Pollack, Detlef

Research Project
Religion and Modernity

Newer research in the sociology and history of religion has largely deconstructed the conventional master narratives about secularization and modernization. Notions of the historical contingency of modernity, the path dependency of historical developments, the “simultaneity of the non-simultaneous,” as well as de-differentiation have replaced deterministic assumptions concerning the convergence and linearity of processes of secularization and functional differentiation. These newer works no longer assume the incompatibility of religion and modernity. Rather, they increasingly focus on the compatibility of religion and modernity as well as on such elements of modernity which are conducive to the evolution of the religious, and conceptualize religion itself as an important generator of societal transformation processes.

The project elaborates these ideas, but turns them into a somewhat different direction. Although criticism of versions of the secularization theory based on teleological historical models, a deterministic deductive logic, and thinking in rigid generalizable categories is certainly justified, it also runs the risk of leading to an uncritical relativism that only accepts individual cases as research objects, makes the contingent into an absolute, obstructs the comparison of constellations, and places any focus on overarching structures under the general suspicion of Eurocentrism. The questions whether or not religion and modernity are compatible, whether or not tradition and modernity contradict one another, and whether or not the internal diversity of modernity outweighs its shared characteristics should, however, not be ideologically predetermined, but rather historically and empirically researched. On the basis of selected European and non-European case studies, I will research the relationship between modernization processes and religious change. The European case studies will include Ireland, Finland, the Netherlands, Western Germany, and Spain as examples of Western European societies, Poland, Eastern Germany, and Russia as examples of Eastern European countries. As representatives of non-European societies, I have selected the United States, Japan, and South Korea. The period under study encompasses the nineteenth and the twentieth century.

Selected Publications

Pollack, D. 2009. Rückkehr des Religiösen? Studien zum religiösen Wandel in Deutschland und in Europa II. Tübingen: Mohr.

Pollack, D. / Olson, D. V. (eds.) 2008. The Role of Religion in Modern Societies. New York / London: Routledge.

Pickel, G. / Pollack, D. / Müller, O. / Jacobs, J. 2006. Osteuropas Bevölkerung auf dem Weg in die Demokratie: Repräsentative Untersuchungen in Ostdeutschland und zehn osteuropäischen Transformationsstaaten. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.

Pollack, D. / Wielgohs, J. 2004. Dissent and Opposition in Communist Europe. Aldershot: Ashgate.

Pollack, D. 2003. Säkularisierung – ein moderner Mythos? Studien zum religiösen Wandel in Deutschland. Tübingen: Mohr.