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

Authors


Laura R. Olson, Political Science Department, Clemson University, 232 Bracket Hall, Clemson, SC 29634. E-mail: laurao@clemson.edu

Abstract

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.

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