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Session Overview
RN29_07: Religion,Secularity and Global Modernity
Thursday, 22/Aug/2019:
4:00pm - 5:30pm

Session Chair: Hubert Knoblauch, TU Berlin
Location: GM.325
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Geoffrey Manton, Third Floor 4 Rosamond Street West Off Oxford Road

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A Nietzsche-Inspired Historical-Genealogical Approach? The Contemporary Relevance of Weber's Mode of Questioning for Social Theory

Cesare Silla

University of Urbin, Italy

The paper aims to assess the relevance for contemporary social theory of Weber’s mode of questioning directed toward making sense of the correspondence and the mutual influence between human types and orderings of societal relationships, as conveyed in The meaning of “value freedom”.

First, by explicitly connecting the Freiburg Address of 1895 with the essay on value freedom (1917), via the work on the East Elbian rural laborers, I argue that his mode of questioning was already present in his early works, even if expressed in an “immature form”, as Weber himself put it (1913). Second, by analyzing selected passages from The Protestant Ethic and The “objectivity” essay, I show how Weber devised what can be tentatively defined a Nietzsche-inspired historical-genealogical approach. This approach enabled him to address his “ultimate standpoint” - the fate of the Menschentum under mechanized capitalism - both objectively and significantly, since the objective inquire on the conditions of emergence of mechanized capitalism became the basis for the significant subjective evaluation of its lasting effect on the “last men” of the cultural development: ‘Specialists without spirit, hedonists without heart, these nullities imagine they have climbed to a stage of humanity never before attained’”.

In conclusion, through the example of contemporary consumer capitalism, I suggest that the joint of the Weberian mode of questioning with the historical-genealogical approach help social theory to properly account for the mutual influence between the objective forms of social life and the related cultural problems of humanity within modernity in transition.

Islam, Christianity and the Development of Machine Capitalism: The Weber Hypothesis Revisited

Mark Gould

Haverford College, United States of America

This paper analyzes the effects of religious commitment on the development of machine capitalism. I explicate the logic of Weber’s analysis, providing a characterization of the economic preconditions for the institutionalization of machine capitalism. My characterization of Protestant religious commitments clarifies how they led to the rationalization of the first stage of manufacture (Marx’s formal subsumption of labor under capital), created the “spirit of capitalism,” and thus resulted in systematic capital accumulation leading to machine capitalism. I then characterize the nature of religious commitment in (Sunni) Islam, arguing that while the economic preconditions for the development of machine capitalism were sometimes present in Islamicate lands, Islamic religious commitments neither rationalized economic production, created a tendency towards capital accumulation, nor created the “spirit of capitalism.” Weber was correct in assigning an autonomous role to ascetic Protestantism in the genesis of machine capitalism, and in denying a comparable role to Islam.

The Secularisation Debate(s) Revisited

Daniel Chernilo

University Adolfo Ibáñez, Chile

From the revival of right-wing politics to the universal jurisdiction of human rights and the “definitive failure” of multiculturalism, the question of secularisation is never too far in public debates. Even if the term itself may not seem to attract now the explicit interest it once did, its ultimate reference point – the presence or otherwise of religious beliefs in public life – remains as consequential as ever. All historical narratives on the formation of modern societies offer an answer to the question about the role of previous religious traditions in the rise of the modern state, economy and culture. 1

My starting point in this paper is that there are in fact several debates on secularisation rather than just one over the past 100 years. And my goal is to revisit the most salient ones. These debates partly intersect but, more often than not, also talk past one another. I suggest they be grouped into four main ones.

1. From secularisation to post-secularism: Does modernity imply the decline of religion)? (Weber, Parsons, Taylor).

2. Gnosticism and the devaluation of values: Is religion always an attempt the foundation of normative values? (Jonas, Voegelin)

3. History and the self-positing of modernity: Is modernity am historical time like no other? (Löwith, Blumenberg)

4. Political theology: What is politics and what is its relationship with religion? (Schmitt, Taubes, Strauss)

In all four cases, I seek to unpack not only their main arguments but also the points of intersection, alignment and differences between them.

Politics of Being-With in the Global Modernity

Gallina Tasheva

University of Muenster, Germany

The question now is: How to rethink the idea of sociality beyond the understanding of the world society in terms of “Cosmo-Europeanization” or “Westernalization,” grounding solely in human rationality, increasing growth and normative orders.

Endorsing the idea of a new method of conceptualizing of sociality in terms of Existential Analytic of “Being-With” (Heidegger – J.-L. Nancy) the paper argues for an “other” or “third” social order as a “Being-with”, different to the social orders of community and society. To this “third” social order of the “Being-With” belongs the manifoldness of human forms of existence and the sociality of human life, which go beyond the typical social interactions and communications in the community and society, based on the mediation by the common and general as shared values of belonging, historical roots, traditions, cultural dispositions, social habits of self-understandings or normative orientations. Even more unfolds this social order of “Being-With” a subversive character in relation to the social orders of societies and communities as inaugurating possibilities of new forms of politics in difference to all forms of politics as “police” (J. Ranciere), governmental techniques, social administrations and normative orders.

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