Religion and Politics in International Relations: The Modern Myth

Religion and Politics in International Relations : The Modern Myth
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Eerdmans Publishing. Clarke, G. Clarke and M. Deneulin, S. Dubuisson, D. Sayers trans. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Ferguson, J. Fitzgerald, T. Fitzgerald ed.

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The Politics of Secularism. Timothy Fitzgerald. Back matter Bibliography. Nevertheless, what we understand religion to be and how this relates to social structure is still, in this case, underspecified. Bringing Religion Into International Relations.

Flanigan, S. Fountain, P. Clarke ed. London: Continuum , pp. Goldstone, B.

Green, M. Hartch, T. Haynes, J. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Hefferan, T.

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Pickup not available. Add to List. Add to Registry. Critical analysis of the modern myth of 'religion' and its distinction from 'secular politics' as it appears in recent International Relations literature. About This Item We aim to show you accurate product information. Manufacturers, suppliers and others provide what you see here, and we have not verified it. If you have the appropriate software installed, you can download article citation data to the citation manager of your choice.

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Please read and accept the terms and conditions and check the box to generate a sharing link. The degree to which my own approach to critical research on religion does or does not overlap with others is a further matter. I do think, however, that what I have to add has relevance to at least some of the issues raised by some of the contributors. Many readers of a journal that makes religion its central focus may take politics to be of only secondary interest.

Surely, the proper place to critically problematize politics is in a journal of political science? Such a reaction would exemplify the discursive illusion that I intend to critique. Since I published The Ideology of Religious Studies , I have questioned in a series of publications 5 the usually tacit assumption that there are things in the world to which the category religion points, things that can be observed, described, and analyzed and have argued instead that it is the category itself and its various discursive deployments that need critical attention, for it is being constructed in the very act of describing it.

Religion and Politics in International Relations : The Modern Myth

To those who say they know that it is merely a conventional classification, but nevertheless find it good to think with, I have argued that we only find it good to think with to the extent that it forms part of our identity as modern secular liberals, a power formation that serves specific interests, and into which we have been indoctrinated and our critical faculties effectively disabled.

The idea that as researchers we can simply decide what we intend to mean by religion is an illusion. Many people in various disciplines have tried to give religion a scholarly definition, and many of them are contradictory. In the wider public discourse, religion is in fact deployed to include such a wide range of practices that it ceases to have any specific meaning. Even theories of socialism have been consigned to the religion category. The ideological fictions that have been most exempted from the religion category are those of secular liberalism itself, such as nation states, self-regulating markets, and the naturally possessive individual.

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Here I will argue that liberal political economy, as the dominant theorization of the supposed rationality of capitalism, is itself not essentially different from what typically gets classified as a religious dogma. Critical religion contributes to this line of thinking.

If religion can mean anything, then it means nothing. But having abandoned the search for an essence, or for a valid operational definition such as Wittgensteinian language games, we must turn our attention to the operation of religion as a power category. The question worth asking is why this indefinable category has achieved such rhetorical significance in our public life, why it is specially mentioned in written constitutions and the subject of judicial interpretation, why it is deployed as it is by politicians and the media, and how we would be able to think of ourselves as liberal secular scholars without it.

Much of The Ideology of Religious Studies was a critique of secular sociology and its confusion of its own constructed imaginary with some supposedly objective feature of the world. Religion is part of a classification system that appears to secular liberal consciousness as neutral, given unproblematically as corresponding to how the world is, independent of the discursive formations that constitute our collective inter-subjective apprehensions.

While there may be a variety of different interests that are and have been served by this configuration, I draw particular attention to the interests of private property, and the various beliefs, institutions, and practices that have come into the world to protect private property. The right to private ownership of the earth, including the right to buy and sell for purely personal gain, unencumbered by any effects the practice might have on the lives of other people or the environment, is a historically peculiar idea, one which would have been incomprehensible to most of the peoples who ever existed Linklater, Uncritical studies of religion perform the mirror image function through the discursive reproduction of religion and religions as reified entities and even as malign agents.

The myth can only be challenged from both sides of the ideological division. The right to unlimited private accumulation of our common organic inheritance, regardless of the effect on the rest, is the default position of liberal and neoliberal capitalism see also Cox, There are two notably different images of religion in public discourse. One is that religion is essentially, and in its proper nature, peace loving, non-violent, non-political, concerned with the inner spiritual life and the other world.

Religion has nothing to do with power. Religion is a matter of personal faith and piety, essentially separated from the rough-and-tumble of practical politics and economics. The other image of religion is that it is essentially barbarous, violent, and irrational, a malign agent in the world, causing conflict and mayhem and threatening the essentially peace-loving and reasonable nature of the non-religious secular liberal nation state Cavanaugh, ; Fitzgerald, Neither Blair nor Hitchens thinks to question the distinction between religion and politics.

Both of these viewpoints—either that all religion is bad, or that religion is good in its true non-political nature but bad when it gets mixed up in politics—presuppose an essentialized distinction between religious faith and secular reason, and both fail to draw attention to their own ideological commitment to liberal values, which are taken uncritically by both writers as common sense. Religion is, it seems, a potent force that has historically had a propensity to stand in the way of secular liberal progress. Religion has consequently required taming and disciplining to conform to the civility of liberal values.