SOC 208(F) Religion in Society

Early social theorists offered a variety of perspectives on the role of religion in modern social life. Analyses ranged from an emphasis on religion's positive function in providing society with a source of cohesive meaning and unity to more critical perspectives, which portrayed religion as an illusory source of legitimacy for the existing social order. Building on this legacy, more recent sociological assessments recognize both the function religion serves in sustaining social arrangements as well as its more mobilizing role in fostering radical social upheaval. This course will focus on the second part of this continuum, that is, religion's dynamic role in inspiring social mobilization and social change. It begins with an analysis of the relationship between society and religion found in classic works on the Protestant Ethic and the growth of American capitalism, and moves to more recent empirical analyses of changes among immigrant religious communities in the United States. More active religious dynamism, while evident in American examples such as domestic missionary movements and contemporary Christian Patriots, has developed worldwide. Comparative cases of "radical religion" across the globe from Liberation theology in Central America to the role of Islamic networks in the Iranian revolution require a new understanding of the assumed processes of secularization. The course ends with a consideration of religion and violence as modes of destructive social change. Format: seminar. Enrollment limit: 20 (expected: 15).