Religion, Democratization, and Market Transition
A Workshop sponsored by the NSF Sociology Program, December 6-7, 1993
- John McCarthy
- Department of Sociology
- Catholic University of America
- Jean Comaroff
- Anthropology Department
- University of Chicago
- Laurence R. Iannaccone
- Department of Economics
- University of Santa Clara
- Lonnie Kliever
- Department of Religious Studies
- Southern Methodist University
- Mansoor Moaddel
- Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology
- Eastern Michigan University
- Paula Nesbitt
- Iliff School of Theology
- Stanley J. Tambiah
- Department of Anthropology
- Harvard University
- Kenneth D. Wald
- Department of Political Science
- University of Florida
- Martin K. Whyte
- Department of Sociology
- University of Michigan
- William Sims Bainbridge
- Sociology Program
Religion is a major factor in the dramatic transformations of political and economic institutions currently sweeping large sectors of the globe. The theories and methodologies of the social and behavioral sciences are sufficiently well developed to permit high-quality scientific research on a host of questions that have great intellectual and policy significance.
- This research is of very great urgency, for three reasons:
- 1. Such tremendous changes are occurring so rapidly in many nations that researchers must move quickly if they are to collect information crucial for understanding them.
2. The role of religion is so powerful in current world transformation that American leaders need quick and authoritative advice on how to respond effectively to religion-related events.
- 3. Knowledge is so fragmentary at present in many of these areas that prompt research projects could achieve great and rapid scientific progress.
The workshop identified 12 general categories of research, grouped under four headings and illustrated with representative projects below:
1. How religion promotes democracy both in developing societies and in mature democratic nations.
- 1.1. Religion and Democratic Processes. It is widely believed that the church is a major force for democracy in several nations of Latin America and Eastern Europe. Is this true? If so, what factors allow it to play this crucial role in transforming some societies and not others?
- Case studies of political dynamics in particular communities can form the basis of comparative meta-analysis to identify and measure the range of processes that involve religion in democratization and the conditions that may prevent this.
- 1.2. Social Implications of Religion. How effective are American churches -- compared with secular social service agencies -- in dealing with the problems of politically, educationally and economically deprived groups?
- Inventories of religious schools and social services would provide a framework for surveys of satisfaction and usage by target groups and policy analysis contrasting the efficiencies and secondary benefits of religious and secular delivery systems.
- 1.3. The Marketplace of Religion. The set of denominations and religious movements, both local and international, has been described as a market and approached from the research perspective of economics and from other comparable social-system paradigms. How does religious freedom support and interweave with institutions of political freedom and market-oriented money economies?
- This new approach requires extensive studies of resource, information, and membership flows both within and across societies, coupled with computer simulations of market networks to develop mathematical models.
- 1.4. Democratization in Leninist Systems. To what extent has the hostility toward religion of Marxist-Leninist regimes contributed to their own downfall?
- The most promising research methodologies include interviews with leaders who played important roles in resistance to or transformation of Marxist regimes, conducted swiftly before opportunities are lost, combined with random-sample opinion surveys to chart statistical correlations between religious and political attitudes.
2. Conditions that work against democracy, either preventing it from arising or eroding existing democratic institutions.
- 2.1. Ethnonationalism and Immigration. How do religious differences within a society often reinforce ethnonationalism, leading to violence and oppression of politically weak groups, and what can be done to prevent this tragedy?
- An exciting research program would combine cross-national and cross-denominational analysis of the development of Hindu (including Sikh and Tamil), Buddhist and Moslem ethnonationalism in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh, considered as mutually reinforcing processes of competition and identity formation.
- 2.2. Non-Mainstream Religious Movements. What factors stimulate the emergence of millenarian cults, in both the developing countries and advanced industrial societies, and under what circumstances can they become either serious threats to public safety or harmless manifestations of cultural diversity?
- Promising scientific techniques are statistical study of rates of incidence of such cults across space and time to produce explanatory multiple regression models of community-level independent variables, plus parallel analysis of recruits versus non-recruits to develop individual-level models.
- 2.3. Religious Authority. Religious organizations differ greatly in both their images of divine leadership and their actual bureaucratic procedures for making decisions. How do these varying authority structures influence the adherents' support for democracy versus authoritarianism in secular politics?
- Research should combine systematic content analysis of religious doctrines, questionnaire surveys to assess the correlations linking belief in particular doctrines with democracy-related attitudes and behaviors, and transnational comparative work on political and religious institutions.
3. The relationships linking religion to markets, science, and technology.
- 3.1. Market Transition and Economics. How much truth is there to the theories that religion provides a moral basis for free markets (for instance by restricting greed and supporting trust) and helps people deal non-violently with the widespread loss of security and status associated with market transition?
- Based on the great progress recently achieved in understanding when and how religion can inhibit ordinary crime and delinquency, quantitative research should target the mechanisms through which religious values and institutions can channel human desires and frustrations into harmless and even productive channels.
- 3.2. Science and Technology. Is secularization theory correct -- that scientific rationalism inescapably erodes religious faith -- or are there a variety of ways in which science and religion are compatible or even reinforce each other?
- Starting with fresh, rigorous theoretical analysis, survey methodologies should be used to chart and explain the substantial denominational differences of participation in scientific professions, supported by comparative and historical investigations of the wide variations in the status of science across societies.
4. The effects on religion of rapid social, political, and economic change.
- 4.1. The Effects of Democratization and Market Transition on Religion.
- In the wake of democratization and liberalization of markets, does religious pluralism cause an increase or a decrease in the influence of the churches, and how does the relative balance between conventional denominations and radical sects change?
- A long-term research program should comprehensively track changes through longitudinal study of the former Soviet Union, with annual surveys of random samples of the population and a continuous registry of all religious organizations in a sample of communities.
- 4.2. The Roles of Intellectuals, Elites, and Mass Media. How do intellectuals and other elites mediate between social change and religious institutions?
- Content analysis of American mass-media images of Islamic fundamentalism would be valuable, employing state-of-the-art computerized relational data bases of newspaper and TV news stories.
