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The Essentiality of “Culture” in the Study of Religion and Politics

TitleThe Essentiality of “Culture” in the Study of Religion and Politics
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsOlson, LR
JournalJournal for the Scientific Study of Religion
Start Page639
Keywordsanalysis, culture, Politics, religion, Research, Sociology of religion, study of religion, theoretical approaches

This article reviews various theoretical approaches political scientists employ in the analysis of religion and politics and posits culture as a conceptual bridge between competing approaches. After coming to the study of religion slowly in comparison with other social science disciplines, political science finally has a theoretically diverse and thriving religion and politics subfield. However, political scientists’ contributions to the social scientific study of religion are hampered by a lack of agreement about whether endogenous or exogenous theoretical approaches ought to dominate our scholarship. I assert that the concept of culture—and more specifically, subculture—might help create more connections across theoretical research traditions. I emphasize how the concept of religion-based subculture is inherent in psychological, social psychological, social movement, and contextual approaches to religion and politics scholarship, and I explore these theoretical connections using the example of religion-based “us versus them” discourses in contemporary American politics.