Lukas Meisner presents a working paper on ‚The Project of Modernity beyond Capitalism as Religion: Disenchanting the Tragic Worldview‘

Against the classical liberalist trope of modernity as rational, disenchanted, and enlightened, this article argues to reconstruct it as spell-bound by religion – namely, by capitalism as religion. The argument is drawn from combining a line of thinkers starting with Marx and ranging from Weber via Lukács and Benjamin to Goldmann and Berman. At the latest since the Marxian twist, any consequent emancipatory critique of religion incorporates a critique of capitalism as well – any project of modernity that is not self-contradictory can no longer be identified with capitalist modernisation. More succinctly, the former, conceived of as a political project, must precisely be about overcoming the latter. This is because, if capitalism is to be grasped as a religion, then any humanist or enlightened society would have to be postcapitalist. Accordingly, since we are not postcapitalist today, we are not humanist or enlightened either. The article will deliver the foundation of that argument by demonstrating why capitalism must be deciphered as an immanent material cult religion whose worldview is tragic, if not bleakly apocalyptic.

New publication: ‚Idealbildung, Sakralisierung, Religion‘

The Campus publishing house will publish a new book entitled ‚Idealbildung, Sakralisierung, Religion‘ (Ideal Formation, Sacralisation, Religion) on 19 January 2022, which brings together contributions to Hans Joas‘ ‚Die Macht des Heiligen‘ (The Power of the Sacred). Editors are: Magnus Schlette, Bettina Hollstein, Matthias Jung and Wolfgang Knöbl.

What drives the history of religion, how can the dynamics of cultural innovation be understood? Hans Joas gives a concise answer to this with the title of his book ‚The Power of the Sacred‘. However, he also takes the trouble to substantiate this answer on 600 pages between the covers of the book. In the volume now appearing, internationally renowned scholars engage with Joas‘ ambitious attempt to develop a historiography of religion and culture on this side of the common universal-historical narrative of secularisation and disenchantment. Contributors include Christoph Seibert, Jürgen Straub, Charles Taylor and Silvia Terpe.

The editors: Magnus Schlette is a lecturer in philosophy at the FEST in Heidelberg and a private lecturer in philosophy at the University of Erfurt. Bettina Hollstein is Managing Director at the Max-Weber-Kolleg at the University of Erfurt. Matthias Jung is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Koblenz. Wolfgang Knöbl is Director of the Hamburg Institute for Social Research.

Magnus Schlette, Bettina Hollstein, Matthias Jung and Wolfgang Knöbl (eds.)
Idealbildung, Sakralisierung, Religion
Beiträge zu Hans Joas‘ ‚Die Macht des Heiligen‘
(series: Soziologie/Soziologische Theorien)
Campus publishing house, 2022
ISBN/EAN: 9783593511405
521 pages
39,95 EUR

New Publication: ‚Religion in the Roman Empire‘

Kohlhammer will publish a new volume in the series ‚Die Religionen der Menschheit‘ at the end of January. The title of the English-language book, edited by Jörg Rüpke, Greg Woolf, Richard Gordon and others, is ‚Religion in the Roman Empire‘.

The Roman Empire was home to a fascinating variety of different cults and religions. Its enormous size, the lack of a precisely definable state religion and the constant exchange with the religions and cults of conquered peoples and neighbouring cultures led to a multifaceted religious beliefs and practices. This volume offers an overview of central aspects of cult and religion in the Roman Empire, including the distinction between public and private cult, the complex interrelationships between different religious traditions, their mutual developments and spreads, and the diversity of regional differences, rituals, religious texts and artefacts.

On 7 February 2022, the editors, Jörg Rüpke (Max-Weber-Kolleg of the University of Erfurt) and Greg Woolf (UCLA, USA), will present their new publication. The event will take place online and in English. You can find more information in our event calendar.

Jörg Rüpke, Greg Woolf, Richard Gordon a.o. (eds.)
Religion in the Roman Empire
(series: ‚Die Religionen der Menschheit‘)
Kohlhammer, 2022
ISBN: 3170292242
319 pages

New publication: „Andere Klarheit. Versuch über die Verklärung in Kunst, Religion und Philosophie“

Wallstein Verlag has just published a new book by Markus Kleinert entitled „Andere Klarheit“ (Other Clarity). It is – as the subtitle promises – an attempt at transfiguration in art, religion and philosophy. The book is also Kleinert’s habilitation thesis, which was awarded the Max Weber Prize for Young Researchers.

