Religion in International Politics and Development

Religion in International Politics and Development

The World Bank and Faith Institutions

John A. Rees

This unique and fascinating book illustrates that in moving the research agenda forward – despite whatever methodological pitfalls that may await in the attempt – the dynamics of religion must now be considered to be of central and abiding importance in the study of world politics.

Introduction

John A. Rees

Subjects: development studies, development studies, politics and public policy, international relations

Extract

This book takes as its subject the discourse on religion in international relations (IR). The study of religion in IR is now as prominent as it was once neglected. Propelled by ‘a cottage industry of religion-andworld-affairs conferences, hearings, publications, media coverage, and foundation grants’ (Hoover, 2006, p. 1) a wave of IR analysis now seems concerned with how – not whether – research should proceed apace. The research agenda has thus moved beyond the mere ‘discovery’ of religion in international affairs and can be more thoroughly understood in the context of a new religionism generated by a broad spectrum of scholars who assume that religious actors and interests exist as normal rather than exotic elements in world politics. The imperative to reconsider IR concepts and methodology on the subject of religion is also strengthened at an empirical level, summarized by Jonathan Fox thus: A fuller picture of the world’s religious economy would show secularization – the reduction of religion’s influence in society – occurring in some parts of the religious economy, and sacralization – the increase of religion’s influence in society – occurring in other parts. (Fox, 2008, p. 7) Making sense of such a picture is challenging because, as the noted sociologist of religion Peter Berger succinctly attests, ‘the relation between religion and modernity is rather complicated’ (Berger, 1999, p. 3). It is here that IR potentially comes into its own by situating the study of religion in the analysis of global structures and interests. As Vendulka Kubalkova notes, the international context within which the...