Secularization As Struggle

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 15:45
Oral Presentation
Sebastian SCHLERKA, Bielefeld Graduate School in History and Sociology, Bielefeld University, Germany
This paper aims at presenting a new approach on secularization that is applicable in empirical research and avoids the historical teleology of most classical secularization theory. These goals are achieved by basing the approach on Bourdieu's theory of practice and treating secularization as the result of struggle.

Regarding the meanings of the term secularization, Casanova speaks of differentiation, privatization, and marginalization. These meanings can be understood as dimensions of secularization. From a critical assessment of secularization as well as desecularization approaches from all three dimensions (Luhmann, Habermas, Luckmann, Casanova, Thomas, and Riesebrodt) I have developed two aspects for each dimension. Differentiation can mean the autonomy of religious actors as well as the expansivity of religious worldviews to other fields than the religious. Privatization not only refers to the public-private dichotomy, but also to the individualization of religious beliefs. And marginalization can be the result either of societal change or of competition by non-religious actors.

Looking more closely, one notices that all these meanings of secularization describe aspects of religious praxis. In Bourdieu, which praxis counts as legitimately religious is always the object of struggle, with each actor trying to impose his own praxis as legitimate. Speaking in theoretical terms, it is the religious field's nomos. Since, as Luhmann states, speaking of secularization only makes sense in the context of the relation between religion and non-religion, in order to return to secularization we have to get back to non-religion. Non-religious actors have their own ideas of what religion ought to be, and they try to impose their view on religious actors. Building on Wohlrab-Sahr, Asad and Luhmann, we can define these non-religious ideas of religion as secularism. Secularization, then, can be defined as the (forced or deliberate) adaptation of religious actors to secularism. Put differently, secularization is the result of struggles.