- 4.3. The Role of Governments. What are the current official policies of the world's governments toward religion, and how much does actual treatment of religion diverge from these standards?
- Systematic collation of legal codes and government policies should be compared with inventories of religion-related cases in each nation.
- Among the many areas in which little scientific knowledge exists, we have identified five topics that deserve the highest priority:
- 1. How existing churches and new religious movements promote the development of democratic institutions and free markets in formerly totalitarian societies.
- 2. The role religion plays in mature democracies like the United States, as they attempt to sustain themselves and over time to become more democratic.
- 3. The ways that religion can become tragically implicated in often bloody conflicts between ethnic groups and nationalist movements.
- 4. The religious aspects of immigration and the massive movements of people currently in progress around the world.
- 5. The dynamic interplay of social, economic, cultural, and political forces around religion in communities undergoing radical change.
Scientific knowledge about the relationships linking religion to democracy and to the development of free markets is highly inadequate. Despite their human and intellectual importance, they have not been studied extensively and our understanding of them is quite incomplete. However, enough has been done in many fields for us to be able to sketch the outlines of a research agenda and to identify some key questions that need to be addressed. Given the extreme limits of our knowledge, everything we say here must be considered provisional, but we can state our first observations with considerable confidence.
Since the founding of the social sciences, research on religion has done much to develop and test general scientific theories of human behavior. Many classic theorists devoted extensive energy to work on religion, notably: William James and Sigmund Freud in psychology; Emile Durkheim and Max Weber in sociology; James Frazer and Edward Tylor in anthropology.
Today, numerous journals are devoted to the scientific study of religion, and articles on religion appear regularly in the central journals of several social and behavioral sciences. Today, scientific theories of great generality are being evaluated by empirical research on various social aspects of religion. For example, the widespread notion that human behavior is largely controlled by overarching "values" has come under increasing criticism by theorists who consider individual economic interest or the influence of social networks to be far more important, and religion offers many opportunities for comparative evaluation of these competing general theories. Some models of cultural progress argue that rationalism is replacing mysticism in an inexorable historical process, and the persistence of religion challenges this analysis.
Because economic motives appear muted in religious groups, they are often the ideal natural laboratory for testing a variety of hypotheses in sociology, social psychology, and anthropology. The relative accessibility of religious groups to researchers, the diversity of social phenomena that occur within them, and the wide selection of religious movements available for study, make them excellent research sites for scientific hypotheses having nothing to do with religion per se. Religion is the most distinctive system of culture and social organization, outside the narrowly-defined areas of politics and economics themselves, likely to have profound effects on democratization and the emergence of market-oriented economies.
Every major religious tradition is potentially compatible with democracy and can support the development of democratic institutions in a society that has not known them previously. All powerful social forces have the capacity to do harm, and religion is no exception. Under favorable circumstances, however, strong religious commitment may often enhance democracy, and the development of free markets can be encouraged by beliefs and values belonging to each of the major world religions. This is true even for fundamentalist movements within these religious traditions. Unfavorable social, political, and economic conditions can sometimes turn particular religious movements against the political and economic institutions favored by Western democracies. But the ways that this can happen are a legitimate focus for scientific research, rather than an indictment of religion itself.
Social science does not have the capacity to assess the truth claims of religious traditions. However, it can examine the social consequences of religious belief, organization, and action. Failure to approach religion from this perspective may blind us to the positive and constructive role that religion may play in the transition to democracy and market economies.
In recent times, large and powerful movements have arisen that combine in one amalgam religious, political, economic, and social values and objectives. In these movements religious cosmology, imagery, and themes have played an overarching structuring role, and religious leaders have been principal activists. This makes it all the more necessary to realize that the study of democratizing and market transition processes cannot leave out of account the manner in which religion is implicated in them.
Social-scientific research on religion, democratization, and market transition is entirely feasible, providing knowledge of use to decision makers and increasing our understanding of the world we live in. The factors shaping the role of religion are not simple, and the particular social, political, and economic conditions surrounding religion can have powerful effects. However, we believe that underlying this complexity are a relatively small number of general principles that could be learned through careful scientific research.
- The research questions we identified can be grouped under four major headings: 1. How religion promotes democracy both in developing societies and in mature democratic nations.
2. Conditions that work against democracy, either preventin it from arising or eroding existing democratic institutions.
3. The relationships linking religion to markets, science, and technology.
- 4. The effects on religion of rapid social, political, and economic change.
Organized under these headings, the following agenda identifies a range of research topics, methodological approaches, and theories that can be the basis of successful research programs. While the list is not exhaustive, it demonstrates the significance and diversity of possible future work by social scientists in this area. Some writers have imagined that secularization would soon banish religion from the modern world, but we believe that religion will continue to play a major role in human affairs far into the future. Given the crucial importance of the changes currently sweeping much of the world, improved knowledge of a key factor shaping those changes is essential. Therefore, we urge substantial support for research programs to examine the questions we outline below.
1. How Religion Promotes Democracy The link between religion and democracy is strong, and there are several issues concerning how religion can promote democracy in established democratic countries and in nations undergoing political and economic transition. For example, religion can influence people's views of democracy and their acceptance of democratic institutions, and it can be a factor in a nation's social development. The following section addresses these issues and covers four main areas: religion and democratic processes, religion and its social implications, the marketplace of religion, and democratization in Leninist systems.
1.1. Religion and Democratic Processes
1.1.1. The potential contribution of religious institutions to mass political participation in societies of all kinds is a highly fruitful area for systematic research. In studies of democratic societies, the United States ranks last in the rate of voter turnout in national elections. Previous research has attributed low turnout to institutional barriers that raise the costs of voting (principally registration laws) and personal attitudes that diminish the perceived benefits of electoral participation. The social response to this problem has included efforts to liberalize registration laws (most recently, the "Motor Voter" law) and public service campaigns designed to emphasize the responsibilities of citizenship.
