Western social theory once insisted that modernization meant secularization and secularization meant the withering away of religion. But religion hasn't withered away, and this has forced a rethinking of the whole idea of the secular. IDEAS producer David Cayley talks to Craig Calhoun, Director of the London School of Economics, and Rajeev Barghava of India's Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.
The secular is often defined as the absence of religion, but secular society is in many ways a product of religion. In conversation with IDEAS producer David Cayley British sociologist David Martin explores the many ways in which modern secular society continues to draw on the repertoire of themes and images found in the Bible.
Early in the post-colonial era, politics in most Muslim countries were framed in secular and nationalist terms. During the last thirty years, the Islamic revival has dramatically changed this picture. Anthropologist Saba Mahmood talks with IDEAS producer David Cayley about her book, The Politics of Piety.
The Fundamentals was a series of books, published by the Bible Institute of Los Angeles between 1910 and 1915, which tried to set the basics of Christianity in stone. Fundamentalism now refers to any back-to-basics movement. Malise Ruthven's Fundamentalism asks what all these movements have in common, in this feature interview with David Cayley.
"All significant concepts of the modern theory of the state are secularized theological concepts." So wrote German legal theorist Carl Schmitt in a book called Political Theology. American legal theorist Paul Kahn has just published Political Theology: Four New Chapters in which he argues that the foundations of the American state remain theological. He explores this theme with IDEAS producer David Cayley.
Also available from CBC in podcast form is Cayley's five-part program, "The Scapegoat: René Girard's Anthropology of Violence and Religion." It is an excellent introduction to Girard's thinking:
Human beings, according to French thinker René Girard, are fundamentally imitative creatures. We copy each other's desires and are in perpetual conflict with one another over the objects of our desire. In early human communities, this conflict created a permanent threat of violence and forced our ancestors to find a way to unify themselves. They chose a victim, a scapegoat, an evil one against whom the community could unite. Biblical religion, according to Girard, has attempted to overcome this historic plight. From the unjust murder of Abel by his brother Cain to the crucifixion of Christ, the Bible reveals the innocence of the victim. It is on this revelation that modern society unquietly rests. Girard's ideas have influenced social scientists over his long career as a writer and teacher.
Ivan Illich mentions Girard at some length in his notes at the back of Shadow Work, and in the book The Challenges of Ivan Illich, Jean-Pierre Dupuy attempts to find some common ground between the two men, both of whom Dupuy has worked with closely. We'd be curious to know what, if anything, Illich and Girard thought of each other's thinking and analysis of history and Christianity.
One hint: Gene Burkart wrote this in an email last January: "I remember Ivan once saying […], in an off hand remark, that Girard had made the concept of sacrifice hopelessly confusing for people."