Junior Workshop 4:
Problems in Political Theory: Religion and Democracy
We revisit some of the basic normative questions to do with religion and democratic politics: How can democratic polities be protected from religion, and how can religion be protected from politics? Or do certain forms of democratic politics depend on religious sources? In particular, might liberal democracy actually ‘live off’ religious sentiments in ways that many liberal theorists fail to acknowledge? Does even the religiously neutral state need a ‘civil religion’ of some sort or other to preserve its moral foundations?
We will examine a number of classic works in the history of political thought, such as Machiavelli, Rousseau, and Tocqueville. As we move on to present-day debates in political theory, we will concentrate on the models for the relationship between state and religion put forward by John Rawls and Jurgen Habermas. But we will also examine some of the relevant literature in constitutional thought more narrowly and in empirical political science, where different models of, for instance, secularism and accommodations for religious believers are being systematically compared.
The workshop prepares students to write on a wide range of theoretical topics and allows them to draw extensively on writings in the history of political thought and in law.