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“The Times They Are A-Changing”: Modern and Non-Modern Dynamics in the Emergence of a Secular Italy

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Many sociologists and historians have foreseen the secularization of Europe and have pointed to the close relation between this religious trend and ongoing modernization. Among them, Hugh McLeod stands out as a prominent author who has refined that thesis, talking of the ‘end of Christendom.’ By this term he means the end of a society that defines itself as Christian, in the aftermath of the religious crisis of the 1960s. This article uses the religious situation in Italy as a testing ground for that thesis, and argues that the most significant emergent facts for religious change are currently taking place outside the symbolic range of the conservative-progressive distinction. Building on recent empirical research as well as on the insight of such anti-evolutionistic views of the modernization process as Joas’ theory of the creativity of action and Archer’s approach to social morphogenesis, I sketch a new, provisional picture of religious change in Italy. I thus try to capture the mixing strategies and dynamics through which religious actors are making their way out of ‘Christendom’ and towards some new form of a ‘secular,’ yet not de-Christianized, country.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Political, Juridical, and International Studies, University of Padova, Italy,


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