Completing Casanova

The twice daily train journey provides me with an opportunity to read solidly for about an hour. This morning I completed the book that will be the jumping off point for the proposal I am currently writing: Public Religions in the Modern World. Although there seems to be little enough mention of scale and place throughout the book, there’s a passage in the last section that can provide me with this point:

The advantage of the comparative historical analytical framework for the study of secularization developed here derives precisely from the fact that it is dynamic and flexible enough to be able to account for the very different patterns of secularization and to be open to the varieties of ways in which different religions in different settings respond to modern structural trends of differentiation. (p.223-4; my emphasis)

Casanova is arguing that the framework employed in the book can allow for the variety of conditions that do arise in broader structural trends of what throughout is called differentiation. Differentiation in the sense that the sacred is differentiated, subjectively and politically, from the secular (although never divorced entirely) and the public from the private under specific conditions of modernity. Some claimed that modernity was rattled, perhaps dismantled, with the onset of postmodernisation processes across cultures. Casanova not only makes no mention of these latter processes (1994) but has a confidence in continuing modernisation. It is that the religious is as much part of this modernity as the scientific method, later forms of capitalism and state formation. To think otherwise, and this is important, risks modernity “being devoured by the inflexible, inhuman logic of its own creations”.

The liberal conception of modernity disallows the insertion of faith and religion into the public square for fear that the intangible overwhelms the predictable, the identifiable and the publicly-defensible. Habermas is next on my reading list. Where we are now (after Iran 1979 and the US 2001 /02), is the slow “deprivatization” (Casanova, not me) of religion where formerly universalist Churches (wordpress’s vocab is poor) become one among many, sects even. Which leads me to…

I finally got to hear as well as read about Cornel West. There’s an enthralling 45 minutes of discussion with him, Mary Gordon and Harvey Cox here. Note the difference between West’s way of communicating with the audience and Mary Gordon’s.

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