[URBANTH-L]The postsecular city: cont

Justin Beaumont j.r.beaumont at rug.nl
Fri May 2 14:29:49 EDT 2008

I would like to add some further remarks based on my liaison with Paul


--The claim about the secularization of society was a general philosophical
claim, which was strangely echoed by many theologians as well as by
humanists and atheists;


--Several scholars are at pains to point out that the secularization thesis
was too totalizing, and potentially has ignored particular states and areas
which have maintained sufficient public and cultural attachment to
religion(s) to be regarded as non-secular. Such scholars usually point to
the US as a context which can be regarded as never having been secular;


--It seems, however, legitimate to talk of the "secular" city where the
institutions, policies, culture and ways of life have reflected a
diminishing "public" role for religion as a proselytising and self-serving
influence in its own right. Harvey Cox's (1965) The Secular City (how
Harvard Divinity School) argued in the context of what he called urban
secularization that the church was primarily people of faith and action and
not a formal institution. His work based largely on the liberation theology
movement was a critique of the status quo and part of the wider embrace of
social revolution from the 1960s onwards;


--Equally it seems legitimate to reflect on a counter-move which has seen
not only a greater involvement (practical, political, cultural) of
faith-groups in the institutions, practices and cultures of the city, but
also perhaps a greater willingness to reconcile virtue (which was always
there) with a recognition of difference in their various involvements;
unity/ commonalities among difference. This is where the tag of
"postsecular" is the most appropriate and where links with interminable
feuds over multiculturalism, integration/ assimilation and urban social
cohesion come to the fore. In short, the "postsecular" is conceptually
distinct from "religious" or "secular" in the traditional sense of these


--Reliable evidence exists which charts the changing activities of
faith-groups over these phases (but this may not constitute "data" in the
hard, statistical sense of the term and indeed a lot of interesting data is
currently available of a more qualitative and ethnographic nature).


These remarks taken together with the ones I sent earlier constitute some of
the currents issues and dilemmas when trying to conceptualize the
postsecular city.  I am looking forward to reading your intelligent,
insightful and helpful replies as I develop and refine this agenda.



Justin Beaumont

Room 3.04, Landleven 1

Faculty of Spatial Sciences

University of Groningen

The Netherlands

Tel: 00 31 50 363 6910/ 3895

Skype: justin9712

Web: www.rug.nl/staff/j.r.beaumont/index


International Conference: Religion, Politics and the Postsecular City,
Groningen, 12-15 November 2008


EU-7FP FACIT project: Faith-based organizations and exclusion in European


Book Reviews Editor: Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie




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