across the United States is inspiring us in Egypt.”

August 22nd, 2011

Milton and the postsecular

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In The Huffington Post, Feisal Mohammed offers an excerpt from his new bookMilton and the Post-Secular Present: Ethics, Politics, Terrorism, published in Stanford University Press’s beautiful “Cultural Memory in the Present” series.

May 20th, 2011

Physicists making religion headlines

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Ever since he told a Guardian reporter last weekend that the idea of an afterlife is a “fairy story,” Stephen Hawking has been in the religion news. The author of A Brief History of Time isn’t the only physicist making religion headlines. Not long ago, a paper presented at the American Physical Society’s annual meeting led the BBC to report: “Religion may become extinct in nine nations, study says.” Finally, the ongoing work on particle physics at CERN prompted its director to tell an interviewer: “we are crossing the boundary between knowledge and belief.”

March 22nd, 2011

The post-secular: A different account

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John Boy, in a post on March 15th, titled “What we talk about when we talk about the postsecular,” provides a brisk empirical overview of his key word’s appearance in recent discourse. But it is not at all what I talk about when I talk about the post-secular, and in many ways I think Boy’s account is rather wrong-headed.

Boy takes his cue from a lecture delivered by Jürgen Habermas in 2001, where Habermas proposes to bridge the gap posited by Ernst Bloch’s notion of non-synchronicity—which is simply an uncritical early version of Johannes Fabian’s “denial of coevalness,” in his Time and the Other—through “democratically enlightened common sense.” However, what this “common sense” means for Habermas—“a translation of religious positions” into (for example) “Kant’s postmetaphysical ethics”—is in no sense post-secular! It is in fact the essence of the secularization thesis itself, in one of its most prominent historical guises . . . .

March 21st, 2011

Exploring the postsecular city

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The New York Times reports on Tony Carnes’ remarkable efforts to map every place of worship in New York City over the course of two years.

March 15th, 2011

What we talk about when we talk about the postsecular

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The term “postsecular” is quickly becoming a keyword for scholars of religion and public life. So what is it all about? An overview of its uses and meanings.

March 11th, 2011

Asecular revolution

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Why have I chosen the term “asecular,” and not, say, “non-secular” or “post-secular,” to describe the power manifested by these protests? The term “non-secular” is too easily confused with the notion of the religious. And unlike post-secularity, asecularity is not a temporal marker. It allows for the possibility that asecularity has, in different forms, always been with us, even from within the traditions from which state secularity arises. Explorations of post-secularity typically try to identify the emergence of new norms. Such attempts fail to recognize that the process of identifying and distinguishing secular from non-secular norms is part of what secularism is, and that this process is integral to its power. In contrast, the term asecularity specifies a situation not where norms are no longer secular, but where the questions against which such norms are adduced and contested as answers are no longer seen as necessary.

February 25th, 2011

Post-secular development

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For most of the second half of the twentieth century development was assumed to be consonant with modernity and its attendant practices: secularism, reason, and science. However, it is increasingly apparent that the secularity of development should no longer be taken for granted. This is visible not only in recent initiatives for “faith-based development,” but also in movements that seek to develop faith by emphasizing religious ethics conducive to economic rationality.

December 10th, 2010

Endgame capitalism: An interview with Simon During

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Simon During is a professor at the Centre for the History of European Discourses at the University of Queensland, having previously taught at Johns Hopkins University, the University of Melbourne, and elsewhere. In addition to editing The Cultural Studies Reader, now in its third edition, he is the author of several books, including Modern Enchantments: The Cultural Power of Secular Magic (Harvard, 2002) and Exit Capitalism: Literary Culture, Theory and Post-Secular Modernity (Routledge, 2010). In both, he brings questions of the secular to bear on historical, literary sources both obscure and revelatory. His Compulsory Democracy: towards a literary history is forthcoming.

November 3rd, 2010

Religion as a catalyst of rationalization

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The centrality of religion to social theory in general and philosophy in particular explains why Jürgen Habermas has dealt with it, in both substantive and creative ways, in all of his work. Indeed, religion can be used as a lens through which to glimpse both the coherence and the transformation of his distinctive theories of social development and his rethinking of the philosophy of reason as a theory of social rationalization.

For Habermas, religion has been a continuous concern precisely because it is related to both the emergence of reason and the development of a public space of reason-giving. Religious ideas, according to Habermas, are never mere irrational speculation. Rather, they possess a form, a grammar or syntax, that unleashes rational insights, even arguments; they contain, not just specific semantic contents about God, but also a particular structure that catalyzes rational argumentation.

November 3rd, 2010

Habermas and Religion

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Edited by Craig Calhoun, Eduardo Mendieta, and Jonathan VanAntwerpen, Habermas and Religion presents a series of original and sustained engagements with Habermas’s writing on religion in the public sphere, featuring new work and critical reflections from leading philosophers, social and political theorists, and anthropologists. Contributors to the volume respond both to Habermas’s ambitious and well-developed philosophical project and to his most recent work on religion. The book closes with an extended response from Habermas—itself a major statement from one of today’s most important thinkers.

August 6th, 2010

After the postsecular

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Inside Higher Ed interviews Anthony Paul Smith and Daniel Whistler, the editors of the recently-published volume After the Postsecular and the Postmodern: New Essays in Continental Philosophy of Religion. They highlight the experimental aspects of newer work in the philosophy of religion, which often means revisiting philosophers from the past two centuries and reading them anew in the wake of Deleuze.

August 5th, 2010

The secularization of secularism

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In the newest issue of Theory, Culture & Society, British sociologist Gregor McLennan takes a closer look at the “postsecular turn” in contemporary social theory. He argues that this “turn”—if indeed it amounts to one—finds expression in three broad trends: genealogical critique, neo-vitalism, and postcolonial antihistoricism. He mainly discusses these trends with regard to the work of three scholars, each representing one of the trends: Talal Asad, William Connolly, and Dipesh Chakrabarty (though Rosi Braidotti and Judith Butler are also mentioned, as representatives of neo-vitalism and antihistoricism, respectively). While these theoretical developments go some way in critiquing the problematic linkages between secular epistemology and political arrangements, McLennan argues that they are each riddled with inconsistencies. Rather than staking out an antisecular position, these perspectives remain within secularism, contributing to the “secularization of secularism.”

February 3rd, 2010

A postsecular world society?: An interview with Jürgen Habermas

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“We should not throw out the baby with the bathwater. The debate over the sociological thesis of secularization has led to a revision above all in respect to prognostic statements. On the one hand, the system of religion has become more differentiated and has limited itself to pastoral care, that is, it has largely lost other functions. On the other hand, there is no global connection between societal modernization and religion’s increasing loss of significance, a connection that would be so close that we could count on the disappearance of religion. In the still undecided dispute as to whether the religious USA or the largely secularized Western Europe is the exception to a general developmental trend, José Casanova for example has developed interesting new hypotheses. In any case, globally we have to count on the continuing vitality of world religions.”

September 24th, 2009

The “post-secular” impulse

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In Books & Culture, David Martin offers a critical analysis of the context and motivations for recent discussions of the “post-secular” in social theory.

March 24th, 2008

“Recognizing” religion

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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. […]

February 11th, 2008

Cosmopolitanism and the ideal of postsecular public reason

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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.