Sunday, November 30, 2008

Asad, Talal. “Religion, Nation-State, Secularism,”

#Asad, Talal. “Religion, Nation-State, Secularism,” in Nation and Religion: Perspectives on Europe and Asia, ed. Peter van der Veer and Hartmut Lehmann (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999), 178-96.

178-looks at “the limits of this way of understanding the public character of religion”

-recently scholars have had a “sense that the Enlightenment’s view of the place of religion in modern life needs to be revised”, especially because of the re-emergence of religion; there is an idea of the end of the “secularization thesis”, an idea examined by J. Casanova in Public Religions in the…

179-defenders of the secularization thesis have said that religious people are simply rebelling against modernity—as if modernity requires secularization; but Casanova said not necessarily, especially if religion emerges “in ways that are consistent with the basic requirements of modern society, including democratic government.”’ As long as “deprivatization” of religion “furthers the construction of civil society” and liberal values; but if not (gives examples of Egypt and Iran) “then political religion is indeed a rebellion against modernity and the universal values of Enlightenment.”—Asad says this idea is not entirely “coherent” because if deprivatization of religion is indeed carried out, then what’s its affect on secularization?; it has an affect on how things are run: economics, science, education, etc.

-says when religion is deprivatized, the structural differentiation of institutions (religion, economy, science, etc.) “no longer holds,” so the idea of secularization fails

*180-Habermas had pointed out “the central importance of the public sphere for modern liberal society”, but others have pointed out how that public sphere has excluded groups (cf Habermas and the Public)—similar to the critiques of pluralism (cf A critique of Pure tolerance and The Ethos of Pluralism)—and liberals respond that it’s not perfect but still an ideal, but “the point here is that the public sphere is a space necessarily (not just contingently) articulated by power. And everyone who enters it must address power’s disposition of people and things.”

-it’s not just “ability to speak, but to be heard”—“If one’s speech has no effect whatever, it can hardly be said to be in the public sphere, no matter how loudly one shouts.”; restrictions are imposed by laws (libel, copyright, etc.) and convention (secrecy for business, and morals) externally, as well as intrinsically via “the time and space it takes to build and demonstrate a particular argument”

*181-need to look at how “the experience of religion in the ‘private’ spaces of home and school is crucial to the formation of subjects who will eventually endorse a particular public culture.”

*-and so, “if the adherents of a religion enter the public sphere, can their entry leave the preexisting discursive structure intact?”’ “Thus the introduction of new discourses may result in the disruption of established assumptions structuring debates in the public sphere. More strongly, they may have to disrupt existing assumptions in order to be heard.” And may “threaten the authority of existing assumptions. And if this is the case, what is meant by demanding that any resulting change must be carried out by moral suasion and negotiation and never by manipulation or force?”

*-and questions why secularists think religion shouldn’t play a part in personal choices while politics does, especially through the law—even if we take for granted that there is a “secular self” that law liberates and religion coerces (the secular view), how can we prove only religion coerces---“the juridification of all interpersonal relations constrains the scope for moral suasion in public culture.”

*182-and representatives of deprivatized religion must act similar to politicians—target a peoples’ morals, “desires and anxieties”

183-can nationalism be looked at as religion? And “Is that how religious spokespersons can derive their authority in the public sphere, by invoking the national community as though it were a religious one?”—this idea was presented as early as 1926 by Carlton Hayes in essays on Nationalism

*-though Asad thinks religion is distinct from politics; politics (184) emerged from religion, but, more importantly, it has been treated differently (eg what separated church and state in 17th ce Europe was Tractarian and Ultramontanism insistence that church needed freedom from “the constrains of an earthly power”)—which also created “a redefinition of the essence of religion as well as national politics”

*185-the new def of rel emerged in 19th ce with the idea of “society”: “that all-inclusive singular space that we distinguish conceptually from variables like ‘religion,’ ‘state,’ ‘national economy,’ [etc.]”—a concept that didn’t exist prior to 19th ce (cf making a social Body p. 7—says 18th ce ideas of “body politic” combined with “the great body of the people”

*-so we should not just generalize and say secularism is just a new Christianity, we should see how it emerged with the specific idea that it would be a new morality for all “dives ‘religious’ allegiances”, must put it into context