There is fragmentary research suggesting that religious affiliation and involvement may significantly increase the tendency of citizens to register and to vote. In certain elections, churches have shown impressive capacity to mount registration campaigns and stimulate citizens to make a trip to the polls. Even when no overt politicization is intended, religious participation may unintentionally stimulate political activity by providing social support for community activism and placing the individual in an extended social network through which political mobilization may spread. These effects may counter the corrosive impact of untrammelled individualism on the attitudes of parishioners. For minority communities where the barriers to political activity are particularly high, the churches have played an especially central role in community mobilization. Considering that churches are by far the most widespread form of voluntary organization in the United States, the potential for political education is impressive.
More intensive study of churches as agents of political mobilization could contribute to our knowledge about democratization in at least two respects. First, it would uncover the factors that retard political engagement and identify strategies that churches utilize to overcome barriers to participation. An increased understanding of these factors would translate into sounder strategies for enhancing the level of public involvement. Second, the lessons from America have application in newly democratic states. Small, facetoface organizations may emerge as key mechanisms linking citizens to the state.
An especially fruitful research method would be community surveys designed to trace social networks and organizational membership, as well as the beliefs, attitudes and behavior of individual respondents.
1.1.2. Religion affects political mobilization by influencing members' views of democracy through their experience of the religious group's own internal practices. There is a long tradition of churches functioning as political training grounds by providing members with crucial organizing and mobilizing skills. The rise of the Labor Party in 19th century Britain was often attributed to working class activists who had learned to speak and organize in Methodist and Baptist churches in the north. More recently, the vanguard of the American civil rights movement in the 1960's came from historically black churches. Many observers of the democratic revolutions in Eastern Europe cited the church as the environment where activists gained the commitment and organizing skills that proved decisive in their struggles. Yet it must also be recognized that churches may inhibit democratic ideals by emphasizing strong authority structures and demanding unconditional obedience.
A number of variables warrant investigation. A religion's view of God and religious authority should be distinguished from the actual governing processes in the religious organization. A religious community might emphasize the equality of all believers before God -- an idea with obvious democratic overtones -- but organize religious activity in an extremely hierarchical way. It is also important to distinguish between authoritarianism and an ideological commitment to authority as the guarantor of the social order. Any investigation must be sensitive to such differences.
The research should include an analysis and observation of religious communities to determine what messages about authority and obedience are actually being transmitted and absorbed and an assessment of the consequences of political participation on church members' views of the political process.
1.1.3. Churches may influence political processes through the effects of grass roots politicoreligious coalitions on democratic freedom and access to socioeconomic opportunity. For example, the mass media have reported the success conservative evangelical religious organizations have achieved in forming grass roots political alliances to create sociopolitical change at the local and state levels. Organized religious coalitions planning widespread societal change based upon particular theological or ideological presuppositions raise interesting issues involving freedom of expression, such as those concerning the boundaries between preaching and lobbying or between church and state.
Before the implications of such political and ethical issues can be addressed, research must track the extent of linked coalitions and their efficacy, the nature of the agendas, and the underlying religious rationales. This might be done through studying the composition of coalition groups for particular election issues, tracing contributions, performing a content analysis of documents, and conducting field research through participant observation and interviews.
1.1.4. The effect of religion on democratic processes outside the United States and other established democracies is a research topic of the first magnitude. Religion has supplied much of the motive force for democratization in Latin America. While a good deal of attention has been devoted to the writings of liberation theologists and the actions of charismatic religious leaders, scholars have also emphasized the contribution of grass roots religious movements such as Catholic "base communities," Pentecostalism, and AfroBrazilian and AfroCaribbean traditions. These movements have promoted new readings of sacred texts, producing a popular construction of religious ideas stressing the dignity of human labor, the priority of human rights, and other democratic values. In emphasizing participatory democracy and demystifying traditional authority structures, such movements may invigorate civil society, thus deepening the popular commitment to democracy and helping to immunize the citizenry against the lure of authoritarianism. This phenomenon can be explored across religious traditions, crossnationally, and with a sensitivity to the interaction between institutions and cultural change.
1.1.5. Other developments on a global scale at present raise important questions about established notions of religion, politics, democracy, and economic development. Across the world, religious movements of various sorts struggle to articulate, pursue, and maintain individual and group rights in ways that often differ from classic Western liberal notions of citizenship and democratic participation. Also, movements for democratization have sometimes had unforeseen consequences. While many of these developments might raise cautionary lessons, the growing global conversation on these vital issues might also expand our horizons of democratic possibilities, such as local-level mediation of disputes, models of neighborhood and community participation in large-scale political processes, and mitigation of individual anomie.
- While it is too ambitious to hope to arrive at a general theory of these developments at this stage, our knowledge may be advanced by examining a series of cases that illustrate how conventional Western models have been debated and transformed in actual application. Among the many cases that present exemplary scientific problems, two can illustrate the challenges to traditional theories of democracy:
- 1) The largely unexpected rise of Hindu nationalism in India, where religious mobilization revitalized the definition of identity and community, yet did so at the expense of the identity of other individuals and groups.
- 2) The situation of the "new" South Africa, where Western democratic institutions are being vigorously debated, including the adequacy of a constitution based on individual rights alone, with existing cultural orientations asserting concepts of group rights.
1.2. Social Implications of Religion
1.2.1. In the ongoing battle against poverty, drug use, family disruption, and other manifestations of social disarray, American churches play an important yet undervalued role. Apart from philanthropy, churches have emerged as major agents of social change and service delivery -- offering a stunning array of programs that encompass education, day care, counselling, agency referral, food, shelter, and a myriad of other forms of outreach. In the inner city and poor rural communities, religious institutions number among the few viable organizations with the capacity to induce planned change and community development.
These efforts, often known as social justice ministries, have occasionally been chronicled but are not widely studied or investigated as potential models of social development. As a start, it would be useful simply to identify and catalog the extent of public services provided by American churches. Policy analysis and evaluation could fruitfully be applied to these programs. Such investigation might identify particularly effective strategies for community improvement that have wide application across policy areas and national boundaries.
