The political authority of secularism in international relations

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128 Scopus citations


Secularism is an important source of political authority in International Relations theory and practice. Secularists identify something called 'religion' and separate it from the domains of the state, the economy and science. This separation facilitates a consensus which is sustained by a powerful yet historically contingent set of beliefs, including secularism as the realization of God's will, secularism as the natural evolution toward universal morality and secularism as a normal consequence of economic modernization. Despite these aspirations, secularism is unequipped to serve as a universal model of public life, either domestically or internationally. The creation of the category of religion and its demarcation from politics is a highly politicized decision that is not subject to a final settlement, and the pretense of a final settlement exacerbates international conflict rather than diminishing it. The religion/politics negotiation is a fluid site of authority with complex relations to the state system, the global economy, international ethics and other more heavily theorized locations of power in international relations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)235-262+307
JournalEuropean Journal of International Relations
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2004


  • Church and state
  • Clash of civilizations
  • Fundamentalism
  • International conflict
  • Religion
  • Religious conflict
  • Secularism
  • Secularization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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