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The global rise of Pentecostal Christianity is one of the most remarkable phenomena of rapid social and cultural change in the past few decades. For a considerable time, it remained almost unnoticed in the field of social sciences. It had certainly not been predicted by any current theory. In that sense it came as a surprise, shattering the basic assumptions of these disciplines and a widespread self-understanding. The great British sociologist of religion, David Martin, has compared this growth of a religious movement with epochal events like the fall of communism in Europe and the cultural transformations in the West during the 1960s – all developments of great consequence, but unforeseen by observers at the time.
Martin is himself one of the pioneers of research on Pentecostalism. His study of 1990 on ‘the explosion of Protestantism in Latin America’, published under the appropriately ‘Pentecostal’ title Tongues of Fire, represents the first authoritative study in this area. It is not a coincidence that it was written by the same scholar who had developed the most penetrating early critique of the secularisation thesis according to which modernisation in the sense of economic growth and scientific technological progress more or less automatically and irreversibly leads to religious decline. For him and those agreeing with his critical work and his attempts to develop a general theory of secularisation, the new phenomena became one of the cornerstones of an alternative approach to the understanding of religious change.
While this book by Martin was restricted to one geographical area, namely, Latin America, it was followed in 2002 by another study (Pentecostalism: The World Their Parish) that widened the focus and included Africa and Asia. Despite this broader horizon, India, one of the largest states of the world, remained rather marginal. Less than one page was devoted to the subcontinent. There were certainly some good reasons for this relative lack of attention at that point in time.
The present book is not the first, but is a particularly helpful empirical contribution to fill that obvious gap. The intellectual background of its author is not in the sociology of religion, but in political sociology.
In a world increasingly beset by virulent religio- political controversies, casting an eye over past debates might be one way of injecting some objectivity into this discourse. Various thinkers have taken us down certain unproductive paths several times over, while some of the more astute past interpreters of religion warned of the dangers of a reductive view of religious phenomena – and underlined the independence of religion – with greater nuance and insight than many present- day authors. It seems to me that few past thinkers have as much to offer us in these respects as Protestant theologian, historian of Christianity, sociologist of religion and cultural philosopher Ernst Troeltsch. I intend to bring this out through a meditation on just one of his texts (‘Die Selbständigkeit der Religion’, or ‘The Independence of Religion’).
Troeltsch did not include this essay, originally published in 1895/ 96 in the Zeitschrift für Theologie und Kirche, in the four- volume selection of his collected writings (Gesammelte Schriften), nor was it reprinted anywhere else until the publication of the corresponding volume of the Kritische Gesamtausgabe in 2009. As a result, over the last few decades and within the international debate this text has received even less attention than the other writings of this major thinker. No English translation has so far appeared. And his essay does not make things easy for the reader, particularly a present- day one. If we apply the standards that increasingly hold sway today and that go a long way towards determining the career prospects of up- and- coming scholars through the process of publication ‘in refereed journals’, we soon realize that Troeltsch flagrantly violated every one of them. What present- day journal would accept a 165- page essay entirely devoid of subheadings and of any sort of easily graspable structure, a text whose long and complex sentences interleave the examination of factual issues with critical commentary on numerous thinkers of past and present? At best the editors would surely respond with ‘revise and resubmit’. Troeltsch himself later described his early texts as ‘studies born of struggle and toil’, ‘a patchwork that betrays it's cobbledtogether’.
My objective in this essay is pretty clear from its title. It is to sound the alert about dangerous nouns of process, nouns that lead sociologists astray whenever they try to use them to place their analyses of the contemporary world on a historical foundation. These nouns of process also exercise a detrimental effect beyond the boundaries of sociology when other scholars, such as historians, see them as a source of theoretical guidance that is already well-tried in the social sciences. To explain the sharp tone of my warning, I must begin with a fairly detailed historical retrospective. We have to go back to the relationship between sociology and history during the period when the former was getting off the ground, paying special attention to the role of the topic of religion in this process.
