Transnational Religion and Fading States

Transnational Religion and Fading States

Transnational Religion and Fading States

Transnational Religion and Fading States

Synopsis

Focusing on the dilution of state sovereignty, this book examines how the crossing of state boundaries by religious movements leads to the formation of transnational civil society. Challenging the assertion that future conflict will be of the "clash of civilizations" variety, it looks to the micro-origins of conflicts, which the contributors argue are as likely to arise between states sharing a religion as between those divided by it and more likely to arise within rather than across state boundaries. Thus, the chapters reveal the dual potential of religious movements as sources of peace and security as well as of violent conflict. Featuring an East-West, North-South approach, the volume avoids the conventional and often ethnocentric segregation of the experience of other regions from the European and American. Contributors draw examples from a variety of regions and world religions and consider self-generated movements from "below" (such as Protestant sectarianism in Latin America or Sufi Islam in Africa) in contrast to centralized forms of organization and patterns of diffusion from above (such as state-certified religion in China). Together the chapters illustrate how religion as bearer of the politics of meaning has filled the space left by the decline of ideology, which has created a novel transnational space for world politics.

Excerpt

This study of the place of transnational religion in world politics arose out of efforts by the Committee on International Peace and Security of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) to rethink cold war conceptions of security. Those conceptions privileged states by treating them as natural and exclusive actors in international relations; privileged the Western world by treating it as the center and peripheralizing the rest; and privileged the balance of power and deterrence by treating military force as the primary means of self-help in the allegedly anarchical space beyond state frontiers. With the end of cold war bipolarity and the great fear of nuclear Armageddon, such conceptions have become dated, more akin to anachronisms than to universals independent of time, place, and circumstance. In a world of rapid communication, global and local processes can move money and products, images and people, guns and drugs, diseases and pollution, across increasingly porous and irrelevant state frontiers. Because sovereignty within and beyond state borders is not what it used to be, fresh thinking about what security can mean and how it can be approximated seems in order.

The essays in this volume focus on religious formations--sects, "churches," movements, communities, and auxiliary organizations. They show why and how these formations have become an important component of an emergent and relatively recently theorized transnational civil society. Security takes on new meanings and dimensions in the space opened up by the concept, the practices, and the institutions of transnational civil society. That space, although as old as Christendom in the West, is now seen as populated, inter alia, by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and movements that are concerned with a wide variety of global issues, such as the environment, human rights, poverty, health, migration, population changes, and weapons of mass destruction. They have given voice and visibility to transnational civil society. NGO forums at periodic United Nations-organized summits--the World Conference on Human Rights, Vienna, 1993; the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, Rio de Janeiro, 1993; the International Conference on Population, Cairo, 1994; the World Summit for Social Development, Copenhagen, 1994; and the Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing, 1995--have . . .

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