Danièle Hervieu-Leger, The recomposition of the religious in modernity

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Contemporary times (“High Modernity”) are a time of religious paradoxes: religious institutions are losing influence and membership, but people are as practicing and believing as ever. The modern ideals of rationality, autonomy and differentiation of spheres led people to believe that religion would disappear, but instead it has become individualised.

Aim of the lecture: to give tools to understand the paradoxes of religion in modernity, such as the ebb of religious institutions, but more extremism, etc.

set de note d’étude fr

She speaks of our period not as “postmodernity” or “hypermodernity” but as “high modernity”.

She is an expert in the West, Europe and N.D.A.; it is these societies that she is talking about

Modernity has 3 ideals:

  1. Rational - progress through science and technology
    1. Autonomy of the individual as to his identity, path, etc.
    1. Differentiation of spheres (family, religion, state, work, etc are no longer integrated)

These 3 suggest that modernity = decline of religion (so secularisation theory, present since the beginning of sociology, is ideological and not empirical, based on cultural values of modernity)

Secularisation happened quickly in France because of politics: republic vs Catholic Church; different in USA, different context; freedom of thought and religion from the beginning in USA, in France, result of the battle between republic and church.

So religion no longer governs these societies, but it has profoundly influenced their ideals (religion has put the satellite of modernity into orbit)

Judaism invented the Covenant - idea of interactions/“agreement” with God

Christianity: no longer God and his people, but God and humanity; added role of the individual, hence freedom

1970s: Change in sociology: not the death of secularisation theory but complexification due to the following phenomena:

  1. renewed interest in spirituality, esp. international (yoga, buddbusm) among educated class
  2. resurgence in the political sphere (moral majority in the USA, Muslim immigrants settle permanently in France and demand recognition of their practice)
  3. continuation of “popular” practices that “should” disappear according to the theory of secularisation (pilgrimages, healings, etc)

**Secularisation = disappearance of religion but its individualisation Sociologists have missed the forest of individual belief/practice for the trees of disappearing institutions

Religious/faith systems become like toolboxes; e.g., reincarnation has become a very popular belief, but understood as a 2nd chance to better the same life course, not its traditional meaning from Hinduism/Buddhism

Do-it-yourself, is that new?

Name, it was also done in the 9th or especially 14th century, eg with traditional, pre-Christian beliefs, etc. The difference is the new value of authenticity. In the past we didn’t talk about it for fear of being put to death; now we display our tinkering

Change from a focus on a happiness after this life, to the idea of doing good here and now.

The phenomenon of the “original” churchgoer on the rise - eg, “Mass as always” is not the Mass of always, it’s the Mass of the 19th century; same for Muslims and Jews; all are tinkerers, but some don’t realise it thinking they are “the real thing “

Bricolage - Claude Lévi-Strauss’s word for Myth which he defines as “a formidable protest against nonsense”.

**Individualisation + collapse of institutions = social fragmentation and disintegration

It is here that we have come to realise a 4th element of modernity: uncertainty, for our society is, in the words of **Marcel Gauchet - “governed by the imperative of change “.

This applies as much to the individual as to institutions “who does not change dies”.

So there is a plethora of systems and beliefs? That’s even more complicated. Yes and no; each has its own circumstances, but all are subject to the loss of institutional authority and individual autonomy

The Pilgrim and the Convert, the 2 main descriptive figures of our time:

Pilgrim: follows a path as he pleases

Convert: chooses a religion

*3 major empirical world phenomena: *

pilgrimages (literal sense)

conversions from and to all religions

disinvestment from institutions

Therefore, no more community possible; what is the point of a community if each one makes his own unique path?

Paradox: people live more and more in associations. Why is this so?

Everyone has to shape his or her own life as a narrative, but narratives are fragile and susceptible to shocks; there is a need for more and more validation. There are two kinds of validation of our life stories:

“soft” validation : feeling at home in a small community

“hard” validation : trusting a guru, director, shepherd, etc. who gives all the answers as a package

Next post : Zigmunt Baumann - Liquid Modernity


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