Enchantments, Disenchantments, Re-enchantments: Religion, State, and Society through History
Since the emergence of the first historical states, the divine has been used to either empower and justify political authority and social stratification, or as an antithesis that could question the spheres of power. In its interplay with various groups pertinent both to state and non-state levels, religion has influenced societies throughout all periods of human history. The dialogue between the religious and political spheres found (and still finds) its way into all layers of social interaction. Emperor-gods, sacred kings, priests, and sages struggled for authority and legitimacy. Officials, subjects, and disciples operated between reason and revelation, appropriating, re-creating and exchanging the products of these two vast spheres. Established clerics, monks, and intellectuals found their positions challenged by the prophets, shamans, and witch-doctors who spun intricate embroideries across human societies. With varying degrees of success, religious counter-powers struggled for legitimacy and even authority from positions of ambiguity or marginality.
This enchantment of the world, allegedly shattered by the advent of a re-invented rationality and a modern, enlightened, secular progress, nevertheless pervades the public and private spheres. It even penetrates them in new ways, re-inventing models of political, intellectual, and social life. Between secularism on one hand, and the disenchantment with secularism and a re-created model of sacral governance on the other, there lies a rich pool of experiences that is highly relevant for various fields of research today.
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Center for Religious Studies
Central European University
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