When hearing the term „transfiguration“, one might not first think that this could be a key concept for modernity. Transfiguration is called in religious contexts the elevation of the soul into the afterlife or the exaltation of a human being to a god, but above all the term is associated with that peculiar Bible episode of Christ’s transformation on a mountain. Ideas that are not exactly familiar in modern, secularised societies. But even the everyday understanding of transfiguration in the sense of a glossing over does not seem to suggest that transfiguration could be a key concept of modernity.

This makes it all the more exciting to read the book „Andere Klarheit. Versuch über die Verklärung in Kunst, Religion und Philosophie“ by Markus Kleinert (together with Hermann Deuser, head of the Kierkegaard Research Centre at the Max Weber College), which is dedicated to the concept of transfiguration in modernity and shows, on the basis of authors such as Luther or the Baroque poet Greiffenberg, up to Goethe, Nietzsche and Leopold Ziegler, how this motif, aligned with an idea of transformation, refers to an optimistic view of man and the world. In doing so, he also shows that such religious ideas are still effective socio-culturally today – in part without direct reference to religion – as illustrated not least by a look at American and Russian history.

Kleinert’s study, which also includes the visual arts (Raphael) and music (Wagner), shows the productivity of the concept of transfiguration, with its proximity to the Enlightenment as well as to glory, for understanding our modern culture as well as our attitudes and lifestyles.

Markus Kleinert
Andere Klarheit. Versuch über die Verklärung in Kunst, Religion und Philosophie

Wallstein Verlag, 2021
ISBN 978-3-8353-3992-7
277 pages
29,90 Euro

New publication: „Religion and its History. A Critical Inquiry“

Routledge has just published a new book by Jörg Rüpke entitled „Religion and its History. A Critical Inquiry“, a new book by Jörg Rüpke has just been published.

„Religion and its History“ offers a reflection of our operative concept of religion and religions, developing a set of approaches that bridge the widely assumed gulf between analysing present religion and doing history of religion. Religious Studies have adapted a wide range of methodologies from sociological tool kits to insights and concepts from disciplines of social and cultural studies. Their massive historical claims, which typically idealize and reify communities and traditions, and build normative claims thereupon, lack a critical engagement on the part of the researchers.

This book radically rethinks and critically engages with these biases. It does so by offering neither an abridged global history of religion nor a small handbook of methodology. Instead, this book presents concepts and methods that allow the analysis of contemporary and past religious practices, ideas, and institutions within a shared framework.

The author, Jörg Rüpke, is Professor of Comparative Religion at the University of Erfurt and Vice Director of the Max-Weber-Kolleg.

Jörg Rüpke
Religion and its History. A Critical Inquiry
(series: Routledge Studies in Religion)
Routledge, 2021
ISBN 9780367677084
174 pages
Hardcover: 120 £ // Ebook: 25,89 £

Francesca Fulminante presents a working paper ‚From heterarchies to hierarchies: the role of religion at the birth of first cities and state organization in central Italy (1100-500 bc)‘

Between the 10th and the 5th century BC Italian populations underwent radical changes in the social, political and ethnic organization which led from the mainly „egalitarian“ communities of the dispersed villages of the Bronze Age, to the „hierarchical“ and „centralised“ societies of the Archaic cities. Many scholars have contributed to delineate this trajectory by looking at various aspects of the social structure, production, economy but probably the religious aspect has been less intensively investigated, apart the emphasis posed by Alessandro Guidi on early urban cult places, preceding the monumental realization of the temples of the Archaic Period, especially in Latium vetus. Connecting to Polignac, Lefevre and Bourdie and by taking Rupke’s concept of religion as active agent of urbanity, the project seeks to explore the specific role of religion in the creation of the first cities in Western Europe. Transition from more heterarchical so. At the core of the project is the following questions: 1) is it the city which contributes to the rise of the sanctuary, or the sanctuary, which contributes to the rise of local cities? 2) Which is the role of religion in the shift from more heterarchical to hierarchical organizations? The project will answer these question by analyzing cult places in the wider network of central Italian transportation communication system and by comparing their reciprocal position and role within the system as compared to other types of settlements (domestic, functional, funerary etc.). This will allow to elaborate on the role and significance of the various spaces of ritual performance within the societies involved and eventually verify of Polignac’s model is applicable to central Italy as well.