1.2.2. Religious movements play a variety of roles in the struggles for civil rights. We need to learn how different religious organizations (established churches or grass roots movements) serve in struggles to articulate, pursue, and maintain the rights of individuals and groups. Formal organizations with global networks can often assume state functions where states collapse (the Catholic Church in Uganda during and after Amin, and churches in many parts of eastern Europe); they can also apply widespread pressure on governments (the International Reformed and Lutheran Churches in South Africa). National churches that replicate state structures but have an independent, even sacred rationale and legitimacy can serve as bases for critique and mobilization against government action and policy --although their freedoms are not unlimited, as many modern martyrs have attested. Less formally structured religious movements often serve to articulate locallevel consciousness of injustice and models of reform. They also can operate efficiently beyond the more cumbersome reach of the state, as have spiritualists in the Zimbabwe War and mediums in South Korea.
1.2.3. Organized religion may play a variable role in the emergence and maintenance of civil society (which is the network of non-governmental organizations and informal groups that form the basis of social life). This includes its capacity to encourage or inhibit the freedom for citizens to create diverse nonreligious civil institutions. It also includes its role as social infrastructure (e.g., co-optable collectivities) in ignoring, facilitating, or inhibiting social, political, and economic change.
1.2.4. The connection between religion and education has several positive implications for democracy. Religious groups typically seek to educate their own children in a variety of settings. In many nations, religious schools make up an important segment of the formal schooling enterprise, and the amount and nature of these schooling efforts across religious groups and across nations are important variables. As states with previously highly centralized and totally public educational systems cope with market transitions, the role of religious groups in providing formal schooling should become more widespread, especially since international religious groups are now in the process of establishing schools in many of these nations. Illustrative questions include: What is the cross-national variation in the establishment of private schools controlled by religious groups? How are these trends related to trends in religious adherence? What are the differential consequences of public/religious schooling for socialization outcomes in such areas as civic values and entrepreneurial proclivities?
- Several theories relate to the link between religion and education:
1) Increased education -- particularly a growth in literacy -- facilitates the routinization of religious movements through greater tolerance for a diversity of ideas (political, social, and economic).
2) The education of women is especially crucial to the development of internal pluralism; as women become educated, the likelihood increases of gender-negotiated role definitions, including demands for greater economic and political participation by women within their constituent religious groups.
- 3) The effects of education differ given whether it is "public" to the extent that it includes a diversity of ideas and understandings, or "private" to the extent that it offers only a single, religiously particular understanding. Where education is strongly privatized, such as in "home schooling," it can serve to socially control rather than to facilitate diversity and tolerance. Investigating these issues is essential to understanding religion's influence on democratization through education.
1.3. The Marketplace of Religious Movements and Denominations
1.3.1. The set of churches and religious movements a society possesses can be conceptualized as a marketplace. To the extent that individuals are free to choose the church they attend, they are customers who evaluate the quality of services they are offered and accordingly decide where to place their spiritual investments. The consequences may differ greatly, depending upon whether the religious market is dominated by a monopoly, consists of numerous competing denominations, is impoverished by government restrictions, or includes transnational churches as well as local sects.
The concept of a religious market provides the basis for using economic theory and methods to study religiosity. Like standard secular markets, religious markets manifest varying degrees of competition, concentration, and government intervention. Techniques of data collection and statistical analysis already employed by economists to study secular manifestations of these phenomena will also be valuable here.
Classical economist Adam Smith favored a free market in religious ideas, institutions, and authority. In Smith's view, an open market would multiply the number of religious groups, and the competition between them would have salutary effects. That is, groups would have to settle for small market shares if they could not offer views that had broad appeal. The more idiosyncratic the demands of a religious group, the less likely it is to win a wide and influential following. Multiplying religious options would reduce the disruptive power that any particular religious movement might have.
In support of Smith's view, there are examples of democratic societies that have flourished (or at least persisted) in the presence of religious diversity and competition. The United States, for example, is a society with a thriving religious life organized around many different forms of religious identity that has, nonetheless, managed to avoid destructive political confessionalism. Religious freedom is an aspect of personal liberty, and it may enjoy mutually supportive relationships with political democracy and economic free markets.
1.3.2. International religious organizations can be effective channels of cultural diffusion, transmitting democracy-related values, information and skills from one society to another. These can be long-standing international churches, such as Roman Catholicism, or new evangelical movements such as many that have arisen in American Protestantism. All standard techniques for studying formal organizations, social movements, and networks of communication will be valuable for research on contemporary phenomena. The full toolkit of systematic social history research can be applied to examples from the past.
A great need currently exists for social historical research on European and American Christian missionary movements. Such work was largely ignored for decades, both because social scientists interested in national development tended to apply narrowly-defined economic models, and because of the sensitivity of may newly-independent nations over issues of cultural imperialism. Now it can be recognized, however, that past missionary movements may have had very positive net effects of the host countries, and research findings about those cases will be necessary if we are to understand the effects of the substantial Christian missionary activity currently in progress.
The analogy to technology transfer carried out by transnational corporations suggests that research techniques designed to investigate global manufacturing and information services will also be useful here.
1.4. Democratization in Leninist Systems
1.4.1. In Leninist societies, the roles played by religion in democratization and market transition may be so different from those played in other societies that research agendas and methods may be quite distinctive. Leninist societies cane be roughly defined as those having one-party regimes based on Marxist ideology, explicitly employing force to compel obedience and suppress alternative political movements. In principle, atheism is a hallmark of their ideology, and thus they attempt to destroy the churches and eradicate faith. However, in practice different Leninist regimes developed various accommodations with religion, from severely limiting and co-opting the church as in Russia to leaving it considerable independence as in Poland.
The recent opening of a number of these societies to social scientists permits research on the status of religion under Marxist-Leninism, as well as on the current transition period that many of them have apparently entered. What is the role of various religions and religious communities in challenging and bringing about the downfall of Leninist systems? Did the explicit hostility to religion in Marxist doctrine give religion a special role as a chief opposition ideology? Or was capitalism such an effective counter-ideology that religious faith was ineffective in promoting an intellectual liberation unless solidly rooted in powerful, independent churches (as in Poland).
