Religion and Politics in Comparative Perspective: Revival of Religious Fundamentalism in East and West

By Bronislaw Misztal; Anson Shupe | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

This volume sprang from an idea that inspired the two of us sometime between the end of 1988 and early 1989. Being peripatetic scholars, we encountered each other while working in the same university department. As we discovered one day amid an intensive debate, we, who came from completely different worlds, shared the same trait: a mixture of intellectual loneliness and a craving to comprehend the fast-paced world around us. And so we continued to meet as friends and scholars, in an attempt to find out to what limits we could expand our academic and professional knowledge about global events.

One of us is a sociologist of religion who for several years has reflected on conservative religious movements in the western hemisphere and East Asia. His ruminations prompted him to articulate some historical generalizations about capitalist culture and its impact on social consciousness. The other is an East European student of social movements who, as many of his kind have done over the past fifty or a hundred years, became an intellectual immigrant to the United States. During the last twenty years he has chronicled the processes involved in the breakdown of the Communist empire, specializing in social change and political sociology. When the two of us started spelling out our predictive hypotheses about what we believed would take place on the face of this planet by the end of the twentieth century, we realized that we spoke unisono. We agreed that the two hemispheres of Eastern totalitarian Europe and Western liberal democratic America, which used to be as much different as fire and water, are now converging to form a pool of potentially similar conservative and religiously fundamentalist values.

The late 1980s constituted an era of intense debate about the nature

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