Erfurt, the blue City

What else can you do under the conditions of the hard lockdown? A new book provides an answer to this: look at Erfurt! Erfurt, the blue city, invites you to go on excursions, on foot or – thanks to the many pictures – in your head. The authors at the Max-Weber-Kolleg of the University of Erfurt have not presented another tourist or historical guide here in German and English. Rather, an attempt to understand the city and this city. What has created urban atmosphere for more than a thousand years, what holds it together despite all the challenges, despite all the differences? And: how do you see this in today’s cityscape?

The starting point is still today’s „many-towered Erfurt“, as it was called in the Middle Ages. In seven short chapters, it becomes clear how much fun it is to dive into the city’s history as a story of religious and urbanistic change. To put oneself in the living worlds of past epochs on the basis of what one sees today. The common thread for the selection is the colour blue, which stands for the water of the Gera, Mary’s cloak, woad and more: The book also wants to surprise with unusual perspectives.

„Die blaue Stad“t (The Blue City) was created in the research group „Religion and Urbanity: Mutual Formations“, which is based at the Max-Weber-Kolleg of the University of Erfurt and has been funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) since 2018. How urbanity and religion influence each other is being investigated here comparatively, especially for Europe and South Asia. The question is also discussed in the context of regular „City Walks“ in Erfurt, in which sociologists, historians, archaeologists, urban researchers and religious scholars participate. Professor Susanne Rau, spokesperson of the collegial research group: „I am pleased that we can now reach a broad public through the book.“

More information here.

frensh translation of the book ‚Macht des Heiligen‘ by Hans Joas now available.

Französische Übersetzung der ‚Macht des Heiligen‘

Was ist der Platz des Heiligen und der Religion im modernen gesellschaftlichen Leben? Weder eine lineare Sicht der Säkularisierung als fortschreitender und globaler Niedergang der Religion, noch ein mystisches Verständnis der „Rückkehr des Religiösen“ scheint ausreichend, um dieses komplexe Phänomen zu erfassen. Hans Joas diskutiert in seinem Buch die wichtigsten philosophischen und soziologischen Paradigmen, die seit dem achtzehnten Jahrhundert entwickelt wurden, um über das religiöse Leben nachzudenken.

Jetzt ist zu diesem Buch, das einem Universalismus der Menschenrechte verpflichtet ist, die französische Übersetzung erschienen, die trotz der Tatsache, dass sich Frankreich seiner Laizität (einer strikten Trennung von Staat und Religion) rühmt, eine sehr positive Resonanz in der französischen Presse (z. B. im Le Monde) gefunden hat.

Informationen zum Buch:

Eleonor Marcussen presents a working paper on ‚Transformations of the political in the life of Pierre Ceresole: Religion, humanitarian thought and decolonization, c. 1918-1945 ‚

This paper seeks to discuss the influence of South Asian decolonisation movements on European pacifism in the interwar period through the work and ideas of Pierre Ceresole (17/08/1879 – 23/10/1945), a Swiss internationalist and pacifist. In exploring how his ideas about pacifism evolved in relation to World War I and its aftermath, this paper argues that anti-colonial nationalism and decolonisation movements played a crucial role in shaping his pacifist methods and networks. The paper seeks to link two strands of historical research: first, the role of religion and spirituality in humanitarianism, and second, how activities that went against dominant discourses of nationalism, colonialism and ideologies of violence were shaped by interaction between civil society groups in transnational thought zones throughout the first half of the twentieth century.

Martin Christ is going to present a working paper on ‚Moving Religion out of the City? Extra-urban Cemeteries in Germany, 1490 – 1880‘

Understood as a space for religious rituals, saturated with religious iconography and meaning and full of biblical symbolism, burial spaces formed a ‘hot spot’ of religion. After focusing on the cemetery as a religious space, this paper will turn to the movement of cemeteries form inside the city to its outside and indicate some of the reasons people living in the early modern period gave for the movement of cemeteries. The next part sketches some European comparisons, focusing, in particular, on the British Isles, which show a different kind of reasoning behind the movement of cemeteries and indicate that religion was only a key factor for the movement of cemeteries, if combined with other causes. Finally, the paper considers one of the key questions regarding the movement of cemeteries, that is, if the move of the burial spaces outside of the city walls led to a more secular city, a view that is still highly influential in the historiography on this topic. By way of conclusion, I offer some questions for further directions of this research.