Religion and Globalization

17 Jun

I’ve often noticed that “self-reflexive research”, and all its attendant shout-outs to “being aware” of class, gender, race, and so on, inexplicably tends to leave out religion. Bryan Turner makes a good riposte out of this that I rather liked:

“One issue that connects the distinction between theory and its empirical reality is the almost total neglect of religion as an aspect of globality, mainly because globalization theory, like modernization theory in the past, has placed considerable emphasis on the secular nature of these developments. Given the emphasis on economic globalization – for example, in the work of David Harvey (2006) – the role of religion in the history of globalization has been neglected despite the fact that religious globalization pre-dated contemporary secular forms by many centuries. Perhaps unsurprisingly, early contributions to the globalization debate emerged out of the sociology of religion and religious studies, especially in terms of the comparative and historical study of world religions. Indeed, the whole notion of ‘world religions’ pre-dates the contemporary interest in globalization by at least a century. For example, the early work of Roland Robertson was associated with his sociology of religion, such as the article on religion, the concept of humanity and the origins of human-rights consciousness (Robertson with Chirico 1985). Other aspects of the sociology of globalization arose out of Robertson’s interest in ‘intra-civilizational analysis’ (Robertson 1982). Before the publication of these articles, Robertson’s collaboration with Peter Nettl on the study of international systems anticipated his later move into globalization theory (Nettl and Robertson 1968). Thus the influential volume on Globalization (Robertson 1992) appeared over a decade after his earlier articles. Robertson can be said to have been an exponent of early globalization theory in the 1970s and 1980s, while later globalization theory, which wholly neglects religion and many of the cultural dimensions of globalization, is occupied by Ulrich Beck, Anthony Giddens, George Ritzer, and Saskia Sassen” (221-222).

Bryan S. Turner, “Prelude 10: Japanese uniqueness versus globalization: a reply to Professor Yui,” in Routledge Companion to Contemporary Japanese Social Theory: From individualization to globalization in Japan today. Eds. Anthony Elliott, Masataka Katagari and Atsushi Sawai. London and NY: Routledge, 2013. 221-226.

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