The anti-secularization thesis

Here, the theory of secularization is treated by researchers and scholars as a supporting beam for every and any sociology of religion approach which is deemed Weberian cf. Dobbelaere, , and ; Lechner, ; Crippen, and ; Wilson, and and which, beyond this, is intended to be scientifically respectable due to its automatic casting of its functions not only over empirical data but also, and preeminently, over general theory.

In this case, a general theory of the structural change from traditional societies to modern societies which, at the end of the day, according to Habermas, 14 coincides with the very definition of sociology as a scientific-academic discipline. Frank Lechner's commentary about the affiliation of Weberian theory of secularization sums it up well:.

The theory of secularization is a general theory of societal change and consists of a coherent empirical body of empirical generalizations that lean on fundamental Weberian premises. According to these familiar premises, in certain societies the world view and institutions anchored in transcendence lose social and cultural influence as a result of the dynamic of rationalization [ Lechner, , p. He forgot to mention, as a safety measure, Weber's scarce use of the word.

My point of departure in this essay lies specifically in this, in underlining the fact that the Weber that we have before us makes a habit of talking about a thing without calling it by its name, a trait of his that drew out in me the appetite of a philologist. Let us return to the name, to the word on the screen, with a view to speculating a little more about the lesson we can learn from its use by Max Weber. Marramao, , p. For a person unanimously considered the "theory's father", the few, even scarce times that Weber uses the term never cease to be intriguing.

Because the use of the word is so rare, it becomes easier to account for its appearances throughout Weber's work. And that is what I have done, hoping that the mere distribution of its frequency in Weber's writings could, in and of itself, have something important to say. The fact is that most of those scarce occasions in which Weber used the word "secularization" appear in his sociology of law , in the long and almost never fully read chapter VII of the second part of the first volume of Economy and Society , entitled Rechtssoziologie Weber, , from now on WuG, pp.

The search for the word secularization yielded eight mentions in this chapter, each discussing the idea in a rich variety of levels and different aspects. And all concentrated in a space of approximately 40 pages, when in truth the essay as a whole has more than pages. Though the reading is arduous, 15 we all know that in his sociology of law, given the insistence with which Weber mentions this motif, what became decisive for him and, according to him, decisive for all of us, "product of modern western civilization" was the fact that in the West, and only in the West, there was a development of juridical rationality that in turn gave rise to the modern concept of formally legitimate and legitimately reversible legal-juridical order.

As befits the aim of this article, it is worth emphasizing the fact that the Christian church and its holy laws have become increasingly differentiated and separated from secular law-making cf.

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The level of distinctness presented at the very start of capitalist modernization by this specific separation of normative spheres cleared the way for the imposition of laws that could only emanate legitimately from secular authorities and which, beyond this, paved the way for the logical development of juridical formalism, tied in intimate elective affinity to "ideal interests" or to use jargon which is even more markedly Weberian, to "intrinsic intellectual necessities" of theoretic jurists and their disciples at the Schools of Law, so much in vogue during early Medieval times.

Weber stresses for a reason that modern law's essential trait is its systematic character , in great part due to modern law being, quite specifically, "a law made by jurists" Habermas, , p. In the final section of the essay, dedicated to the formal qualities of modern law, Weber himself draws a synthetic picture of the rationalization of juridical practices and concepts in the West. Here are the four stages of the Weberian scheme for juridical rationalization:. The general development of law and the process can be laid out in the following "stages of theoretical development": 1 first, charismatic revelation of law through "law prophets" [ Rechtspropheten ]; 2 second, empirical creation and finding of law by legal honoratiores , i.

WuG, p. These are the general outlines of the process and, at the same time, rudimentary traits of the general script that Weber follows in his elaboration of the sociology of law. The path taken by rationalization processes in Weber's sociology is neither mechanical nor linear, nor does it keep from being "evolutionary" cf. Seyfarth, , developmental cf. Schluchter, and The stages are not established ahead of time, there are detours, and the final result is not characterized like a telos predetermined to be reached.

1. Thomas Luckmann's privatization theory

The process takes place on the way and the stages, like the detours, are identified ex post and objectively by the researcher. The point of departure is always sacral ; the finishing line is always desacralized. Each cultural sphere of value, in the internal rationalization process, takes the same path but with a different script cf.

Without any historical necessity that it be so. Disenchanted logical-rational formalism championed by law in the final yards of high modernity began to develop "based on a combination" of irrationalities already current in the primitive juridical process: "a combination of magically conditioned formalism and irrationality conditioned by revelation". A tendency towards formalism becomes dominant, which in turn recovers the direction taken by the process in terms of a "growing systematization and specialization of juridical rationalization".

In the final stage, the formal qualities of law, "at least from a purely external point of view", stresses Weber, end up taking shape in the contemporary form of an "increasingly logical sublimation and increasingly deductive power, and develop an increasingly rational technique of juridical procedure" WuG, pp.


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In this way, Weber is describing in other words the stages already identified. More than once, however, he appointed himself the task of identifying and defining four stages in this long trajectory.

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The general picture of juridical rationalization, whose unfolding Weber charts throughout a text that does not exactly exude clarity and which contains the eight passages that we are concerned with here, could just as easily be subtitled "disenchantment of law". Or even, "disenchantment of the law". Schluchter, by analogy with the "disenchantment of the paths of salvation", forged before the rest of us, the symmetrical expression "disenchantment of the legal paths". Which Habermas , p. Habermas achieves the feat of retranslating the four stages into three: "Weber rebuilds an evolution that starts from revealed law, passes through traditional law and ends up in modern law.

