The Religion of the Heart: Self, Solidarity, and the Sacred in Romantic Liberal Modernity
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North Americans and Western Europeans increasingly prefer “spirituality” to “religion.” In response to this “spiritual turn,” a voluminous literature has emerged across the human sciences. Yet the study of spirituality remains rife with discord and fragmentation. This study seeks to clarify the nature of these debates, as well as advance a substantive position within them. In Part I, following in the footsteps of contemporary cultural sociologists, I contend that the spiritual turn signals the ascent of an enduring cultural structure in Western modernity, which I call the religion of the heart. I draw from a wide array of sociological and historical studies, supplementing these with my own empirical research, in order to offer a brief history of this religious tradition, and delineate its core tenets. In Part II, I synthesize the existing scholarship on “spirituality,” advancing a genealogy of the spiritual turn since the 1960s. I maintain that the religion of the heart holds deep elective affinities with the romantic liberal social imaginary that crystallized in popular consciousness during this era and transformed the institutional spheres of Western liberal democracies, eventually giving birth to a new social order—romantic liberal modernity. In Part III, I illuminate the striking degree to which academic debates about the religion of the heart, or “spirituality,” track debates about romantic liberal modernity, delineating the social-cum-political theoretical traditions that scholars have drawn upon to criticize both. I then draw from the Durkheimian tradition in order to mount a defense of the animating ideals of romantic liberalism, challenge these traditions’ chief theoretical and normative presuppositions, and flag the concerns critics raise that warrant further empirical investigation. In Part IV, I advance institutional ethnographies of three sites where the religion of the heart is institutionalized in a specific discursive form as a means of assessing the validity of these concerns. I conclude that while critics may have reason to disparage both the religion of the heart, and romantic liberal modernity more generally, the reality is far more complex than their critiques suggest— and more importantly, far less hopeless.
URI for this recordhttp://hdl.handle.net/1974/27893
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