Skip to content
Open global navigation

Cambridge University Press

AcademicLocation selectorSearch toggleMain navigation toggle

Your Cart


You have 0 items in your cart.

Register Sign in Wishlist

Beyond Church and State
Democracy, Secularism, and Conversion

$110.00 (C)

  • Date Published: March 2013
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107026094

$110.00 (C)

Add to cart Add to wishlist

Other available formats:
Paperback, eBook

Looking for an examination copy?

If you are interested in the title for your course we can consider offering an examination copy. To register your interest please contact providing details of the course you are teaching.

Product filter button
About the Authors
  • Secularism is often imagined in Thomas Jefferson's words as "a wall of separation between Church and State." Beyond Church and State moves past that standard picture to argue that secularism is a process that reshapes both religion and politics. Borrowing a term from religious traditions, the book goes further to argue that this process should be understood as a process of conversion. Matthew Scherer studies Saint Augustine, John Locke, John Rawls, Henri Bergson, and Stanley Cavell to present a more accurate picture of what secularism is, what it does, and how it can be reimagined to be more conducive to genuine democracy.

    • Pathbreaking reinterpretation of modern secularism
    • Interdisciplinary approach to studying the role of religion in public life
    • Contains original studies of Augustine, Locke, Bergson, Rawls and Cavell
    Read more

    Reviews & endorsements

    "A brilliant contribution to the study of secularity, offering a new perspective on what has become a tired debate about political-religious separation. In inviting readers to rethink secularism as a 'religious' conversion - as rooted in the past and yet ruptured from it - Matthew Scherer has written a thought-provoking book of great originality. Beyond Church and State is essential reading for anyone who wishes to engage in serious public discussion on the topic."
    Talal Asad, City University of New York, and author of Formations of the Secular

    "This important book insightfully and fruitfully rethinks both political theology and political theory by developing two generative ideas. The first idea is that the figure of 'conversion' is best understood not as a movement from one fixed identity to another but as a process of change in the 'crystalline structure' of life … The second idea is that 'secularism' is best understood not as a concept naming a clear and solid distinction between 'religion' and 'politics' but as a figure denoting a process of conversion … To reconceive both the trope of conversion and the meaning of secularism as a concept, Scherer offers illuminating readings of Augustine Bergson and Cavell, on the one hand, and of Locke and Rawls on the other … These readings are original, provocative, and compelling. They yield an incredibly suggestive intervention into contemporary debates. Few scholars approach political theology so creatively."
    George Shulman, New York University

    "The past twenty-five years have witnessed an explosion of studies undermining philosophical and historical analyses that posit fixed distinctions between church and state resulting in a wholly secular 'public reason' … Scherer provides exciting and original reasons for this skepticism about secularity … Summing up: recommended."
    E. J. Eisenach, Choice

    "This original book contributes to the debate about secularism as an ongoing process that delimits both religious and political life … [It] is an important book marked by profound creativity. Scholars working on secularism in all its disguises should welcome it as an important and imaginative contribution to the ongoing debate about the relationship between religion and politics in a world of deep pluralism."
    Lars Tønder, Perspectives on Politics

    See more reviews

    Customer reviews

    Not yet reviewed

    Be the first to review

    Review was not posted due to profanity


    , create a review

    (If you're not , sign out)

    Please enter the right captcha value
    Please enter a star rating.
    Your review must be a minimum of 12 words.

    How do you rate this item?


    Product details

    • Date Published: March 2013
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107026094
    • length: 256 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 155 x 17 mm
    • weight: 0.46kg
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction: beyond the separation of church and state: secularism as conversion
    1. The authorized narrative and crystalline structure of conversion in Augustine's Confessions
    2. Toleration and conversion in Locke's letters: it is 'above all things necessary to distinguish'
    3. The crystalline structure of conversion: Henri Bergson's Two Sources
    4. Saint John (Rawls), the miracle of secular reason
    5. The wish for a better life: Stanley Cavell's critique of the social contract
    Conclusion: from Supernovas into The Deep: secularism as conversion, a conversion of secularism

  • Author

    Matthew Scherer, George Mason University, Virginia
    Matthew Scherer is Assistant Professor of Government and Politics at George Mason University.

Sign In

Please sign in to access your account


Not already registered? Create an account now. ×

Sorry, this resource is locked

Please register or sign in to request access. If you are having problems accessing these resources please email

Register Sign in
Please note that this file is password protected. You will be asked to input your password on the next screen.

» Proceed

You are now leaving the Cambridge University Press website. Your eBook purchase and download will be completed by our partner Please see the permission section of the catalogue page for details of the print & copy limits on our eBooks.

Continue ×

Continue ×

Continue ×

Find content that relates to you

Back to top

Are you sure you want to delete your account?

This cannot be undone.

Cancel Delete

Thank you for your feedback which will help us improve our service.

If you requested a response, we will make sure to get back to you shortly.

Please fill in the required fields in your feedback submission.