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Beyond Church and State
Democracy, Secularism, and Conversion

$90.00 (C)

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

$90.00 (C)

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About the Authors
  • Secularism is often imagined in Thomas Jefferson's words as “a wall of separation between Church & State.” Religion, Politics, and Democracy 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
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    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, author of Formations of the Secular (2003)

    “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, a transformation at once personal and collective, internal and worldly, through which entrenched habits, dispositions, and practices are re-opened to reflection and reconstitution. 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, whereby people turn away from certainty and toward transformative experimentation in all domains of life, including what is called religious and political. 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 hand. 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, The Gallatin School, New York University

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    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
    6. 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.

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