This paper seeks to explain the continuing strength of religious values and the vitality of spiritual life in the United States compared with many other rich nations. Part I documents these patterns using a wealth of survey evidence and Part II then considers three alternative explanations of these differences. Religious market theory postulates that intense competition between rival denominations generates a ferment of activity explaining the vitality of churchgoing. Functionalist explanations focus on the shrinking social role of religious institutions, following the growth of the welfare state and the public sector. We compare evidence supporting these accounts with the theory of secure secularization, based on societal modernization, human development, and economic inequality, that lies at the heart of this study. This study draws on a massive base of new evidence generated by the four waves of the World Values Survey executed from 1981 to 2001. This includes representative national surveys in almost eighty societies, covering all of the world?s major faiths. We also examine other evidence concerning religiosity from multiple sources, including Gallup International polls, the International Social Survey Program, and Eurobarometer surveys. The conclusions consider the broader implications of the findings for the role of faith in politics, for patterns of secularization worldwide, and for growing cultural divisions between Europe and the United States.
Consociational theory suggests that power–sharing institutions have many important consequences, not least that they are most likely to facilitate accommodation and cooperation among leadership elites, making them most suitable for states struggling to achieve stable democracy and good governance in divided societies. This study compares a broad cross–section of countries worldwide, including many multiethnic states, to investigate the impact of formal power–sharing institutions (PR electoral systems and federalism) on several indicators of democratic stability and good governance. The research demonstrates three main findings: (i) worldwide, power–sharing constitutions combining PR and federalism remain relatively rare (only 13 out of 191 states); (ii) federalism was found to be unrelated to any of the indicators of good governance under comparison; and (iii) PR electoral systems, however, were positively related to some indicators of good governance, both worldwide and in multiethnic states. This provides strictly limited support for the larger claims made by consociational theory. Nevertheless, the implications for policymakers suggest that investing in basic human development is a consistently more reliable route to achieve stable democracy and good governance than constitutional design alone.
From Kosovo to Kabul, the last decade witnessed growing interest in "electoral engineering". Reformers have sought to achieve either greater government accountability through majoritarian arrangements or wider parliamentary diversity through proportional formula. Underlying the normative debates are important claims about the impact and consequences of electoral reform for political representation and voting behavior. This study compares and evaluates two broad schools of thought, each offering contrasting expectations. One popular approach claims that formal rules define the electoral incentives facing parties, politicians, and citizens. By changing the rules, rational choice institutionalism claims that we have the capacity to shape political behavior among politicians and citizens. Reformers believe that electoral engineering can solve multiple social problems, whether by mitigating ethnic conflict, strengthening voter-party bonds, generating democratic accountability, or boosting women?s representation. Alternative cultural modernization theories differ in their emphasis on the primary motors driving human behavior, their expectations about the pace of change, and also their assumptions about the ability of formal institutional rules to alter, rather than adapt to, deeply embedded and habitual social norms and patterns of human behavior.
To consider these issues, this book compares the consequences of electoral rules and cultural modernization for many dimensions of political representation and voting behavior, including patterns of party competition, the strength of social cleavages and party loyalties, levels of turnout, the gender and ethnic diversity of parliaments, and the provision of constituency service. Systematic evidence is drawn the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems based on surveys of parliamentary and presidential contests held in over thirty countries. The study covers elections held from 1996 to 2002 in newer and established democracies ranging from the United States, Australia and Switzerland to Peru, Taiwan and Ukraine. The book concludes that formal rules do matter, with the social cleavages and partisan identities of voters, and the diversity and behavior of elected representatives, shaped by the incentives generated by majoritarian, combined, and proportional electoral systems.
Seminal thinkers of the nineteenth century—Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer, Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud—all predicted that religion would gradually fade in importance and cease to be significant with the emergence of industrial society. The belief that religion was dying became the conventional wisdom in the social sciences during most of the twentieth century.
During the last decade, however, the secularization thesis has experienced the most sustained challenge in its long history. Critics point to multiple indicators of religious health and vitality today, from the continued popularity of churchgoing in the United States, to the emergence of New Age spirituality in Western Europe, the surge of fundamentalist movements and Islamic parties in the Muslim world, the evangelical revival sweeping through Latin America, and the widespread ethno-religious conflicts in international affairs.
The traditional secularization thesis needs updating. Religion has not disappeared and is unlikely to do so. Nevertheless, the concept of secularization captures an important part of what is going on. This book develops a theory of secularization and existential security, building on key elements of traditional sociological theories and revising others. This book demonstrates that: (1) The publics of virtually all advanced industrial societies have been moving toward more secular orientations during the past fifty years; but (2) The world as a whole now has more people with traditional religious views than ever before—and they constitute a growing proportion of the world's population. Though these two propositions may seem contradictory, they are not. The fact that the first proposition is true, helps account for the second?because secularization has a surprisingly powerful negative impact on human fertility rates.
The critiques of secularization draw their evidence mainly from the United States (which happens to be a strikingly exceptional case) rather than comparing systematic evidence across a broad range of both rich and poor societies. This book draws on a massive base of new evidence generated by the four waves of the World Values Survey executed from 1981 to 2001 in eighty societies, covering all of the world's major faiths. Examining religiosity from a broader perspective and in a wider range of countries than ever before, this book demonstrates that religiosity persists most strongly among vulnerable populations, especially those in poorer nations and in failed states, facing personal survival-threatening risks. Exposure to physical, societal and personal risks drives religiosity. Conversely, a systematic erosion of religious practices, values and beliefs has occurred among the more prosperous strata in rich nations.
Sacred and Secular is essential reading for anyone interested in comparative religion, sociology, public opinion, political behavior, political development, social psychology, international relations, and cultural change.
Multiple factors have been found to determine the structure of opportunities for women?s representation in elected office, including the institutional context like the electoral system and the use of affirmative action strategies within party lists, and the resources that women and men bring to the pursuit of fulltime legislative careers, such as their social and occupational networks (Rule 1987; Norris 1997; Karam 1998; Kenworthy and Malami 1999; Caul 1999; Reynolds 1999). What this study seeks to demonstrate is that in addition to these factors, the trend toward gender equality is intimately linked with the broader process of cultural change and democratization.
The rise of the radical right is open to multiple interpretations. The question addressed in this paper is whether many of these parties have fostered an enduring social base among core voters and, if so, which social sectors are most likely to support them. Part I discusses the alternative theoretical frameworks provided by the classic accounts of the 1950s and 1960s, the ?new social cleavage? thesis common during the last decade, and the theory of partisan dealignment. The chapter then compares evidence to analyze rival hypotheses about the social basis of the radical right vote across fifteen nations, using data drawn from the European Social Survey, 2002 and the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems, 1996–2001. Part II focuses upon the role of socioeconomic indicators, while Part III considers the enduring gender gap and patterns of generational support. The conclusion considers the implications of these results for understanding the basis of radical right popularity, and for the stability and longevity of these parties.
This paper is drawn from Chapter 6 of Radical Right: Parties and Electoral Competition, a new book by the author forthcoming with Cambridge University Press (2005).