Between Quiescence and Arousal: The Political Functions of Religion. A Case Study of the Arab Minority in Israel: 1948-1990

Neuhaus, David Mark (1991) Between Quiescence and Arousal: The Political Functions of Religion. A Case Study of the Arab Minority in Israel: 1948-1990. PhD thesis, The Senate of the Hebrew University.

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Religion integrates and also disrupts society, it is truly Janus faced. It may provide legitimation for the existing order, give emotional support to the fundamental values of society, soften the impact of conflict by emphasizing values, such as salvation, which are common to all, and lessen social tension by stressing supramundane values. But religion also involves transcendent mora standards which define an ideal against which human performance can be measured. Hence those who are dissatisfied, politically, economically, socially or spiritually, may find in religion strong support for their attack on the status quo. Karl Marx and Max Weber, the two giants of modern social science, substantially differed in their approach to religion. Marx saw religion primarily serving an integrative function, justifying and even "sanctifying" the social, political and economic status quo. Yet Marx recognized that although religion is, according to his analysis, primarily an escape from the misery of this world, it is also, implicitly, a protest against that misery (2). His insistence that religion is a creation of man's false consciousness meant, therefore, that by definition religion can not contribute to the solution of man's problems. Rather, religion promotes a quiescent acceptance of the political order, prompted by the promise of reward in another world. As it is a by-product of false consciousness and man's alienation from himself and the real world, Marx devoted little attention to religion in his later writings. While Marx emphasized the integrative function of religion, Weber focused attention on the disruptive aspects of religion. Weber was interested in religion as "a source for the dynamics of social change, not religion as a reinforcement of the stability of societies". Unlike Marx, Weber posited a more neutral framework for an analysis of the functions of religion, withholding judgement on the truth content of religion itself. Despite the obvious differences between Weber and Marx, they both provided the groundwork for a functional approach to religion in social science, i.e. "religion is defined in terms of what it does" (5). Neither focused on religion from a theological perspective, rather both were concerned with the connection between religious institutions, ideas and commitments and other, specifically social, economic and political aspects of human conduct. In the wealth of literature which deals with religion and political development and modernization this functional approach is dominant. Yet many of these studies, despite a functional approach, adopt a limited definition of religion itself. In a review of some of the literature on religion and political development, Laitin has analysed the weaknesses of these studies. Returning to the Weberian system of analysis, Laitin points out that Weber distinguished among three levels of analysis in his approach to religion; "the doctrine of the charismatic founder, the practical religion and the practical religion of the converted". According to Laitin, Weber pointed out that the substance of the first, the doctrine of the charismatic founder "was not of direct sociological concern". Laitin quotes Weber: What a religion has sought after as an ideal, and what the actual result of its influence on the lives of its adherents has been, must be sharply distinguished. This distinction is often ignored in the literature on religion and political development. Laitin points out that much of the literature focuses on the fIrst level of analysis, that of religious doctrine, thus impeding an analysis which ought to be "systematic in comparing the different sociological contexts in which these religions operate". According to Laitin, Weber laid the groundwork for the development of "a model of religious influence on social, economic and political life". Yet Weber, and much of the literature on religion and political development inspired by him, adopted a textual and doctrinal approach to religion. Religion is understood in terms of the sacred texts and doctrines particular to it, an approach which we will term textual-inherent analysis, following the usage of Barakat. In his study of tradition, Shils has pointed out this weakness in the field of comparative research: There are many books about particular traditions ... There is however no book about tradition which tries to see the common ground and elements of tradition. Laitin suggests that there exists a similar problem in books about the functions of religion in the area of the social sciences. The textual-inherent analysis presupposes basic differences among the various religious traditions, assuming differing social, political and economic attitudes based upon purely textual-doctrinal categories. For example "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's" (the doctrine of the two kingdoms) on the one hand and the supposed unity of religion and state ("din wa-dawlahlf) on the other hand have been considered the basis for fundamentally different political attitudes and behaviour among Christians and Muslims respectively. Some researchers have referred to Islamic, Christian, Buddhist or Hindu attitudes towards politics, modernization and development. Likewise many studies of Islam and political development have analysed the Quran, the collections of hadith and medieval Islamic exegetes and philosophers to explain the current political attitudes and behaviour of Muslims. Yet such an analysis ignores the socio-political context which dermes the practical aSpects of religion. It is these practical aspects of religion which determine the meaning of religion for its adherents. This is not to suggest that· substantively all religions are the same but rather to observe that a functional analysis of religion cannot base itself solely on a textual-inherent approach. Piscatori, recognizing this, emphasized that conduct rather than text or doctrine was a more illuminating focus for the analysis of the political attitudes of Muslims. Therefore it is important to clarify what this study is not. It is not a political analysis of religious text, doctrine or dogma. Likewise it is not a political analysis of the religious experience of the transcendent or the numinous. Instead of theology, religious text, doctrine, dogma or numinous experience the delineation of our subject matter begins with Weber's distinction between the religious ideal and "the actual result of its influence on the lives of its adherents". This study, purporting to be a political analysis, is concerned with the latter. This is a study of what Laitin has termed "practical religion": The interaction between the original doctrine and the social, political, and economic conditions of the time yields what might be called "the practical religion". Practical religion is the central focus of this study in which we seek to respond to the basic question posed by Laitin at the end of his review of the current literature on the interaction between religion and politics: "To what extent does religion stabilize, change or reformulate non-religious beliefs and actions ? and in what contexts ?".

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Quiescence, arousal, religion, political functions
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
Divisions: Comparative
Depositing User: Mr Christopher Mapunda
Date Deposited: 19 Jun 2015 11:22
Last Modified: 19 Jun 2015 11:22

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