2. Conditions that Work Against Democracy
Although religion often promotes democratic ideals and the participation in democratic processes, it can -- under certain social, economic, and political circumstances -- inhibit democratization and the transition to a market economy. These circumstances usually involve the issues of ethnonationalism and immigration, nonmainstream religious movements, and religious authority. These issues and the corresponding research topics are addressed here.
2.1. Ethnonationalism and Immigration
- 2.1.1. The term "ethnonationalism" refers to a collectivity of persons who construct their shared identity around a combination of features -- religion, language, ethnicity, and territoriality -- and claim collective entitlements on that basis. Research should test theories that ethnonationalism has the following pair of implications for democratic politics in a plural society.
1) If the nation-making project is predicated on the concept of citizenship as a homogenizing and unifying status that applies to all persons born or naturalized in a country, then multiple ethnonationalist movements subvert nation making and the possibility of an overarching political community.
- 2) If nation making and participatory democracy are predicated on the necessary practice of "secular politics," then again especially in a country with multiple religious communities, ethnonationalist and fundamentalist movements seriously destabilize democratic politics, and generate collective violence. Participatory democratic politics may actually provide the arena, context, and opportunities for contending ethnonationalist and fundamentalist movements to exacerbate their differences as they compete through periodic election for material and symbolic resources in order to advance their status and to acquire and exercise power.
2.1.2. Conflict between ethnonationalist groups within a country has widely resulted in displacement of vulnerable peoples, especially minorities, in the form of refugees and asylum seekers. Scholars hypothesize that transnational refugees and diaspora communities may affect and complicate politics in their home countries in at least two ways. On the one hand, their enforced absence from and nostalgia for their homelands may further intensify and radicalize their ethnonationalist sentiments, and they can help to continue and intensify the conflict in their home countries through cash remittances and other kinds of support. On the other hand, these transnational diaspora communities may also be able to appeal to international organizations like the United Nations and the European Community to enforce basic standards of human rights, thereby enhancing democracy. As a source of symbolic cohesion and moral authority, religion may strengthen either of these tendencies. What factors determine which of these processes will predominate?
Immigrants typically increase the religious diversity of the countries they enter, although religious markers of separateness may impede their assimilation into full membership in the society. In Europe, established notions of democracy and continued economic development are being tested, even eroded, by transnational immigrant groups and diaspora refugee communities (displaced by religio-political conflicts in their home countries). These population movements have raised issues in European democracies regarding criteria of granting citizenship, economic opportunity, residence rights, and apparently has also activated neo-Nazi trends. Such developments imperil the economic development and marketization of third world countries and the countries of Eastern Europe and of the former USSR.
2.2. Non-mainstream Religious Movements
2.2.1. Philosopher David Hume argued that an unregulated religious "market" would inevitably result in fanaticism, conflict, and disorder. According to his theory, the opportunity for religions to compete in an unregulated manner would encourage the offering of yet more extreme points of view and a kind of irresponsible bidding for public support. The only way to contain such a situation was to maintain an established religion or state church. This would prevent the development and expression of unhealthy religious impulses and confine religious discussion to a safe domain. It would also deprive religious rivals of social authority, state resources, and legitimacy.
In support of Hume's theory, the world does not lack examples in which religious passion was a factor in the delegitimization and collapse of democratic structures. Perhaps because religious issues are not always bargainable -- lacking a mutually acceptable compromise -- they are frequently debated in zero-sum terms. This situation may encourage the losers of a debate to withdraw their allegiance from a state that appears to them to embrace the wrong values, or to seek to overthrow a state that refuses to follow God's law.
2.2.2. Many observers of religion today are extremely concerned about the harm that may be caused by millenarian religious groups, those revolutionary cults that believe God will soon sweep aside conventional society to create a utopia. From Waco, Texas, to Estonia and Ukraine in the former Soviet Union, millenarian movements challenge the resources of scholars and governments. All too often the scholarship mobilized in the heat of these dramas is itself melodramatic and inappropriate. We need to realize that these movements have been a persistent feature of modernity; they cannot be treated as irregular and unexpected recurrences of a medieval phenomenon. We need more systematic, comparative study of the incidence, development, and outcomes of these movements in the 20th century world.
Besides some reliable data about incidence, organization, and membership, we also need more sophisticated, qualitative treatment of the discourses of these movements. What they address and how they can attract literate followers are questions of great scientific significance. Too much weight is put on psychological, reductionist models in trying to understand these movements in America -- both on the part of the public and government. We need a serious analysis of why, for some people, millenarianism seems to interpret and control forces that established ideologies and institutions do not. These movements occur and have occurred widely across human societies; we need to understand their dynamic meaning at the present moment, in various global contexts.
2.2.3. The connection between what are often termed "fundamentalist" upsurges and the uneasy integration of local communities into global markets should also be investigated. From Cargo Cults to witch finding, from fundamentalist churches to fervent environmentalism, such movements may express efforts to domesticate and manage perceived threats to existing ways of life. Often they are reactions to radical shifts in social scale or the experience of value abstraction. They are also often responses to largescale population movements (immigration and labor migration) that seem to alter the relation of social groups to resources. Typically, established political and religious institutions are only partially able to speak to these issues.
In many parts of the world, there is a vacuum between radical economic shifts and embryonic democracy movements, a vacuum in which nightmares flourish (as in Eastern Europe and many parts of the nonEuropean world). Whose role is it to address these fears? Do we wait for local situations to breed the moral movements they deserve? What determines which sorts of reactions emerge? Are Christian Nationalists, Greens, and neoNazis in the new Germany speaking to different sectors of the population about the same set of structural conditions? Clearly these movements have rather different implications for the fostering and extending of civil rights. We need to know more about these "moral" concerns in the wake of market transitions, without limiting ourselves to an excessively narrow definition of "religious" responses.
