1st Edition

Pluralizing Humanism Religions and Secularisms Beyond Power

By Slavica Jakelić Copyright 2025
    250 Pages
    by Routledge

    Humanism is appealed to today whenever we want to tackle the conditions of dehumanization in the contemporary world. But for humanism to be viable in the twenty first century, this book argues, it needs to be pluralized.


    Employing theoretical, historical and sociological arguments, the book moves beyond the discourse of critique. It engages theories of religion and secularism, as well as postmodern, postcolonial, and decolonial critiques of Western humanist projects, to uncover the ideas and practices of religious and secular humanisms when they challenge dehumanization in the pursuit of conditions of flourishing for all. Through studies of the Solidarity movement in Poland and the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, the book demonstrates the centrality of humanist traditions to the emergence of religious-secular solidarities that transformed the political landscapes of the world. By highlighting the instances in which humanisms functioned as checks on each other’s absolutist claims, the book contends that humanisms supply a constructive path for addressing the challenges of our time—a time of radically divided societies and intolerant, even violent, forms of nationalism. A challenge to the critiques of humanism that seek to identify it solely as the legacy of the West, as anti-religious discourse, or relegate it to the domain of power constellations, Pluralizing Humanism highlights the rich plurality of humanist discourses and the need for their mutual engagements. It points to humanist ideals as constitutive of politics that can guide our human power because they are irreducible to it.


    As such, the book will appeal to social scientists, social theorists, religious studies scholars, and ethicists with interests in religion, secularism, social movements, and humanist thought and practice.


    Introduction: From Humanism to Humanisms  1. The Powers of Religions and the Challenge of Pluralism  2. The Ethics of Secularisms and The Problem of Pluralism  3. Pluralizing Humanism: Particular, Not Parochial  4. Identity, Dignity, and Dialogue: The Humanist Ethos of Polish Solidarity  5. From Resistance to Freedom: Humanisms and the Imagining of a New South Africa  Conclusion: Humanizing Politics, Sustaining Democracies


    Slavica Jakelić is Richard P. Baepler Distinguished Professor in the Humanities at Christ College, Valparaiso University, USA. She coedited several journals and volumes, including The Future of the Study of Religion. She is the author of Collectivistic Religions: Religion, Choice, and Identity in Late Modernity and Both Freedom and Belonging: Essays on Religion, Nationalism, and Solidarity.

    "Pluralizing Humanism explores the implications of a descriptively acute and normatively profound understanding of the pluriform character of religious and non-religious ways of life in the late modern world. Jakelić’s mastery of sociological and religious studies methodologies combine into a truly interdisciplinary work that scrutinizes actors’ complex moral and metaphysical landscapes in order to understand the strengths and weaknesses of "chastened” religious and secular humanisms, and to recommend an astute dialogical and collaborative strategy for diverse humanisms that seeks common positive aims amidst the irreducible truth of pluralism. Theoretically ambitious and empirically meticulous, this work will be very significant for the fields of religious studies and sociology of religion, for studies of community identity and violence, and for understanding modernity in general."

    - Charles Mathewes, Carolyn M. Barbour Professor of Religious Studies, University of Virginia


    “In this illuminating comparative study, Jakelic makes a powerful case for the importance of humanistic discourses in the Polish and South African freedom struggles of the 1980s.  Importantly, these discourses were plural—fed by multiple sources and traditions and sustained within unlikely religious-secular partnerships.  Pluralizing Humanism offers hope for efforts to sustain the pursuit of common goods in the midst of the radical divisions that plague contemporary societies around the globe today.”

    - Jennifer Herdt, Gilbert L. Stark Professor of Christian Ethics and Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at Yale Divinity School, the author of Forming Humanity: Redeeming the German Bildung Tradition