Daniel Philpott on Religious Resurgence & Democratization
Date: July 18th, 2011

Over the past four decades, there have been two global trends that have caught the attention of social scientists — the public resurgence of global religiosity and the increasing movement towards democratic governance. Daniel Philpott — associate professor of political science at Notre Dame and fellow at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies — discusses both of these trends and his latest book, God’s Century (co-authored with Monica Duffy Toft and Timothy Samuel Shah). We begin the interview with a historical survey of how church-state relations have changed over the past two or three millenia, a broad sweep of history indeed, but one that is crucial to understanding why religion has made such a strong comeback in recent decades.  Prof. Philpott shows how early in human history religious and secular authority split apart and how both types of leadership existed in a situation of mutual dependence — secular leaders required the legitimating endorsement of religious leaders, whereas religious leaders relied upon the material support of secular rulers.  During the early modern period (c. 1450-1750) this mutual balance began to tip in favor of secular rulers who exercised greater control over religious groups in a paternalistic manner.  Interestingly, this was a global trend.  Beginning in the late 1700s, particularly with the French Revolution, we witness a global trend where religion is subjugated (and sometimes decimated) by secular rulers, particular in communist and socialist nations.  Ironically, this subjugation gave religious organizations a greater degree of independence from secular government in some parts of the world that allowed new political theologies to develop and the institutional ability to organize against secular rulers.   We discuss the formation, nature and influence of these political theologies, from the ideas promoted at Vatican Council II to Hindu and Buddhist nationalism to Islamic fundamentalism. In some areas such as Latin America, Indonesia, and parts of Asia these new political theologies and resurgent religious organizations helped to promote democracy, whereas in other parts of the world (e.g., the Middle East) it has led to less sanguine outcomes.  Our discussion also touches upon the role of ideas in motivating human events, and we finish the discussion with some thoughts on the 2011 “Arab Spring” and whether or not that this will result in more democratic nations.  This is the first part of a discussion of the book God’s Century: Resurgent Religion and Global Politics.  We will be focusing on the issue of religious violence with one of the other authors of the book in an upcoming episode.  Stay tuned.  Recorded: July 7, 2011.


Prof. Daniel Philpott’s website at the University of Notre Dame.

Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at Notre Dame.

God’s Century: Resurgent Religion and Global Politics, by Monica Duffy Toft, Daniel Philpott, and Timoth Samuel Shah.

Revolutions in Sovereignty: How Ideas Shaped Modern International Relations, by Daniel Philpott.

Just and Unjust Peace: An Ethic of Political Reconciliation, by Daniel Philpott (forthcoming).


Philip Jenkins on Global Christianity.

Ruth Melkonian on Latin American Protestants.

James Felak on John Paul II and Communism.

Catherine Wanner on Religion in Russia.

Karrie Koesel on Religion & Politics in China.

Karrie Koesel on House Churches in China.

Nathan Brown on the Muslim Brotherhood.

Thomas Farr on Religion, Religious Liberty & US Diplomacy.

4 Responses to “Daniel Philpott on Religious Resurgence & Democratization”

  1. […] Seminary) detailing his research on the early Church Fathers.  Last week we talked with Dan Philpott of Notre Dame about religion & democratization and his latest book God’s Century, co-authored […]

  2. […] Dan Philpott on Religious Resurgence and Democratization. […]

  3. […] Daniel Philpott on Religious Resurgence and Democratization. […]

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