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‘Phoenix from the Ashes’: Religious Communities Arising from Globalization

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When in the 1960s religious congregations were suffering from diminishing membership, the sociology of religion turned away from the study of organized religion in order to study private religiosity, even though new social forms of religion were emerging. The article addresses first the impact of globalization on the place of religious communities in the fabric of national and transnational society. Labor migration severs the individual from his or her transmitted loyalties and places him or her amid the risks of the labor market. Parallel to this, the nation state conveys public tasks into private hands in the realms of education, health care, social welfare, and sometimes security. Both changes open up new opportunities for religious communities. Second, the paper addresses the subjective side of the shift, focusing on the Abrahamic religions. They claim the promise given to Abraham—that he and his descendants will be blessed and become a great nation—for their communities. When the factual history contradicts that expectation, prophetic and apocalyptic visions of a bright future keep alive that faith. They summon the believers to fight for the well being of their community, to assist and support each other, and to claim public recognition for their community, since it is beneficial to the entire society. The article argues that this model of religious communality enabled believers in the past to appropriate official legal and social forms for their community. Max Weber in his Economy and Society also argued that religious communality remains a powerful social order in modern society. According to him its strength derives from the subjective religious expectations of social actors and the positive or negative impact their practices exercise on other social orders such as economy, family, state, and law.

Affiliations: 1: Jacobs University Bremen,


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