books, William Cavanaugh

New Cavanaugh Book Soon

Mike over at Catholic Anarchy has alerted his readers to a new Cavanaugh book coming out in August from Oxford University Press. It is titled The Myth of Religous Violence Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict. Amazon gives the following description:

The idea that religion has a dangerous tendency to promote violence is part of the conventional wisdom of Western societies, and it underlies many of our institutions and policies, from limits on the public role of religion to efforts to promote liberal democracy in the Middle East. William T. Cavanaugh challenges this conventional wisdom by examining how the twin categories of religion and the secular are constructed. A growing body of scholarly work explores how the category ‘religion’ has been constructed in the modern West and in colonial contexts according to specific configurations of political power. Cavanaugh draws on this scholarship to examine how timeless and transcultural categories of ‘religion and ‘the secular’ are used in arguments that religion causes violence. He argues three points: 1) There is no transhistorical and transcultural essence of religion. What counts as religious or secular in any given context is a function of political configurations of power; 2) Such a transhistorical and transcultural concept of religion as non-rational and prone to violence is one of the foundational legitimating myths of Western society; 3) This myth can be and is used to legitimate neo-colonial violence against non-Western others, particularly the Muslim world.

I’m eagerly looking forward to it.


5 thoughts on “New Cavanaugh Book Soon

  1. Sounds good; thanks for the alert. However, not to be a pessimist, is this not pretty much the same thing he already has published? Hopefully this one will be larger – if it is more of the same (and I mean “good” same here).

  2. I’m hoping for a larger historical and theological treatment. You’re right that this seems similar to say, Theopolitical Imagination or his articles on the wars of religion, state violence, and the enlightenment’s blame on religion, but I’m hoping he’ll tie together what he’s already done and then push in a specific direction. I’m also hoping to see his answer to Carter’s short critique of him in Race, or at least see him develop in a way that accounts for Carter’s critique.

  3. Well, lucky for me, I got to work on it, so I’ve already read it! And no, it is not really like Theopolitical Imagination. It does build on his articles on religious violence though. I don’t recall him responding to Carter. This work is really not too theological. In some ways Cavanaugh had to do a lot of extra leg work in order to engage sociology of religion folks. Most of the book is spent trying to sort out just what we mean by “religion” and why both in and outside the academy religion is perceived to lend itself to violence.

  4. Looking at his articles and lectures on religion and violence, it looks like this is really what we’ve been waiting for to flesh out some of the ideas he hints at in Theopolitical Imagination.

    It’s interesting that you say its “not too theological,” Ry. I did get the sense in some of his recent articles and lectures that he is engaging “religious studies” voices more, like you say, on the debates about the origin of the idea of religion. Good to see him bridging the gap between theology and religious studies, if that’s indeed what he’s up to.

  5. Pingback: Cavanaugh and religious studies |™

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