2.3. Religious Authority
2.3.1. The relationship between members' understanding of religious authority and their interpretation of political and socioeconomic freedom demands scientific examination. Hypotheses could be drawn from such classics as Fromm's Escape From Freedom, and Weber's Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. To what extent might the authority structure of particular religious groups render the concept of democracy incompatible for its constituency? Are concepts of pluralistic democracy or free market competition themselves generated from particular religious assumptions, and is pressure for their implementation another example of colonial imperialism to the benefit of firstworld countries seeking less expensive labor sources and increased consumer demand? A related question is whether or when global political, socioeconomic, or human rights issues are more important than the survivability of particular religious groups and their practices, and what are the criteria for such decisions? The implications are also important for religiousbased tensions within the U.S.
The chief research methodology would combine systematic content analysis of religious doctrines, questionnaire surveys to assess the correlations linking belief in particular doctrines with democracy-related attitudes and behaviors, and transnational comparative work on political and religious institutions.
3. Markets, Science and Technology
The study of religion's influence on democratization must also include an investigation into its effect on market transition and the related economic, scientific, and technological implications. The following research agenda addresses these topics and describes areas for possible research.
3.1. Market Transition and Economics
3.1.1. An analysis of the religious assumptions that undergird business and economic market relationships would help determine to what extent religious worldviews affect secular decisions on trade and business ethics. Are utilitarian individualist assumptions successful or even viable in communitarian cultures without destroying their moral basis and social cohesion? Likewise, how have pressures to move from a paternalistic political and economic paradigm (e.g., benevolent despot, company family) to an entrepreneurial and participatory paradigm accentuated moral and social dislocation among certain groups -- with ensuing backlash -- because of a clash of underlying religious presuppositions? Religions assert norms that logically ought to have significant consequences for economic behavior: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." "Thou shalt not steal." To what extent do such religious moral principles facilitate the trust and predictability necessary for free markets?
The implications of this research involve the efficacy of policy formation. This topic can be explored from many angles, such as "civil religion," crosstraditional ethics, application of interreligious dialogue to political and economic issues, or analysis of underlying socioeconomic and political dimensions of religious warfare and retaliation.
3.1.2. Max Weber's Protestant Ethic thesis asserts that Protestant countries are more likely to embrace capitalism and hence are more likely to reap the rewards of thrift, industry, and economic progress. Whether or not one accepts the logic of Weber's argument (or even the empirical evidence that he claimed to have found), one can hardly ignore the possibility that religion affects economic orientation and outcomes. The impact of religion may be felt at various levels. Individuals of one faith may, for example, be more likely to follow a particular type of career, or make career sacrifices for the sake of their religion, or save a larger portion of their income. At broader levels, different religions may provide more or less support for specific economic institutions such as lending, private property, capitalism, or income redistribution.
As many countries move toward market economies, it is important to know whether their religious traditions will stimulate or impede this transition. In some cases, it may be possible to identify particular routes by which to achieve marketization that are especially congruent with the dominant religious values.
3.1.3. Organized religion has a variable role in working for universal social justice and more equitable economic arrangements within, during and following market transitions. Rapid market transitions almost inevitably bring about greater economic inequality and more widespread poverty. What factors shape the advocacy and charitable role of religious groups within nations that confront such conditions? What is the role of religious affiliation and participation on charitable giving and volunteering? What is the relationship of social inequality to the viability of democratic forms? Can religion -- through ideology, identity, and community formation -- minimize downward socio-economic mobility as well as empowering upward mobility?
Democratic competition amid equal access to an abundance of resources creates very different outcomes than competition with perceived unequal access to a scarcity of resources, particularly for those facing loss. Where a group faces downward socioeconomic mobility, religion may serve as an organizing force and catalyst for expression of social discontent, and renegotiation of social inequalities through the provocation of conflict with other groups perceived as a threat to increasingly scarce resources. Understanding the relationship of socioeconomic mobility to the politicization of religion can provide insight into how religious tensions may be aggravated or mitigated through economic policy formation.
This topic can be researched in several ways such as historical analysis of socioeconomic change among particular politicized religious groups combined with observational field research. Questionnaire surveys and interviews may focus on the extent of feared and real socioeconomic change in people's lives, and how religious participation seems to offer solutions.
3.2. Science and Technology
3.2.1. The "secularization" thesis holds that modern science (among other factors) has eroded religion and is incompatible with belief in the supernatural. In contrast, a number of theories have argued that science has its historical roots in religion, and thus that the two may be compatible. For example, some social scientists have interpreted the rise of science in seventeenth-century England as an attempt to come closer to God through learning about his creations, and much nineteenth-century American natural science was couched in similar terms. Alternatively, science rests on the assumption that the universe operates according to lawful principles, which may rest culturally upon monotheistic religion that postulates a rational, universal law-giver.
Science has been described as a democratic form of developing knowledge and as the proper mode for evaluating ideas in a free market. What new research can illuminate these relationships? Recent quantitative studies on the relationships between religion and science are rare, usually unsophisticated, and often rely upon secondary analysis of data collected for other purposes. Thus it is no wonder that their results are equivocal. A fresh start is needed, beginning with careful development of explanatory theories and creation of appropriate techniques for measuring variables. Survey research is needed both on the general population and on professionals in religion and science, but it should be supplemented with historical research on the development of both scientific and religious thought in multiple cultural contexts including Europe since science first began to emerge at the end of the Middle Ages.
3.2.2. Technology, along with being a tool to advance democratic ideals, can serve both religious consensus and religious extremism. Different means of communications, such as modems, TV, VCR, radio, video and audio tapes, fax machines, and satellite dishes, are used for political mobilization by religious groups. Communication technology can distribute the products of Western secular culture to Middle Eastern societies despite the restrictions imposed by the existing ruling elites and religious leaders. At the same time, it can spread the messages of a religion to societies where previously it had few adherents, boost the influence of some faiths over others within a society, and promote the agendas of religious movements that span several denominations. What role do these technologies play in a transition to democracy?
