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Alfred Stepan on Twin Tolerations

In an interview with The Immanent Frame, Alfred Stepan talks about religion and democracy, multiple secularisms, and his recent article on Tunisia’s democratic transition.


What I was increasingly convinced about was that the relationship between democracy and religion as theorized in the classic studies of secularism was not the norm in many countries that were actually democracies. Classical secularist arguments often entailed an empirical prediction that the role of religion would inevitably decline with modernity, and a normative prescription that it should. In the contemporary world neither the prediction, nor the prescription, seemed defensible to me. What is imperative for democracy, however, is some degree of “differentiation” between religion and the state. But I was convinced that there are many ways to arrive at sufficient differentiation, despite this not having been adequately thought about or documented. I was also aware that among the “first generation” of democratization theorists, such as Adam Przeworkski, Guillermo O’Donnell, Philippe Schmitter, Laurence Whitehead, or even Juan Linz, none of us was then writing on religion and democratization; but this had to be done. I was personally aware of the possibility for theological and political change within religions because Vatican II and Catholicism’s “aggiornamento“ of the 1960s had a significant positive impact on three democratic transitions I had written a lot about: Brazil, Chile, and Spain.

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