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Multiple Secularities: Toward a Cultural Sociology of Secular Modernities

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image of Comparative Sociology
For content published from 1960-2001, see International Journal of Comparative Sociology.

AbstractFor more than two decades sociological debates over religion and secularization have been characterized by a confrontation between (often American) critics and (mostly European) defenders of secularization theories. At the same time, there was a remarkable rise in public debates about the role of secularism in political regimes and in national as well as civilizational frameworks. Against this backdrop this paper presents the conceptual framework of “multiple secularities” with a view to refocusing sociological research on religion and secularity. We will demonstrate that it can stimulate new ways of theorizing the relationship of religion and secularity in a variety of modern environments. Arguing for a reformulation of this relationship within the framework of cultural sociology, we conceptualize “secularity” in terms of the cultural meanings underlying the differentiation between religion and non-religious spheres. Building on Max Weber we distinguish four basic ideal-types of secularity that are related to specific reference problems and associated with specific guiding ideas. Finally, we illustrate the use of the concept with regard to selected case-studies.


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