This book, first published in 1989, demonstrates that sociologists have much to gain from a strengthening of the connections between general theories about the changing character of modern western societies and specific studies of religion. It combines an exegesis of sociological classics in the study of religion, and a history of their influence upon the subject’s development; a criticism of Talcott Parson’s attempt to synthesise classical viewpoints into a single theory of modernity; a discussion of post-Parsonian theories of religion’s declining importance; and an argument that some quasi-Marxist thinkers may offer fresh insights into the place of religion in capitalist societies.
1. The Isolation of Religion 2. Religion in Classical Models of Industrial Society 3. Fallow Period and Second Harvest 4. Systems, Symbols, Societalization, Secularization, Subjectivity 5. Differentiation and its Discontents 6. Ideology, New Social Movements and Spirituality