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Seminal nineteenth-century thinkers predicted that religion would gradually fade in importance with the emergence of industrial society. The belief that religion was dying became the conventional wisdom in the social sciences during most of the twentieth century. The traditional secularization thesis needs updating, however, religion has not disappeared and is unlikely to do so. Nevertheless, the concept of secularization captures an important part of what is going on. This book develops a theory of existential security. It demonstrates that the publics of virtually all advanced industrial societies have been moving toward more secular orientations during the past half century, but also that the world as a whole now has more people with traditional religious views than ever before. This second edition expands the theory and provides new and updated evidence from a broad perspective and in a wide range of countries. This confirms that religiosity persists most strongly among vulnerable populations, especially in poorer nations and in failed states. Conversely, a systematic erosion of religious practices, values, and beliefs has occurred among the more prosperous strata in rich nations.
"This second edition is an outstanding contribution to the new thought among social scientists about the process of secularization... Norris and Inglehart present convincing arguments soundly anchored in extensive systematic research from around the globe...[They] provide a brilliant, well-written, and thoroughly convincing second edition of what will surely become a classic in the field. This is an indispensable work for any college-level class concerned with the role of religion in the contemporary world. Summing Up: Essential." -J.J. Preston, Sonoma State University, CHOICE Magazine
The great nineteenth-century social thinkers argued that the rise of modern industrial society entailed the decline of religion. Modernization has indeed involved the rise of rational-bureaucratic states and the gradual displacement of ecclesiastical authority with that of professional and technocratic elites. But in recent decades, a resurgence of religiosity and religious fundamentalism seems to have reversed the global trend toward secularization. Drawing on extensive worldwide survey data, Norris and Inglehart try to explain this development by advancing an "existential security" thesis: the experience of people living in weak and vulnerable societies heightens the importance of religious values, whereas the experience of people in rich and secure societies lessens it. Indeed, they find that in most developed countries church attendance and the authority of religious figures have continued to decline (although the United States is a bit of a laggard because of social inequality and the massive immigration of people with traditional world-views). In contrast, poor countries are not secularizing-and they contain a rising share of the world's population. The authors predict that this "expanding gap" between sacred and secular societies will have serious consequences for world politics, but they do not venture specific guesses about what is to come.
Pippa Norris is the McGuire Lecturer in Comparative Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and a visiting professor at Sydney University. Her work analyzes comparative elections and public opinion, gender politics, and political communications. Companion volumes by this author and Ronald Inglehart, also published by Cambridge University Press, include Rising Tide (2003) and Cosmopolitan Communications (2009).
Ronald Inglehart is professor of political science and program director at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. His research deals with changing belief systems and their impact on social and political change. He helped found the Euro-Barometer surveys and directs the World Values Surveys. Related books include Modernization and Postmodernization: Cultural, Economic and Political Change in Forty-Three Societies and Development, Cultural Change and Democracy (with Christian Welzel).
Part I. Understanding Secularization: 1. The secularization debate; 2. Measuring secularization; 3. Comparing secularization worldwide; Part II. Case Studies of Religion and Politics: 4. The puzzle of secularization in the United States and Western Europe; 5. A religious revival in post-communist Europe?; 6. Religion and politics in the Muslim world; Part III. The Consequences of Secularization: 7. Religion, the Protestant ethic, and moral values; 8. Religious organizations and social capital; 9. Religious parties and electoral behavior; Part IV. Conclusions: 10. Secularization and its consequences; 11. Re-examining the theory of existential security; 12. Re-examining evidence for the security thesis.