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RELIGION IN THE PUBLIC SPHERE:
Secularism vs. Communitarianism.

What political role will religion lay claim to in the 21st Century? The last decades of the 20th Century witnessed the emergence of religiously motivated actors on the political scene from Teheran and Cairo to Jakarta and Kuala Lampur. Globalization appeared to reawake problems of identity. Though some manifestations were dramatically violent, there was a general tendency towards ethnic and religious identity which belied the rather common Western belief that secularism was slowly moving religion to the margins. At the same time, the “public space” of John Rawls, the American political philosopher, came under attack by the “communitarians.” In the East, the problem was, broadly speaking, religious identity; in the West, it was religious conviction and contravening legislation on issues like abortion.
Nonetheless, the conflicting concepts embrace a much wider political perspective. Society is not composed of mere individuals; individuals are members of communities and have different slants on reality, political as well as social.
This dossier presents some facets of the debate which is of special interest for Lebanon, organized as it is on the basis of communities.

John Rwals: Two principals of Justice

The first statement of the two principles reads as follows. First: each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive basic liberty compatible with a similar liberty for others. Second: social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are both (a) reasonably expected to be to everyone's advantage, and (b) attached to positions and offices open to all.

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Religion and Public Reason (Richard Wolin)

It would seem that today, with the possible exception of the lands of the European Union, around the globe religion is making a dramatic comeback. In the Middle East, the resurgence of fundamentalist Islam in the aftermath of Arab nationalism’s decline is perhaps the most visible manifestation of this tendency. In the United States, evangelical Christianity has enjoyed a remarkable resurgence. As a voting bloc, this group played a pivotal role in ensuring George Bush’s reelection in November 2004. As a result of these surprising developments, sociologists who monitor these trends have called into question the “secularization” thesis predicting religion’s growing marginality. Instead, they have begun to speak boldly of the “desecularization of the world,” thereby standing the secularization thesis on its head.

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The Right to make Religious Arguments in the Public Sphere (N. Wolterstorff)

I think it is appropriate in our liberal democracy for Christians, along with adherents of other religions, to make decisions about political issues on the basis of whatever considerations they find true and relevant. I also think it appropriate for them to cite those reasons in public discussions and debates about those political issues. Sometimes, though not always, these reasons will be distinctly religious reasons--Christian, Jewish, whatever. Of course, if you want to persuade your fellow citizens who don't accept your religious reasons to adopt some policy that you favor, you will have to try to find some reasons that they find compelling.

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Cosmopolitanism and the Ideal of Secular Public Reason (Craig Calhoun)

Religion is likely to figure in the global future to an extent that most cosmopolitan theories have not considered. It is not just one among the various sources of diversity to be recognized and accommodated. There are also a number of religious projects that are direct competitors to secular cosmopolitanism, not because they are backwardly or defensively parochial but because they aspire to occupy the same space, providing moral and cultural and sometimes even political frameworks for global integration. Several religious traditions have produced transnational discursive fields of great scope and complexity. They mediate migrations as much as any secular accounts of cosmopolitan universalism. They inform relations among nations and among activists across national borders. The great world religions are internally diverse and polyvalent and not automatically forces for good or evil – any more than, say, nations and nationalisms are. But at least as much as nations and nationalisms it would be unwise to build social theories that in effect wish religion away, imagine it a fading inheritance from the past, or a private ‘taste’ that can be kept beyond the frame of the public sphere.

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Nothing special about religion (Mark Cladis)

It is clear from the ongoing discussion about “Religion in the public sphere” that we live in an age when many inside and outside of the academy are thinking and talking about religion—specifically about religion in public and whether it ought to be there. Many are turning their attention to the relation among religion, law, and politics, now that the once-common theories about the inevitable march of (what is commonly understood as) secularization have been mostly discredited. Such theories were based on an erroneous interpretation of the Enlightenment as a monolithic force that discounted religion, and on the view that modernity would necessarily usher in secularism, that is, launch an age in which religion had no significant standing. Yet most have come to realize that religion as an intellectual, cultural, and political force is not, in fact, waning on the globe.
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The ABCs of Communitarianism (Fareed Zakaria)

Sometime over the last two years, someone somewhere must have decreed that the intellectual buzzword of the '90s was to be "communitarianism." Only five years ago, communitarianism was an obscure school of philosophy discussed in faculty seminars; today, its ideas are splashed across People magazine and on network TV. "Community" and "civil society," the two mantras of the movement, are part of everyday political discourse.

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Charles Taylor's Naturalism: an appreciation (Dene Baker)  

Charles Taylor's Sources of the Self established him as one of the paradigm figures of contemporary philosophy. Sources of the Self is a rarity in that it is a book of philosophy that achieved a wide readership outside of philosophical circles, as did his The Ethics of Authenticity, an extended version of the 1991 Massey lectures which were broadcast in November 1991 as part of CBC Radio's Ideas series.
It is a vital part of understanding Taylor's approach to keep in mind that he is part of what is often called the 'neo-Aristotelian revival', a school of thought that has arisen, as much as for any other reason, out of a perceived failure of ethical thought in the post-Enlightenment world. Taylor's specific approach to this often focuses on a rejection of what he calls 'naturalism', 'by which I mean not just the view that man can be seen as part of nature - in one sense or other this would surely be accepted by everyone - but that the nature of which he is a part is to be understood according to the canons which emerged in the seventeenth-century revolution in natural science' (Philosophy and the Human Sciences). Indeed, Taylor calls himself a monomaniac in this regard, and Isaiah Berlin labeled him a 'hedgehog' because of this consistent basis to Taylor's broad-ranging philosophy.

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Ressources complémentaires

Articles :
· Power Sharing in Lebanon (Marie-Joëlle Zahar )
·
An Existential Lebanese Choice? (Harry Hagopian)
· The Future of Communitarianism and (or in) Quebec (Quebec Commission on Accomodation of Cultural Differences)
· Islam and the Secular State (Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na`im)

Sites :
The Immanent Frame
Public Reason
 
 





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