Postsecularity and the enlightened city

Enlightened city

Ongoing heated controversies over the postsecular hold important implications for the enlightened city.

Click here for more information on Postsecular Cities at Bloomsbury.

Despite little agreement over the meaning of the term, at a most general level postsecularity might refer to the persistence, reformulation or resurgence of religion in the public sphere. Charles Taylor’s (2007) A Secular Age is widely considered one of the most important critiques of secularism. In this magnus opus Taylor pays attention to the cultural conditions of secularity, where unbelief in religion is thought to be a viable option among several others and where religious and secular ideas co-exist on equal terms. Most commentators attribute the surge of popularity in the concept of the postsecular to The Dialectics of Secularization (Habermas and Ratzinger 2007) and in particular Habermas’s ideas on the alleged rise of post-secular society (Habermas 2008). When taken alongside José Casanova’s earlier Public Religions in the Modern World with reference to the deprivatization of religion (Casanova 1994), we have the three main intellectual cornerstones of what has become the conceptually interrelated narratives of postsecularity. Relations between religious, secular and humanist forces, previously viewed in isolation, are now placed together at the forefront of analysis of empirical developments on the ground, political advances for social transformation and theoretical explanations of macrosocial developments at large.

Casanova, J. (1994) Public Religions in the Modern World, Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.

Habermas, J. (2008) ‘Secularism’s crisis of faith: notes on post-secular Society’, New Perspectives Quarterly, 25: 17-29.

Habermas, J. and J. Ratzinger (2007) The Dialectics of Secularization: on reason and religion, San Franscisco, CA: Ignatius Press.

Taylor, C. (2007) A Secular Age, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

2 thoughts on “Postsecularity and the enlightened city”

  1. Hi Justin – I hope you are well. In discussing the post-secular, I would like to make a distinction between religion and spirituality. Secularism appears to deny the validity or value of spirituality, reducing the sacred to the profane, the invisible to the visible, the mysterious to the familiar. Post-secularism, as I understand it, involves moving beyond this secularist approach to one that embraces or at least recognises and includes the spiritual, sacred, invisible and mysterious. However, I don’t think this necessarily extends to an acceptance of religion, insofar as many religions devalue the world of everyday life and contrast it unfavourably with other, imagined worlds. It is not only the secular that needs to be reformed or indeed transformed but also the religious so that the world is seen as equally spiritual and temporal, as both visible and invisible, familiar and mysterious, at the same time (and for all time). I follow Rudolf Steiner in thinking of spirit as what makes possible the unity of the worlds of intension and extension, of subjectivity and objectivity.

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