Religion and Modern Society: Citizenship, Secularisation and the State (eBook)

BRYAN S. TURNER is the Presidential Professor of Sociology at the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center and Director of the Committee on Religion, and Director of the Centre for the Study of Contemporary Muslim Societies, University of Western Sydney, Australia. He is a prominent figure in the field of the sociology of religion and editor of The Cambridge Dictionary of Sociology (2006).

Cambridge University Press (2012, First Edition)
344 pages


Religion is now high on the public agenda, with recent events focusing the world’s attention on Islam in particular. Religion and Modern Society: Citizenship, Secularisation and the State provides a unique historical and comparative analysis of the place of religion in the emergence of modern secular society. Bryan S. Turner considers the problems of multicultural, multi-faith societies and legal pluralism in terms of citizenship and the state, with special emphasis on the problems of defining religion and the sacred in the secularisation debate. He explores a range of issues central to current debates: the secularisation thesis itself, the communications revolution, the rise of youth spirituality, feminism, piety and religious revival.

Religion and Modern Society contributes to political and ethical controversies through discussions of cosmopolitanism, religion and globalisation. It concludes with a pessimistic analysis of the erosion of the social in modern society and the inability of new religions to provide ‘social repair’.

In this volume the author will identify various manifestations of the globalisation of religion. These include the rise of fundamentalism in various religious traditions, which is associated in large part with the competition between religions. Secondly, there is a related development in the pietisation of everyday life as more people, but especially women, move into the formal labour market, become urbanised and acquire some education and literacy. Thirdly, there is the growth of post-institutional spirituality in youth cultures and finally there is some resurgence of traditional folk religion, often associated with magical practices and witchcraft (Comaroff and Comaroff, 1999; 2000).

The differences within the category of ‘global religions’ raises an obvious question: Is there any common denominator within the globalisation of religion and religions?

In this study, Bryan S. Turner argue that all forms of religion are now overlaid with consumerism and that many forms of religion have been commodified. The global market has had significant effects on religious life and, as a result, he argue that we are not in a post-secular environment, but on the contrary the separation of the world (the profane) and religion (the sacred) has largely evaporated. Without some significant tensions between the religious and the secular, it is difficult to believe that we are entering a post-secular or re-sacralised civilisation.

The author explore the further paradox that everywhere we see (worldly) religion flourishing, while the world of the sacred is shrinking. His argument therefore hinges in part on a traditional set of distinctions in religious studies which includes faith and religion, the sacred and religion, the religious impulse and the religious institution (Hervieu-Leger, 2000). This argument is laid out more fully in Chapter 1 and underpins many subsequent chapters.

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