Is Secularism History?

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In recent years, the intellectual tide has moved strongly against the kind of secular thinking that characterized Gellner’s work. Whether couched in terms of postcolonialism, multiculturalism, genealogy, global understanding, political theology, or the revival of normative, metaphysical and openly religious perspectives, today’s postsecular and even anti-secular mood in social theory seems to consign Gellner’s project to the dustbin of history: a stern but doomed attempt to shore up western liberal rationalism. Under some revisionary lights, it has even become pointless to distinguish flexible secular thinking which still retains some firm ‘bottom lines’ from what is routinely portrayed as rampant ideological secularism. Unconvinced by key assumptions and motivations on this
terrain, I reactivate Gellner’s essential concerns and propositions around secularity and secularism, feeding these into the current debates. Whilst Gellner’s stringent, unrivalled exposure of intellectual cant continues to be hugely valuable, and his sense of the utter historicity of social life and thought indispensable, Gellner’s critical positivism could not, by his own admission, produce a coherent cultural politics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)126-140
Number of pages15
JournalThesis Eleven
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2015


  • Eurocentrism
  • Gellner
  • positivism
  • postsecularism
  • re-endorsement
  • secularism

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