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The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere

The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere

Eduardo Mendieta
Jonathan VanAntwerpen
Afterword by Craig Calhoun
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 128
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  • Book Info
    The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere
    Book Description:

    The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere represents a rare opportunity to experience a diverse group of preeminent philosophers confronting one pervasive contemporary concern: what role does-or should-religion play in our public lives? Reflecting on her recent work concerning state violence in Israel-Palestine, Judith Butler explores the potential of religious perspectives for renewing cultural and political criticism, while Jürgen Habermas, best known for his seminal conception of the public sphere, thinks through the ambiguous legacy of the concept of "the political" in contemporary theory. Charles Taylor argues for a radical redefinition of secularism, and Cornel West defends civil disobedience and emancipatory theology. Eduardo Mendieta and Jonathan VanAntwerpen detail the immense contribution of these philosophers to contemporary social and political theory, and an afterword by Craig Calhoun places these attempts to reconceive the significance of both religion and the secular in the context of contemporary national and international politics.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-52725-5
    Subjects: Philosophy, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION: The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere
    (pp. 1-14)

    Many of our dominant stories about religion and public life are myths that bear little relation to either our political life or our everyday experience. Religion is neither merely private, for instance, nor purely irrational. And the public sphere is neither a realm of straightforward rational deliberation nor a smooth space of unforced assent. Yet these understandings of both religion and public life have long been pervasive, perhaps especially within academic circles. In recent years, however, and in the midst of a widespread resurgence of interest in the public importance of religion, there has been an increasingly sophisticated series of...

  5. “THE POLITICAL”: The Rational Meaning of a Questionable Inheritance of Political Theology
    (pp. 15-33)

    In the welfare state democracies of the latter half of the twentieth century, politics was still able to wield a steering influence on the diverging subsystems; it could still counterbalance tendencies toward social disintegration. Thus under the conditions of “embedded capitalism,” politics could succeed in this effort within the framework of the nation state. Today, under conditions of globalized capitalism, the political capacities for protecting social integration are becoming dangerously restricted. As economic globalization progresses, the picture that systems theory sketched of social modernization is acquiring ever sharper contours in reality.

    According to this interpretation, politics as a means of...

    (pp. 34-59)

    It is generally agreed that modern democracies have to be “secular.” There is perhaps a problem, a certain ethnocentricity, involved in this term. But even in the Western context the term is not limpid. What in fact does it mean? I believe that there are at least two models of what constitutes a secular regime.

    Both involve some kind of separation of church and state. The state can’t be officially linked to some religious confession; except in a vestigial and largely symbolic sense, as in England or Scandinavia. But secularism requires more than this. The pluralism of society requires that...

  7. DIALOGUE: Jürgen Habermas and Charles Taylor
    (pp. 60-69)

    Craig Calhoun: Thank you both, Jürgen and Chuck, for really interesting, challenging discussions. They are similar and connected enough that I think we are discussing a common terrain, and there are enough differences that it ought to be possible to continue discussing it in fruitful ways.

    I want to give Jürgen a chance to respond first, having just heard Charles. Let me pose a particular question, to start this.

    Part of the burden of Charles’s talk was to suggest that religion should not be considered a special case, either with regard to political discourse or with regard to reason and...

    (pp. 70-91)

    I am neither a scholar of religion nor really of public life, but my thinking does intersect with the problem posed here today to the extent that I have been trying in the last years to consider the complex relationship between Judaism, Jewishness, and Zionism, as I know so many other people have as well. My own concern has been to find and foster the patience and perspicacity to think through some issues that seem to be confounded within public discourse. I am not sure whether I have succeeded, but I do know that this is a most difficult and...

    (pp. 92-100)

    It was almost forty years ago when I first read Knowledge and Human Interests, and it changed my life. It was the first philosophic text that I gave a public presentation on at Princeton. To be able now to be in a dialogue with Professor Habermas is, in fact, more than a blessing. It’s true I was blessed to sit in his seminar in Frankfurt in 1987, with Roberto Unger and Thomas McCarthy, who is here, a towering figure in his own right. But to be part of this dialogue, for me, is very, very special.

    The same holds for...

  10. DIALOGUE: Judith Butler and Cornel West
    (pp. 101-108)

    Eduardo Mendieta: Judith, this situation, the exilic situation or condition, can we translate that into an ethics for a U.S. citizen? How would we translate that into an ethics of citizenship in our present context? Or is it only applicable to Jews?

    Judith Butler: Eduardo, I guess I want to say that I think we have to start with the distinction between the citizen and the non-citizen, because we also have a politics which involves refusing to grant citizenship to a vast domain of the population, who, nevertheless, work here, constitute who we are, who we might even say have...

  11. CONCLUDING DISCUSSION: Judith Butler, Jürgen Habermas, Charles Cornel Taylor, West
    (pp. 109-117)

    Craig Calhoun: I want to just set up the occasion for all four of our speakers to speak with each other briefly at the end. I’m going to do it by trying to give you a gloss on what they said so that they can speak to each other about how I got it wrong.

    One of the things that we heard here was that secularity isn’t just a religion problem. It’s not even just a political institution. Secularity, secularism, the problem with the secular, has to do with inhabiting a common world without universally shared absolutes or notions of...

    (pp. 118-134)

    Religion is threatening, inspiring, consoling, provocative, a matter of reassuring routine or calls to put one’s life on the line. It is a way to make peace and a reason to make war. As the great Iranian sociologist and Islamic reformer Ali Sharyati put it: “Religion is an amazing phenomenon that plays contradictory roles in peoples lives. It can destroy or revitalize, put to sleep or awaken, enslave or emancipate, teach docility or teach revolt.”¹ No wonder debates about religion in the public sphere can be so confusing.

    The prominence of religion still has the capacity to startle secular thinkers...

  13. INDEX
    (pp. 135-138)