Secularization as historical struggle

  • InterDisciplines Admin
  • Sebastian Matthias Schlerka BGHS
Keywords: religion, secularization, secularity, secularism, Bourdieu, historical sociology


As one of the oldest master narratives in the humanities, the term secularization has been one of the most-debated terms in the sociology of religion. Several scholars have proposed studying secularization from a conflict-centered perspective in recent years as a way to overcome the secularization/sacralization dichotomy that had developed over time. In the first section of the paper, I present a general approach on »secularization as struggle« based on Bourdieu’s praxeology. I show that the question about secularization amounts to the question about the legitimate meaning of religious praxis, which is always struggled about by different actors. This legitimate meaning can be assessed for three dimensions of secularization, namely differentiation, privatization, and religious decline. Besides theoretical reasoning, I draw on other scholars’ studies to lend some empirical evidence to the approach. In the second section, I argue that the approach is not complete until taken to a historical level. For this, I give three reasons that stem from the secularization debate, the theoretical background in Bourdieu, and the very definition of the terms revolving around secularization. In a next step, I argue that Bourdieu’s theory can well account for diachronicity, and give some examples of how the combination of both approaches can be made fruitful for research on secularization phenomena.

Author Biography

Sebastian Matthias Schlerka, BGHS

Sebastian Matthias Schlerka, Bielefeld Graduate School in History and Sociology and Faculty for Sociology and Center for the Interdisciplinary Research on Religion and Society (CIRRuS), Bielefeld University: