Beyond Secular Democracy: Religion, Politics, and Modernity

The presumed relationship between secularism and democracy is precisely that, presumed, argues Jeremy Menchik, CGCM faculty associate, in a recent journal article challenging common convention.

Menchik’s article, entitled “Beyond Secular Democracy: Religion, Politics, and Modernity,” was published in the July 2018 edition of International Studies Review. 

From the abstract of the article:

This review essay synthesizes fifteen years of scholarship challenging the presumed relationship between secularism and democracy—that state secularism provides the normative or institutional baseline for modern governance. The idea that states and societies become more secular as they develop economically is no longer supported by most social scientists, including its original proponents. Sociologists and anthropologists have increasingly studied secularism as a project, rather than a teleological process embedded in modernization, and the new scholarship on “comparative secularisms” demonstrates that the manifestations of secularism are complicated and varied. Despite these advances, the new scholarship suffers from insufficient attention to the measurement challenges posed by the diverse content of religion. And while scholars continue to debate the content and characteristics of our secular age, all of the recent scholarship highlights important differences between traditional and modern religion. In view of the current state of the literature, this essay lays out an agenda for research on religion and modernity, or on modernization without secularization.

Jeremy Menchik’s research interests include comparative politics, religion and politics, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. His first book, Islam and Democracy in Indonesia: Tolerance without Liberalism (Cambridge University Press, 2016) explains the meaning of tolerance to the world’s largest Islamic organizations and was the winner of the 2017 International Studies Association award for the best book on religion and international relations. He has received numerous awards and fellowships for teaching and research, and his work has appeared in the academic journals Comparative Studies in Society and HistoryComparative Politics, International Studies Review, Politics and Religion, and South East Asia Research as well as in The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, The Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today.

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