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.

Chapter 2: Modelling Religion in International Relations

John A. Rees

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


[I]f the secularization thesis seems increasingly implausible to some of us this is not simply because religion is now playing a vibrant part in the modern world of nations. In a sense what many would anachronistically call ‘religion’ was always involved in the world of power. Talal Asad (2003a, p. 200) This chapter constructs an integrated analytical model of religion in IR. I begin by identifying conceptual approaches that bind the secular and sacral spheres together, thereby turning the multiple discourses of religion into constituent elements of a new structure of IR. This structure is used as a basis for building what I have called the dynamics of religion model. The model enables us to pose a new question for religion research in IR and to construct a new model for differentiating religion in IR contexts. Each aspect is explained in anticipation of the applications of the model that occur in subsequent chapters. 2.1 CONSTRUCTING THE RELIGIOUS STRUCTURE OF IR An important compendium edited by Bhargava titled Secularism and Its Critics (1998) opens with several essays written under a banner of ‘The Secular Imperative’ (Bhargava, 1998a, pp. 29ff.). Implicit in such a phrase is the view that secularism is not only useful, it is also very important. My discussion to date maintains the importance of secularism (over secularization) but unites the secular imperative with another perspective that I have called sacral. Hence, the imperative ground has shifted toward the importance of integrating secular and sacral impulses so as to...

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