Secularization revisited: Tocqueville, Asad, Bonhoeffer, Habermas

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter (peer-reviewed)


I have been asked to set out Girard’s account of religion with reference to four significant thinkers who come down variously on the contested question of secularization. These are the brilliant French envoy to a young American republic, Alexis de Tocqueville; the New York-based Muslim “anthropologist of secularism” Talal Asad; the martyr-activist and prophet of a Christ-permeated secularity, Dietrich Bonhoeffer; and the German philosopher and advocate for post-secularism, Jürgen Habermas. Where Girard’s discussion intersects theirs, we will note similarities and differences with a view to understanding the place of secularization in mimetic theory. Accordingly, the distinctiveness of mimetic theory’s approach to religion—its origins, function, and behavior under modern conditions (i.e., where secularization theories focus)—will emerge more clearly.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Palgrave handbook of mimetic theory and religion
EditorsJames Alison, Wolfgang Palaver
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9781137538253
ISBN (Print)9781137552808
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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    Cowdell, S. (2017). Secularization revisited: Tocqueville, Asad, Bonhoeffer, Habermas. In J. Alison, & W. Palaver (Eds.), The Palgrave handbook of mimetic theory and religion (1st ed., pp. 343-350). Palgrave Macmillan.