Monday, November 12, 2007

The Politics of Secularism in International Relations

Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, Northwestern University

Chapter 1 [HTML] or [PDF format]
Conflicts involving religion have returned to the forefront of international relations. And yet political scientists and policymakers have continued to assume that religion has long been privatized in the West. This secularist assumption ignores the contestation surrounding the category of the "secular" in international politics. The Politics of Secularism in International Relations shows why this thinking is flawed, and provides a powerful alternative.

Elizabeth Shakman Hurd argues that secularist divisions between religion and politics are not fixed, as commonly assumed, but socially and historically constructed. Examining the philosophical and historical legacy of the secularist traditions that shape European and American approaches to global politics, she shows why this matters for contemporary international relations, and in particular for two critical relationships: the United States and Iran, and the European Union and Turkey.

The Politics of Secularism in International Relations develops a new approach to religion and international relations that challenges realist, liberal, and constructivist assumptions that religion has been excluded from politics in the West. The first book to consider secularism as a form of political authority in its own right, it describes two forms of secularism and their far-reaching global consequences.

Elizabeth Shakman Hurd is assistant professor of political science at Northwestern University.

"A highly sophisticated, original, sobering (as opposed to saber-rattling) intervention into the debate on religion and world affairs. International relations theorists have tended to reduce the study of religion to either religious organizations, sometimes understood as moralizing interest groups or as terrorist organizations, or to generic principles that are synonymous with international norms. By investigating different lived and historically shifting conceptions of the secular in different cultural contexts, Hurd provides an original path for understanding the role of religion in modern international affairs."--Michael Barnett, University of Minnesota

"Elizabeth Shakman Hurd has written an incisive and imaginative book that packs a big theoretical punch. Varieties of secularisms in the plural, not secularism in the singular, define contemporary world politics. The relations between the United States and Iran and Europe and Turkey offer the author politically important grounds on which she develops her compelling argument. Among a small list of books on religion and international politics, this is a standout."--Peter J. Katzenstein, Cornell University

Assumptions about the secular organization of public life have sunk deeply into the structure of the academy in general and international relations theory in particular. Elizabeth Hurd excavates and challenges those assumptions; in doing so she opens the door to new developments in global theory and politics. Her comparisons between Euro-American secularism and the politics of Turkey and Iran are particularly apt."--William E. Connolly, author of Pluralism

Table of Contents:
Acknowledgments xi
CHAPTER ONE: Introduction 1
CHAPTER TWO: Varieties of Secularism 23
CHAPTER THREE: Secularism and Islam 46
CHAPTER FOUR: Contested Secularisms in Turkey and Iran 65
CHAPTER FIVE: The European Union and Turkey 84
CHAPTER SIX: The United States and Iran 102
CHAPTER SEVEN: Political Islam 116
CHAPTER EIGHT: Religious Resurgence 134
CHAPTER NINE: Conclusion 147
Notes 155
Select Bibliography 213
Index 237

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