4. Effects on Religion of Rapid Change
Most of this report focuses on the ways in which religion might affect democratization and the transition to market economies, but it is important to recognize that the lines of causation can run in the reverse direction. Changes in the political and economic environment have implications for religion, and the resulting changes in the religious environment are important in their own right. Moreover, these changes will have feedback effects on a country's political and social environment. Democratization and market transition, along with the influence of intellectuals, elites, mass media, and government regulation, produce conditions that challenge religion to adapt or to resist change.
4.1. The Effect of Democratization and Market Transition on Religion
4.1.1. The process of democratization in the new republics of Eastern Europe, similar to the process of democratization in Latin America, has opened the door to new religious movements. Will these new religious movements undermine or solidify emerging realignments of political, intellectual, and economic elites? Will the new religions be significant only to the extent that they replace a failed secular theodicy, or may they also contribute to the changing climate of a consumer culture which celebrates a plurality of styles? Will these outsider groups accept their marginal status or will they demonopolize the older established elites?
- 4.1.2. The rapidly changing political and economic situations in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union provide a dramatic natural experiment and rare opportunity to verify or disprovea range of social-scientific theories about religious markets. Specifically, hypotheses can be tested in the following three general areas:
- 1) Does increased pluralism enhance or inhibit "secularization"? Do competitive religious markets increase levels of individual religious participation? Does competition increase the vitality and hence the attractiveness of religious organizations, or does competition result in the commoditization, privatization, and mutual discrediting of such organizations?
- 2) Does increased pluralism especially help certain types of religions? Do extremist sects or nonconventional cults gain at the expense of more traditional religions? Is the dominant, previously-established church unable to compete effectively?
- 3) Is state imposed secularism a reversible process? Will people raised in anti-religious or explicitly atheistic environments naturally return to religion when permitted to do so, or having once been removed from traditional faiths and religious institutions will they remain unattached to supernatural belief systems?
4.1.3. Among the most perplexing scientific questions is the fact that religion appears far more powerful in the United States than in Western Europe. For a long time, many European intellectuals attributed this to lack of sophistication on the part of Americans, but now that the United States has been the world leader in science and education for many decades, this explanation seems untenable. Mirroring the religious differences, socialism has been far more influential in Europe, suggesting that religious comparisons must be done in a context of political economy.
Scientific explanations might begin with the observation that European nations possessed established state churches, closely connected to long-dominant political regimes, while the United States has known more than two centuries of separation between church and state. In the nineteenth century, European opposition political movements often adopted socialist ideologies, and in antagonism to the state churches they came to be non-religious or even actively anti-clerical. Today, when church-state connections in Western Europe have weakened considerably, many American sociologists of religion would expect to see a gradual but profound strengthening of religion there. The moderation of major socialist parties, coupled with the great confusion in far-left parties in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, means that the political side of the European equation may also have changed.
Research to test such theories might begin with quantitative surveys of Europeans, like those that have been administered to Americans for decades, measuring religious and political variables on the level of individuals. Intensive comparative research on religious and political movements on both sides of the Atlantic would permit analysis on the level of groups and societies.
4.1.4. Detailed examination of historic examples can also provide information and understanding that usefully supplement investigations of the changing conditions in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. For example, in the first half of the 20th century a number of Middle Eastern countries experienced a fairly strong democraticnationalist movement. How did the existing religious institutions react to these democracies? What were the social bases of liberalnationalist ideology in this period? Why did they often fail? Analysis from an historical perspective will provide cases to compare with the changing conditions in Eastern Europe and other countries which are still very early in their periods of transition.
4.2. The Roles of Intellectuals, Elites, and Mass Media
4.2.1. Research on the dynamic context of cultural production may identify the kinds of intellectual environment in which religious ideas favorable to democracy are likely to be produced. This investigatory strategy proceeds from the observation that ideological producers address social and moral issues currently significant in their environment. Of course, they are limited by the availability of resources and political conditions. The actual production of ideas, however, occurs in relationship with alternative systems of beliefs and values. Ideological production involves the reevaluation, revisiting, or rejections of the themes and claims of competing ideologies. At the same time, ideological producers face the rebuttals and critiques of their competitors and often innovate in response. Thus, research on any particular ideology needs to take account of the competitors it faces and the structure of institutions in which this competition takes place.
4.2.2. Intellectuals often play a crucial role in shaping the ideological climate of a society. Some argue that the onesided antiwestern rhetoric and Westbadgering of many Middle Eastern intellectuals provided a favorable ideological condition for the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the region. This is in a sharp contrast with the proWestern orientation of many intellectuals during the first half of the 20th century. A comparative study of the role of intellectuals in shaping politics may produce beneficial results for cultural theory. At the same time, such a study provides clues as to how democracy would become a popular ideology in society.
4.2.3. According to Karl Mannheim's theory of the democratization of culture, elites play a key role in maintaining social order. In fact, Mannheim isolates three principles of democratization -- the equality of persons, the autonomy of individuals, and the necessity of ruling elites. The task of the elites is to balance off the inherent conflicts between the first two principles. Put another way, the task of democratic elites is to encourage and reward the surrender of some of the freedoms of individuals for the well being of the whole, balancing equality and autonomy. A fruitful area of research is the attitudes toward religion by elites and the correlation of those attitudes with popular religious visibility and influence.
4.2.4. The mass media play a role in shaping as well as merely reporting religiousbased political conflict. Under the assumption of objectivity, those in mass media may not be aware of how their own assumptions, perhaps coming out of their own religious understandings, may shape news stories, questions for interviews, or the production of values in film, television programming, and image advertising. An extreme example involves overtly religious groups who purchase networks and offer "objective" broadcast programming, but the phenomenon may exist throughout the media. To what extent are the mass media either overtly complicit or passively used to rally public opinion against particular religious groups such as Islamic fundamentalist sects, or more directly to coerce or destroy smaller, focused groups such as the Rajneesh or the Branch Davidians?
A research approach might be to sample national media decisionmakers (writers, editors, broadcasters, etc.), using surveys and interviews, to study their underlying assumptions and decision making; content analysis can also be applied to their media products.
