After Secularization (special double issue)   /   Spring/Summer 2006   /    Report From The Field


Secularization in the Global South

Wilson Brissett

While the academic debate over the validity of the theory of secularization continues in American and British universities, it must be remembered that secularization theory also exerts a very practical in uence in places quite distant from the sacred halls of the Ivy League and Oxbridge. In colonial and postcolonial contexts, its in uence has rarely been other than pernicious. e marriage of secularization and modernization theories in the social sciences produced a great deal of useful, if still controversial, analysis of modernity in Western societies. In the global South, however, the union served, more often than not, to legitimate authoritarian ideologies of progress that, through the militant socialism of the 1960s and 1970s, extended the destructive logic of cultural paternalism beyond the fall of the colonial regimes and into the era of de-colonization. And while socialist states in Africa and Latin America fell like dominoes through the 1990s, the toxic cultural impact of the militant socialist appropriation of secularization theory remains thick in the atmosphere. If European and North American audiences have become thoroughly aware of our complicity in the resource problems that plague the global South, we have yet to consider fully the enduring, corrosive in uence of the political uses of our social science theories.

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