It is increasingly clear that histories of secularization are not simply dispassionate descriptions of the decline of religious belief and practice in the West. Rather, such narratives often seek to celebrate secularization, promote some version of it, lament it, or otherwise oppose it in favour of a programme of desecularization or resacralization. The aim of this book is to identify some of the major genres of the history of secularization and to explore their historical contexts, normative commitments, and tendential purposes. The contributors to the volume offer different perspectives on these questions, not least because a number of them are themselves participants in the cultural-political programs described above. The primary purpose of this book, however, is the identification of such programs rather than their promotion. Overall, the collection seeks to bring analytical clarity to ongoing debates about secularization and help explain the co-existence of apparently conflicting stories about the origins of Western modernity. This book was originally published as a special issue of the Intellectual History Review journal.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Narratives of secularization 1. Secularisation: process, program, and historiography 2. The one or the many? Narrating and evaluating Western secularization 3. Science and secularization 4. A heavenly poise: radical religion and the making of the Enlightenment 5. Narratives of de-secularization in international relations 6. The History of Political Thought as secular genealogy: the case of liberty in early modern England 7. The politics of disenchantment: Marcel Gauchet and the French struggle with secularization 8. Is absolute secularity conceivable?
Peter Harrison is an Australian Laureate Fellow and Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Queensland. He is author of over 100 articles and book chapters, and his six books include, most recently, The Territories of Science and Religion (2015).
A scholarly road map designed to introduce newcomers to the many and varied contours of the debate surrounding why, how, and when western civilization turned from an “age of religion” towards an equally encompassing “age of secularity.”
S. C. Williams