Unlike Habermas's ternary scheme, Weber's contains the most important steps taken in this development, which are simultaneously objectively and theoretically construed, but which, it is worth noting, do not follow on in historic reality in the same order nor with the same disposition as the three moments mentioned by Habermas, without one or the other of the four stages occurring.

Secularisation Theory: Will Modern Society Reject Religion? What is Secularism?

What, from my point of view, is interesting is the direction taken by the process: towards a growing autonomy of law in relation to the irrationality of religiously revealed ancient law. Accompanying the developmental line of the field of law and legislation, Weber goes on to note a common element in western juridical-legal innovations: the adoption of techniques which are always rational instead of stereotypical magical formulae and "charismatic revelations of the law", in other words, replacing divinely revealed laws, and so abandoning old procedural approaches endemic to ancient law, dismissed now as irrational, uncertain, incoherent and arbitrary practices Walton, ; Brubaker, , that are, furthermore, stuck in the sacredness sometimes absolute of tradition.

Such an apprenticeship, "has only been fully realized in the West" WuG, p. That said, let us examine the different meanings under which secularization appears in this chapter. Let us examine the different connotations it ends up acquiring in the different contexts of the same Weberian text. Passage 1. The first time it appears, the content of the word secularization has an eminently technical meaning: expropriation of ecclesiastical goods.

Content circumscribed to the ever tense planes of the relationships between religious and political communities, and even more specifically, to the plane of intricate material relations "of the law" between priests and polis. Secularization of the cult represents, in this passage, the expropriation of the temple's goods, after this moment in time considered to be property of the polis.

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Hierocratic goods have become secularized. We will see further on that it is precisely with this technical meaning that the word came to be used in the dawn of modern time, during the wars of religion. Passage 2. This passage is key to Weber's sociology of law. Habermas comments that, in the evolution of law, the normative accord ends up having to suffer a dislocation, that is, ends up needing to transform itself from a deal "supposed by tradition" to an accord "communicatively reached", which is what Weber defines as an agreement.

Contrary to this, it would remain in what is still a very casuistic and empirical level of jurisprudence. The level of theoretical jurisprudence still has to be reached which, in contrast to empirical jurisprudence, attempts to submit its materials to the formal logic of the especially scholarly theoretical jurists, capacitated by this to build juridical systems , characterized by the high degree of formal rationality cf.

Berman, It is worth, in keeping with the specificities of this passage, performing a synopsis to connect us to a twin passage, located in another chapter of Economy and Society , that deals with the sociology of religion , precisely in the section about the prophet , one of the points of the ideal-typical triangle "sorcerer-priest-prophet" WuG, v. I, part II, chap. The sorcerer, as member of an enterprise of salvation with an associative community-like nature, is legitimized by his office; the prophet, like the charismatic sorcerer, acts singularly in virtue of extraordinary personal gifts.

The prophet distinguishes himself from the sorcerer by the fact that the substance of his mission does not consist in self-interested manipulation of sacred powers, but in ethical doctrines or imperatives WuG, p.


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  • SECULARIZATION AND MODERNIZATION: THE FAILURE OF A ‘GRAND NARRATIVE’.

This is vital to the whole of Weber's sociology. The sorcerer enchants, and makes a living from enchantments produced by strictly following traditional formulae; the prophet disenchants, expels enchantments and the enchanted, as well as those that enchant. He desacralizes. He is an iconoclast. In view of this, the sharp distinction Weber establishes between the prophet, on the one side, and the priest and the sorcerer, on the other, ends up playing a crucial role in the drawing up of a desacralizing vector of the nature of prophecy.

According to Giacomo Marramao's happy formulation , p. And so, it is in this precise context of the sociology of religion, amidst a profusion of topical examples with which he enjoys illustrating his essays, that Weber, in the same way that he does in the sociology of law, sends the reader back again to the Australian aborigines to call "secularization" the relinquishment of the ancestral practice of taking into consideration during lineage-chief reunions ear-marked for the formulation of new decisions with normative strength, in specific regions of Australia revelations made to sorcerers in their dreams.

The fact, says Weber, of this use falling into disuse constitutes a "secularization", although it does not constitute the main body of the process of secularization that sweeps across the West with modernization. It is worth noting, in this passage, that "secularization" is placed inside quotation marks. Writes Weber: "Originally, it was difficult to have a reorganization of community relations without previously consulting the witch-doctor.

We stand before the secularization of juridical thought. Nothing better than an armed revolution, with its political radicalism and motivational density, to emancipate juridical and legal practices from traditional mental structures, from magically shaped thought, and thus propel the secularization of juridical norms to a superior level, to the level of the discussion of the very claim for validity of these norms.

Having achieved this crossing, such a post-traditional stage of thought is reached, itself the condition for the possibility of not only moving forward, in juridical terms, the adoption of rational procedures and techniques, but also, and principally, of rationally founding the validity of norms without having to call upon the sanctity of tradition or supra-sensitive and irrational forces.

In order to carry out, successfully, the conception of the very foundations of the validity of law, it is evidently necessary to possess some skill in abstraction, in intellectual refinement. Or rather, in Weber's sociology, theoretical rationalization signifies and implies intellectualization. This is basic.

The influx of political factors will not suffice, moreover, even if they possess extraordinary radicalism and the creating force of an armed revolution.