Sociology has a number of roots as an independent academic discipline. It has absorbed: philosophical ideas, sometimes with anthropological underpinnings, about the nature of human social relations; enquiries into social problems of social reformist intent (on poverty, alcoholism, criminality, divorce); attempts to analyze the modern world; and models for systematizing the mass of historical and ethnological knowledge generated by the nineteenth century. When all goes well, the fusion of these disparate strands produces brilliant writings of broad interdisciplinary resonance. When things go awry, the discipline often threatens to disintegrate into its constituent elements, into disciplinary subcultures that have little to say to one another and that feel greater rapport with neighboring subjects than with their originary discipline.
If we go by university curricula, however, we do at least find a fair degree of internal cognitive stability within the discipline of sociology, in two respects. A specific canon of empirical methods of data collection and data analysis enjoys undisputed status. For many people, then, the discipline's professional identity consists chiefly in these methods. But there is also consensus with respect to classical sociological theory. Throughout the world, sociologists unanimously agree that sociology's core canon is centered on the work of two authors, namely Max Weber and Emile Durkheim, and a good knowledge of both is an absolute prerequisite for membership in the disciplinary community. This fact can, however, easily blind us to the improbability of this theoretical canon.
Bourdieu's work was deeply moulded by the national intellectual milieu in which it developed, that of France in the late 1940s and 1950s, a milieu characterised by disputes between phenomenologists and structuralists. But it is not this national and cultural dimension that distinguishes Bourdieu's writings from those of other ‘grand theorists’. Habermas and Giddens, for example, owed as much to the academic or political context of their home countries. What set Bourdieu's approach apart from that of his German and British ‘rivals’ was a significantly stronger linkage of theoretical and empirical knowledge. Bourdieu was first and foremost an empirical sociologist, that is, a sociologist who developed and constantly refined his theoretical concepts on the basis of his empirical work – with all the advantages and disadvantages that theoretical production of this kind entails. We shall have more to say about this later. Bourdieu is thus to be understood primarily not as a theorist but as a cultural sociologist who systematically stimulated the theoretical debate through his empirical work.
Pierre Bourdieu was born in 1930 and is therefore of the same generation as Habermas and Luhmann. The fact that Bourdieu came from a modest background and grew up in the depths of provincial France is extremely important to understanding his work. Bourdieu himself repeatedly emphasised the importance of his origins: ‘I spent most of my youth in a tiny and remote village of Southwestern France […].
The question of religion, its contemporary and future significance and its role in society and state is currently perceived as an urgent one by many and is widely discussed within the public sphere. But it is also – and has long been – one of the core topics of the historically oriented modern social sciences, indeed, of the modern disciplines of history and philosophy of history since their emergence in the eighteenth century. Increased public interest opens up an opportunity to think in new ways about the immense stock of knowledge furnished by the history of religion and religious studies, theology, sociology and history, and to introduce it into the public conscience. It is of course beyond dispute that a contemporary treatment of these issues cannot remain limited to Europe or the North Atlantic world, but must adopt a truly global perspective. This means that we must take full account of religious traditions other than those of Christianity and consider other parts of the world – beyond Europe and North America. It has, in any event, become quite impossible to draw clear boundaries between territories with respect to concepts of religion – as the notion of the ‘Christian West’, for example, attempts to do. The drawing of such boundary lines has always been problematic historically, as it underestimates the reality of religious pluralism, with respect, for example, to European religious history.
Even for those who visit the USA only occasionally and lack deep historical knowledge of the country, its religious pluralism and vitality are probably impossible to miss. While the German village often seems to be built around its only church, its American counterpart generally features a large number of churches, often lined up along a single street – a reflection of the great variety of religious faiths. In Europe on the other hand, despite all the changes wrought by industrialization and urban growth, flight and expulsion, the principle that there can be just one religion in one territory is still much in evidence geographically. American churches are often provided with large car parks, and these regularly fill up on Sundays, when services are held, but also throughout the day on weekdays, because a large number of activities are organized within the parishes and congregations. After the Second World War, when settlement structures changed radically as increasing numbers of town dwellers moved into homes in the country, giving rise to the vast ‘suburbs’, it sometimes seemed that the new malls in the open countryside were taking the churches' central place in social life. But before long, numerous new churches and synagogues were also constructed in these suburbs, and it is arguable that the average American suburban family continues to attend church more often than it goes to the mall. In the cities, the (often enormous) historic church buildings remain, the congregations now often consisting entirely of African-Americans or new immigrants.
