RELS510 - RITUAL AND PRACTICE

In the first half of the course, we will examine the theoretical question of whether modern liberal societies need a civil religion - an idea first proposed in the late eighteenth century by writer who feared that without some unifying ideal or principle the centrifugal forces at work inmodern societies would lead them to disintegrate. We will examine various authors who have defended the idea of civil religion in these terms (inluding J.J. Rousseau, J.G. Herder, and G.W.F.Hegel) as well as several who (implicitly or explicitly) have rejected the argument (Max Weber, Michael Oakeshott, Daniel Bell, and Niklas Luhmann). In the second half of the class, we will turn to the American context and explore the way these arguments have played themselves out from the time of the constitutional frames to today. In this part of the class, wew will read and discuss excerpts fromthe Federalist Papers and Tocqueville's Democracy in America, selected presidential speeches, nineteenth- and twentieth-century debates surrounding Manifest Destiny and American Exceptionalism, John Dewey/Richard Rorty's proposal for a religion of democratic "common faith," and the neoconservative case for a civil religion of "national greatness." Along the way we will also have occasion to examine sociological treatments of civil religion by such authors as Emile Durkheim, Robert Bellah, and Seymour Martin Lipset.
Section 301 - SEM
M 0200PM-0500PM
BUTLER, ANTHEA
CLAUDIA COHEN HALL 237