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‘Secularization’ sounds simple, a decline in the power of religion. Yet, the history of the term is controversial and multi-faceted; it has been useful to both religious believers and non-believers and has been deployed by scholars to make sense of a variety of aspects of cultural and social change. This book will introduce the reader to this variety and show how secularization bears on the contemporary politics of religion.
Secularization addresses the sociological classics’ ambivalent accounts of the future of religion, later and more robust sociological claims about religious decline, and the most influential philosophical secularization thesis, which says that the dominant ideas of modern thought are in fact religious ones in a secularized form. The book outlines some shortcomings of these accounts in the light of historical inquiry and comparative sociology; examines claims that some religions are ‘resistant to secularization’; and analyzes controversies in the politics of religion, in particular over the relationship between Christianity and Islam and over the implicitly religious character of some modern political movements.
By giving equal attention to both sociological and philosophical accounts of secularization, and equal weight to ideas, institutions, and practices, this book introduces complicated ideas in a digestible format. It will appeal to students and scholars interested in making unusual connections within sociology, anthropology, philosophy, theology, and political theory.
Table of Contents
1. The Career of a Concept
2. Secularization and Ambivalence
3. Four Secularization Gospels
4. Secularization and Philosophy
5. The Revenge of History and Sociology
6. Fundamentalism, Zombie Religion, Secular Religion
7. An Inconclusive Conclusion
Charles Turner teaches Sociology at the University of Warwick. He is author of Modernity and Politics in the Work of Max Weber (1992) and Investigating Sociological Theory (2010), and has co-edited Social Theory after the Holocaust (2000) with Robert Fine, The Shape of the New Europe (2006) with Ralf Rogowski, and Paradox and Inference: The Sociology of Wilhelm Baldamus (2010) with Mark Erickson.
"Charles Turner has provided us with a well-informed, witty, and frequently surprising critical introduction to the concept of secularization, its voluminous literature, and its central place in the work of the classic social thinkers, as well as in the thinking of a long list of important Continental intellectuals. Its insightful discussion of Islam is a special bonus."
Stephen Turner, Distinguished University Professor, University of South Florida
"Charles Turner's primer on secularization is essential reading. Refreshingly open, non-moralizing, historically-alert, sociologically-comprehensive, culturally broad-ranging and politically astute, Secularization provides both succinct insight into secularization as a much-contested concept and much pithy guidance as to its real uses as well as limitations. Turner writes with an engagingly direct and accessible style whilst never losing sight of the genuine difficulties in any consideration of these issues. His discussion has at once a lightness of tone and a genuine depth of insight that will appeal to the curious and uninitiated as well as to the seasoned, weathered thinker on these matters - everyone can gain something from this book".
Thomas Osborne, Professor of Social and Political Theory, University of Bristol