From 31 March to 5 April 2006, the fifth conference of the Forum für Verantwortung foundation, entitled ‘Secularization and the World Religions’, was held at the European Academy, Otzenhausen (Saarland). The foundation invited scholars in various fields, among them Cardinal Lehmann, to cast light on the topic in a way comprehensible to the approximately 180 attendees, whose interests cover a broad spectrum. The discussions with the audience that followed the lectures showed that they had fully achieved this aim. We would like to take this opportunity to again thank all the speakers.
The lectures delivered in Otzenhausen have been brought together in the present volume in order to make them accessible to a broader public beyond the conference participants. As with the volumes arising from the earlier conferences, all published in German by S. Fischer Verlag and tackling the subjects of evolution; humanity and the cosmos; the cultural values of Europe (with a volume of the same title published by Liverpool University Press in 2008) and the future of the earth, for reasons of space it was necessary to forego reproducing the incisive discussions of the individual lectures. The podium discussion moderated by Hans Joas on ‘Religion and Politics at the Beginning of the Twenty-First Century’, which concluded the fifth conference, is also left out of account here.
We would like to thank the attendees for their deep engagement and critical questions, which not only invigorated the conference but also inspired later modifications to the written forms of the lectures and have thus entered into the contributions published here.
The question of religion, its contemporary and future significance and its role in society and state is currently perceived as an urgent one by many and is widely discussed within the public sphere. But it has also long been one of the core topics of the historically oriented social sciences. The immense stock of knowledge furnished by the history of religion and religious studies, theology, sociology and history has to be introduced into the public conscience today. This can promote greater awareness of the contemporary global religious situation and its links with politics and economics and counter rash syntheses such as the 'clash of civilizations'. This volume is concerned with the connections between religions and the social world and with the extent, limits, and future of secularization. The first part deals with major religious traditions and their explicit or implicit ideas about the individual, social and political order. The second part gives an overview of the religious situation in important geographical areas. Additional contributions analyze the legal organization of the relationship between state and religion in a global perspective and the role of the natural sciences in the process of secularization. The contributors are internationally renowned scholars like Winfried Brugger, Jos� Casanova, Friedrich Wilhelm Graf, Hans Joas, Hans G. Kippenberg, Gudrun Kr�mer, David Martin, Eckart Otto and Rudolf Wagner.
Our decision to begin this lecture series on modern social theory with the question ‘What is theory?’ may raise some eyebrows. After all, a fair number of you have attended courses on the great figures of sociological theory – such as Emile Durkheim, George Herbert Mead and Max Weber – which featured no discussion of the ‘nature’ of theory. The course organizers rightly assumed that you already have an intuitive understanding of ‘theory’ or soon will have. At any rate, you should by now be in a position to characterize the quite different approaches to social reality taken by Weber, Mead or Durkheim. As is well known, Weber described the state or political phenomena from a completely different point of view from Durkheim; the former thus had a quite different theoretical conception of the nature of the political from the latter, though both referred to the same empirical facts in their sociological accounts. Mead's conception of social action clearly differed markedly from that of Weber, though some of the terms they used were similar, and so on. All these authors thus underpinned their sociological accounts with differing theories (plural!). But has this insight not brought us a decisive step closer to resolving the issue of the ‘nature’ of theory? If we were to compare all these theories and pin down what they have in common, thus finding the lowest common denominator, would we not, we might wonder, already have achieved an adequate understanding of theory (singular!)? A comparison of this kind would surely provide us with, as it were, the formal elements that make up a (sociological) theory; we could grasp what social theory in fact is.
The crucial turning point in Habermas' career came in the early 1970s, when he broke finally and unmistakably with key elements of the Hegelian and Marxian legacy; it was in this context that he wrestled with the utopias of the student movement. Habermas thus cut the cord connecting him to this tradition, which he previously seemed to be continuing with mere critical modifications. As a consequence of this break, he was to introduce a number of new theoretical elements into his thought, enabling him to advance towards his own theoretical synthesis.
