Academic journal article Geopolitics, History and International Relations

Church-State Regimes and Democracy in the West: Convergence vs. Divergence

Academic journal article Geopolitics, History and International Relations

Church-State Regimes and Democracy in the West: Convergence vs. Divergence

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT.

This paper attempts to analyze church-state relations from the perspective of democratic theory and practice in Western nation states. This is done at two levels. A more conceptual level involves the discussion of the relationship between religion and democracy, typologies of church-state relations in comparative research and the question whether a particular type of democracy corresponds with a particular pattern of church-state relations and religious governance. This is then applied to a medium range comparison of 19 Western democracies (EU-15, minus Greece and Luxembourg, plus Norway, Switzerland, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand). At an empirical and historical level, some country cases are considered in light of a historical delineation of the link between the genesis of church-state regimes and the emergence of modern democracy at the onset of globalization. The guiding research hypothesis is that current church-state relations are shaped by the struggle for democracy, rather than the other way round, and that in the age of globalization and mass migration, democratic polities tend to respond to pressures resulting from these processes with signs of convergence including church-state regimes.

Keywords: church-state relations, democratic theory and practice, Western nation states

1. Introduction

The study of religious effects on politics and policies so far has been dominated by actor- and culture-oriented approaches (for a good overview, see Grzymala-Busse 2012). These include, on the one hand, studies, which analyze the role of Christian Demoratic parties or movements, to a lesser extent the churches themselves, in political decision-making (e.g. Hanley 1994, 2003; van Kersbergen 1995; Warner 2000, 2003). On the other hand, there are studies, which focus on long-standing religious traditions and constellations and their shaping political outcomes (e.g. Rokkan 1970; Esping-Anderson 1990; Castles 1998; van Kersbergen/Manow 2009; Sandal 2012). This paper adds a third intermediate level which so far has received only limited attention from comparative political science: the dimension of institutional settings such as by church-state relations (see Madeley/Enyedi 2003; Fetzter/Soper 2005; Fox 2008).

The paper provides a step towards a comprehensive analysis of churchstate relations from the perspective of democratic theory and practice in Western nation states. This is done by reviewing concepts of democracy and typologies of church-state relations in comparative research, and by asking whether a particular type of democracy corresponds with a particular pattern of church-state relations and religious governance. The paper applies a medium range comparison of 19 Western democracies (EU- 15, minus Greece and Luxembourg, plus Norway, Switzerland, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand). These countries are selected by the criteria of at least 30 years of uninterrupted democratic experience, sufficiently large size so as to allow for internal differentiation, and high economic development (for details see Minkenberg 2003a: 116, fn 1). At some point in the analysis, the paper also addresses link between the genesis of church-state regimes and the emergence of modern democracy, though here more in-depth analysis is needed at a later stage. The guiding research hypothesis is that current church-state relations are shaped by the struggle for democracy, rather than the other way round, and that their influence on democratic politics cannot be separated from confessional and other religious and cultural factors in these societies. I will begin with a few words on key concepts.

2. Religion and Democracy

Whether a reference to God is part of the definition or not, hardly any social science concept of religion does without a reference to the transcendental and the function of providing meaning to action and to life - Geertz speaks of a symbolic system of transcendental truths (see Geertz 1973: eh. …

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