4.3. The Role of Governments
4.3.1. Constitutional separation of church and state is a difficult principle to apply perfectly, and governments typically set implicit standards about which kinds of religion will be encouraged or discouraged. At what point does a government believe that a religious group is a threat to stability? What factors make government leaders feel justified in monitoring, regulating or taking action against religious groups, or individuals representing such groups?
Scientific research can provide the knowledge base to improve the quality of ethical and policy decisions about when sanctions should be applied against deviant religious groups. Collaborative work between governmental agencies and an advisory panel from the academic community representing scholars who study religious movements from a diversity of disciplines could make an important contribution to United States agencies, and could assist the government as it works with other national governments on this issue.
4.3.2. Most nations establish, through law and regulation, the conditions under which individual citizens and groups may practice religion. There is wide variation across existing nations. Those states undergoing democratic transitions typically create new, more or less coherent, constitutional provisions, statutes, and administrative rules that directly affect the exercise of religion. Societies vary dramatically as well in the legal and regulatory systems they develop that govern other realms of individual and group behavior. These may also affect, indirectly, the exercise of religion.
- Systematic empirical assessment of these variations is a necessary prelude to studying the impact of changing religious market places upon the differential growth of religious groups in states that formerly repressed the free exercise of religion, as well as the role of religious groups in civil society. These rule structures are likely to be embedded in broader legal processes of democratization, and can be expected to have indirect consequences for market transitions through their impact upon religious communities. There are at least three ways in which legal and regulatory systems can affect religious exercise:
- 1) Traditional constitutional freedom of exercise guarantees -- assembly, belief, practice, etc.
- 2) Granting of special statuses to religious groups, clergy, and property. In the U.S. this includes nonprofit status, and it has included special tax advantages to clergy and property tax exemption for religious property.
- 3) Indirect, unintended effects, such as the impact of changing immigration laws (which control the influx of unconventional religious leaders as well as members of minority ethnic religions) and regulation of radio and television broadcasting (including commercialization of religious broadcasting versus a public-service model).
A first step toward understanding these forces will be to inventory different countries' explicit constitutional provisions and laws regarding religious exercise. Court decisions, in which deviant groups test the boundaries of the law, provide additional information. It must be noted, however, that the actual impact of specific restrictions or guarantees will vary greatly depending on how they are interpreted and implemented (e.g, most constitutions include statements guaranteeing freedom of religion, but actual levels of freedom vary greatly) and, as noted above, many constraints are indirect or unanticipated. Hence any inventory of laws and provisions must be supplemented by case studies.
- 4.3.3. To what extent are the forces that shape religious communities and religious faiths in Leninist systems unique or common to other societies? Among the many research topics that would need to be addressed three stand out:
1) What are the varieties of relationships between the state and various religions and religious communities within existing Leninist systems? How and why do these relationships vary within each society, across societies, and over time?
2) To what extent did particular religions or religious communities develop coopted and collaborator relationships with their Leninist rulers, relationships marked by limited cooperation and partial resistance, or active resistance relationships?
- 3) How did the policies of Leninist states alter the fundamental features of various religions and religious communities that existed in such societies?
4.3.4. Given the unusual position of religion in Leninist societies, churches and religious movements may go through exceptional periods of adjustment and transformation when Leninist regimes lose power. The list of challenging questions is quite long: What are the varieties of forms of religion and religious communities visible in post-Leninist societies or in reformed Leninist societies such as China? What are the trends in religious membership, belief, and participation in such societies? What are the processes by which various religions try to cleanse themselves of the taint of cooperation with the former Leninist system, for example by purging leaders, revising rituals, and conducting revivals? What new institutional forms and practices are visible, and can we designate them as returns to earlier traditions, products of the Leninist era, new innovations, or foreign imports? To what extent do the state leaders and various contenders for political power in post-Leninist systems try to make use of religious symbols and practices in order to bolster their claims to legitimacy, and what explains variations in such reliance on religion? Do particular religions and religious communities in post-Leninist systems foster participatory and democratic practices internally? To what extent do they foster exclusivist "true faith" claims in regard to both their adherents and the external world, or to what extent do they accept a "religious marketplace" set of premises?
Especially important are questions about the capacity of religion to serve important social functions, from consoling people during times of stress to providing the basis for moral cohesion, when churches have only just re-emerged from decades of suppression and are weak in leadership, organization, popular legitimation, and social networks of adherents. In several formerly Leninist societies, the loss of strong central governmental control has suddenly liberated intense social tensions associated with ethnic, regional, economic and other cleavages. Groups within these societies may not have enjoyed the freedom to work out their differences and come to an accommodation with each other, and there are grave questions whether severely disrupted churches are going to be able to help these societies heal their wounds -- rather than aggravating them by adding religious hostilities to the other problems.
Religion is a major force for social and moral change, especially where formal political institutions are undeveloped or compromised. Yet scientific knowledge about the relationships linking religion to democracy and to free markets is highly inadequate. Very little funding has been available for research in this important area, from either public or private sources. Basic work has been done in developing explanatory theories and systematic methods for research, so there is a foundation for greatly increased funding. But practically none of the key questions has been answered.
- Among the many areas in which little scientific knowledge exists, we have identified five topics that deserve the highest priority:
- 1. How existing churches and new religious movements promote the development of democratic institutions and free markets in formerly totalitarian societies.
2. The role religion plays in mature democracies like the United States, as they attempt to sustain themselves and over time to become more democratic.
3. The ways that religion can become tragically implicated in often bloody conflicts between ethnic groups and nationalist movements.
4. The religious aspects of immigration and the massive movements of people currently in progress around the world.
- 5. The dynamic interplay of social, economic, cultural, and political forces around religion in communities undergoing radical change.
This research is of very great urgency, for three reasons: (1) Such tremendous changes are occurring so rapidly in many nations that researchers must move quickly if they are to collect information crucial for understanding them. (2) The role of religion is so powerful in current world transformation that American leaders need quick and authoritative advice on how to respond effectively to religion-related events. (3) Knowledge is so fragmentary at present in many of these areas that prompt research projects could achieve great and rapid scientific progress.