The post-secular: Paradigm shift or provocation?


In the twentieth century, the social scientific study of religion was dominated by debates surrounding secularization. Yet throughout its reign, secularization theory was subject to a series of theoretical and empirical challenges. Pronouncements of a forthcoming revolution in theory were frequent, yet secularization theory remained largely undisturbed. However, recent years have seen secularization theory decreased in status. Some have located its heir in the post-secular, yet the concept has invited fractious debate. This article surveys a range of engagements with the post-secular, seeking to identify convergences that sit beneath an otherwise divided field. While this survey reveals the failure of the post-secular to fully supplant secularization theory, it does find that central debates in the field today have departed significantly from earlier generations of scholarship, particularly in a reflexivity toward the field’s basic concepts, a skepticism of teleological theories of history, and a renewed focus on the relationship between religion and politics.

Publication Title

European Journal of Social Theory