First, Habermas abandons the idea that history can be understood as a process of the formation of the human species as a whole. In the work of Marx, humanity had been conceived in Hegelian fashion as, so to speak, a macrosubject. Following lengthy periods of alienation, this subject would regain consciousness in the post-capitalist era. This single subject of humanity as a whole – Habermas emphatically states – does not exist; the notion that later generations as a whole are always able to stand on the shoulders of those who came before and that we can thus expect humanity as such to develop further in seamless fashion is an utterly unjustified idealization. It is simply not the case that the knowledge held by the forebears is simply transferred to all their descendants, that the future generations need only to build on that which the forefathers knew and what they established in fixed and immutable fashion.
As we learned in the previous lecture, symbolic interactionism is not the only theoretical school to which the label ‘interpretive approach’ has been attached. The other is what is known as ethnomethodology, whose frighteningly complex name alone might be enough to scare one off. In fact, the name is less complicated than it looks: it consists of two components, each of which is perfectly understandable in itself. The first element, ‘ethnos’, alludes to sociology's neighbouring discipline of ethnology (also known as anthropology), while the second is the term ‘methodology’. This in itself helps us begin to grasp the agenda of this theoretical approach. Here, the methods of ethnology, a subject which investigates other ethnic groups, are deployed to examine one's own culture, in order to reveal its taken-for-granted and characteristic features, of which we are oft en entirely unaware – precisely because they are taken for granted.
Defamiliarizing one's own culture is intended to unveil its hidden structure. But ethnomethodologists had even more ambitious aims in mind. They not only sought to identify the unnoticed structural characteristics of their own culture; their aim was ultimately to uncover the fundamental universal, quasi-anthropological structures of everyday knowledge and action. How must this knowledge, the knowledge held by each member of each society, be structured to enable action to take place? This was the central issue which the ethnomethodologists wished to address – one which they believed had been utterly neglected by traditional sociology.
You will no doubt have already come across the founding fathers of sociology, the classical figures of the discipline, over the course of your studies or through your own reading. Indisputably, these include the German Max Weber (1864–1920) and the Frenchman Emile Durkheim (1858–1917). Their German contemporaries Georg Simmel (1858–1919) and Ferdinand Tönnies (1855–1936), and the Americans George Herbert Mead (1863–1931), William Isaac Thomas (1863–1947) and Charles Horton Cooley (1864–1929) are oft en mentioned in the same breath as the two disciplinary giants. Now we can argue till the cows come home about who else ought, or ought not, to be included in such a list of key authors, in the ‘canon’ of classical sociological theorists. The names of Adam Smith (1723–90) and above all Karl Marx (1818–83) crop up particularly oft en in this context and inspire intense controversy. Though not sociologists in a narrow sense, they have nonetheless had an enormous influence on sociological thought and, above all, on theory building in the social sciences as a whole.
As interesting as the debate on the classical status of certain authors may be, it is striking that the debaters tend to forget who was responsible for the formation of this canon, for drawing up this list of classical authors, who originally established the basic structure of the canon as pertains to this day. Should we examine this frequently neglected question, we will find that there is no getting away from the name of the American Talcott Parsons (1902–79).
Having laid out the key foundations of his theory of action in Structure in 1937 and made vigorous efforts to develop a theory of order in The Social System and Toward a General Theory of Action, the multi-authored volume that appeared almost simultaneously at the very beginning of the 1950s, Parsons' subsequent work was also characterized by consistent attempts to resolve theoretical problems. However, it very quickly became apparent that a certain tension existed between his theory of action and his functionalist theory of order; it was unclear how these related to one another. While Parsons managed to further refine and enrich his theory of action, as well as adding new ideas to his functionalist concept of order, he ultimately failed to integrate the two theoretical models. In fact, the exact opposite seemed to occur: the more Parsons polished his subtheories, the more obvious it became that they were ultimately out of synch. Looking back on the development of Parsonian theory between the early 1950s and his death in 1979, we are left with the impression that while he made progress with many of the key points of his theory (or theories), he never again managed to achieve a true synthesis, a coherent grand theory. As we set out this stage in the development of Parsonian theory in the present lecture, you will probably have the sneaking suspicion, and for good reason, that Parsons' ‘middle’ or ‘late’ work is more a matter of disparate theoretical building blocks than a unified theory.