Habermas and gauchet on religion in postsecular society. A critical assessment

Continental Philosophy Review 42 (3):279-296 (2009)
Abstract
This article seeks to demonstrate that in his recent reading of the role of religion in the postsecular public realm, Habermas overlooks a most fundamental dimension of religion: its power to symbolically institute communities. For his part, Gauchet starts from a vision of religion in which this fundamental dimension is central. In his evaluation of the role of religion in postsecular society, he therefore arrives at results which are very different from those of Habermas. However, I believe that Gauchet too underestimates the extent to which religion’s power of symbolic community institution has remained intact within modern, postsecular society. In support of this position, I show how relatively heterogeneous phenomena within Western societies, such as the renewed importance of religion in the public realm, the revival of certain forms of nationalism and the associated demand for recognition of group rights and hence for forms of legal pluralism, may prefigure a new transformation of the public realm.
Keywords Habermas  Gauchet  Religion  Public realm  Representation  Symbolic community
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