Habermas’s Notion of a Post-Secular Society. A Perspective from International Relations
Title: Habermas’s Notion of a Post-Secular Society. A Perspective from International Relations
Publisher: European University Institute
Series/Number: EUI MWP; 2008/25
How can secular Western IR theory deal with religion? Bringing in the debates on religion in the public sphere, the paper’s goal is to foster a deeper understanding of the nexus between religion and international relations. Religion in global politics challenges the notion of a secular world order based on contract and custom in a system of states, as they had developed since the Westphalian settlement. According to this foundational myth religion mattered only domestically, and there only within the 'private' realm. The forces of globalization inevitably transcend the traditional boundaries of the state and also the fundamental distinction between the public and the private. The ongoing IR debate based on terrorism, and asymmetric conflict is decidedly too narrow to understand this fundamental challenge. It is here that the discussion in political theory which focused on the changing configuration of the public sphere (public/private distinction) attains it importance for the IR debate about religion in a global perspective. It supplements the debate in international relations that addresses the re-drawing of boundaries that had traditionally marked the internal/ external (global) distinction, but offers more than Huntington or Norris and Inglehart. For both of them the decisive breaks in the tectonics of world politics are cultural fault-lines where a secular segment of the world population is facing a religious one. The problem with this kind of argument is that of a dangerous selffulfilling prophecy. Contrary to others who still hope to round up the wagons and fight back the passing raids of the challengers, Habermas has understood that it does not make much sense trying to push religion into the camp of fundamentalism. In our paper we use Habermas’s notion of a post-secular society in a global perspective to understand the challenge of the Westphalian system without running into the trap of a clash of civilizations. To do so, we contrast Habermas’s suggestion of a post-secular society with Berger’s claim of the desecularization of the world and Connolly’s deep pluralism and politics of becoming. Based on Chambers’s interpretation of Habermas we offer a strong and a weak reading of the concept of a post-secular society and argue that only a strong reading can meet the needs of a global public sphere.
Subject: International relations; globalization; religion; secularization; secularism; post-secular society; public sphere; Jürgen Habermas; William Connolly; Peter L. Berger
Type of Access: openAccess