-Grnealogy of secularism goes back to Renaissance doctrine of Humanism, then to Hegel who thought it was “a harmony between the objective and subjective conditions for human life resulting from ‘the painful struggles of History’”—for Hegel the Secular was the “embodiment of Truth” (in The Philosophy of History)

186-originally, the word saecularisatio meant the “legal transition from monastic life (regularis) to the life of canons (saecularis)”, after Reformation it meant “the transfer of ecclesiastical real property to laypersons, that is, to the ‘freeing’ of property from church hands into the hands of private owners, and thence into market circulation.” (cf Geschichtiliche Grundbegriffe v. 5, p. 789)

*-but the modern idea is the true “ground from which theological discourse was generated”; though in the past secularism produced religion which was oppressive, while modern secularism makes “enlightened and tolerant religion”—so separation between religious and secular is “paradoxical” because “the latter continually produces the former”

-the idea of Nationalism needs the modern concept of secular, in which people “make and own their history”; though it’s not a “truth revealed through the human senses”; (187) As Benedict Anderson pointed out nationalism is in an ideological construct “no less ideological than the one it replaces”, but it takes Christian ideas of time and the hierarchy of spaces, which are “broken down by the modern doctrine of secularism into a duality; a world of self-authenticating things in which we really live as social beings and a religious world that exists only in our imagination.”—and “is presented as commonsensical, that is, as accessible to all members of the nation”

187-“To insist that nationalism should be seen as religion, or even as having been shaped by religion is, in my view, to miss the nature and consequence of the revolution brought about by the Enlightenment doctrine of secularism…”, and just “draws on” religious language; “How could it be otherwise?” [PROB—does not see the connection and has a strict def of rel—calls it the “vernacular” meaning]; says Enlightenment thinkers say causes are “felt” differently, and nationalism doesn’t “feel” like religion

-“…religion consists of particular ideas, sentiments, practices, institutions, traditions—as well as followers who instantiate, maintain, or alter them.”—we must understand and their meaning and do the same with secularism

188-people have been referring to the contemporary Islamic revival (as-sahwa, “the awakening”) as “cultural nationalism”, a “continuation of the familiar story of Third World nationalism”’ ignoring muslim claims to religious foundations

-though there are overlaps with Arab nationalists—opposition to the “West”—(189) but they have different values for conduct

*190-the Islamic society (ummah) “is ideologically not ‘a society’ onto which state, economy, and religion can be mapped. It is not limited nor sovereign: not limited, for unlike Arab nationalism’s notion of al-umma al-arabiyya [“Arab nation”], it can and eventually should embrace all of humanity, and not sovereign, for it is subject to God’s authority. It is therefore a mistake to regard it as an ‘archaic (because ‘religious’) community that predates the modern nation.”

-though admits not all muslims have this pure classical view, and they translate it into contemporary political situations—but it still marks them off from Arab nationalists and other western-derived discourses—eg they don’t have “individual’s right to the pursuit of happiness and self-creation”

-though Islamism “seeks to work through the nation-state which has become so central to the predicament of all Muslims. It is this statist project and not the fusion of religious and political ideas that gives Islamism a nationalist cast.”, note #26 says idea of Islamic state is not in beginning of Islamic history, cf Asad’s article in muslim world 87 (1997): 183-195.

*191-secularims says religion msut only be private and make “no demands on life”; while secularism and thus the nation-state, through laws that regulate every aspect of life, from birth to death, make all social space “defined, ordered, and regulated” and therefore all is political. So attempts “by Muslim activists to ameliorate social conditions—through, say, the establishment of clinics or schools in underserviced areas—must seriously risk provoking the charge of political illegitimacy and being classified Islamist” and when Muslim political groups are democratically elected, they are called antidemocratic (eg in Algeria 1992 and Turkey in 1997)

-“Islam cannot be reduced to nationalism” even though it is in a secular world

192-religion is separated from the state in modern constitutions, (though note #28 says it’s not in US constitution, only in its Supreme Court interpretations, cf The Myth of Separation); but its place in society ‘has to be continually redefined by the law because the reproduction of secular life within and beyond the nation0state continually affects the clarity of that space.”—it “undermines established boundaries”

193-Asad calls for “An anthropology of the secular as practical experience”

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