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Responses 207

Critique, though indispensable, can occupy only a small part of a


life that is lived sanely. It is nevertheless possible to be alert to the tension
between the unconditional openness required by a n t h t ~ ~ o l o g i cinquiry
al
and the decisiveness demanded by ethical and life. The two al-
ways go together but not easily. In my view, anthropological inquiry and
political commitment should not be confused. It is not o d y that we do
not know for certain what the Iong-term future will be. More importandy,
we do not know which aspects of the past it will be reasonable (and vital)
Responses
to restore or invoke when we get to the future. So we do not know what
Tnhl Asad the past will be. In my view. anthropological inquiry is therefore an un-
ending labor of revision and reconsideration, while political commitment
requires decisive action (even calculated waiting is an action) regardless of
how ignorant we are--and regardless of the fact that sometimes we may
only be moving in time from one social distribution of pain and cruelty

1 am grateful to the authors of these essays. All of them-and no1


least those who have taken strong issue with my arguments-have con1 Response to Casanova
pelled me to think again about what I said. I11 Fornrations of thr Srculai: I
tried to extend certain ideas that I touched on in Genralogies ofRr1igion. I I I In the first few pages of chapter 6 in Fornrations, I tried to address
some ways, the former was harder to write than the latter. It is much molt Casanova's broad argument because it seemed to me-and still does-of
exploratory, and I am not satisfied with everything 1 said in it. This is wily considerable interest. In particular, I regard his disaggregation of the three
it has been valuable for me to elaborate some of the ideas that were inco111 lnain elemellts in the secularization thesis and his comments on them as
pletely or inadequately stated. Whether in doing so I have responded S:II a11 obvious advance in the debate. However, in the final analysis, his at-
isfactorily to each ofthe authors 1 don't know. tclnpt to save the "core of the theory" did not seem to me successful. Ca-
The only point I want to stress at the outset is that for me a n t h r ~ ~ ~nnovacomplains that I have misrepresented his attempt at teformulation,
pology is a continuous exploration of received ideas about the way giv1.11 nlrlnough he proposes that in our intellectu~lendeavors we are both in
modes of life hang together. More precisely: What is included or exclu<l fl~ndamentalagreement. I plead that my concern in that chapter was not
ed in the concepts that help to organize our collective lives? How? W l l ~ i 1.0 write a review essay on Public Religions in the Modern World; it was to
With what probable consequences For behavior and experience? Such ,111 conduct a series of skeptical inquiries about secularism, beginlli~lgwith a
inquiry requires that one be ready to break out of the coercive constrail~~a 11k at his reformnlation of the thesis. I cannot pick up every disclaimer
of Sociological Truth-the axiom that the social is the ground of bei~il:. 11sa11ovahas made in his own defense, but I stand by my reading. Here I
The results, however provisional, can be uncomfortable, and they I ~ I . I ~ ill confine myself to restating my objections to the basic argument of his
sometimes point to politically incorrect conclusions. What we eventu:~ll~. IIOL. Finally, although I admire his erudition and hurnaniry, I am not per-
do with them is another matter, because we are not abstract intellec[~l;~l,. tuudcd that our projects are quite the same.
All of us live in particular forms of life that constantly demand decisi~t~~*. In Casanova's view, the core of the theory of secularization is the claim
and that in general presuppose a variety of committnents. And we all I ~ ; I I , I tl1111 innoder~nsociety is characterized by "the differenriation of the secular
particular me11101-ies,fears, and hol~cs.
Responses 2 o9

spheres from each other and from religious institutions and norms." This the paradox here, which is why he says that "in the modern secular world,
claim he regards in his book as "srill defensible." Now, as I see it, the first the boundaries between the religious and the secular are so fluid that one
problem is that the characterization virtually equates secularization with ought to be very cautious when drawing such analytical distinctions." I
modernity, as many sociologists have defined it, and I'm not sure how dif- only wish he had explored the implications of this statement for his ar-
ferent this makes it from "the ce[eologicaltheory of religious development" gument. The point I would sttess here is not merely that religion and the
that Casanova rightly disparages. Secondly, it doesn't help us to identify the secular interpenetrate, but that (a) both are 11istoricalI~constituted, (b)
different kinds of secular life and the political reasoning on which they are rhis happens through accidental processes bringing together a variety of
based. For example, in the United States the population is largely religious concepts, practices, and sensibilities, and (c) in modern society rhe law is
and rhe federal government is conscicucio~lallyrequired to be neutral, and crncially involved in defining and defending the distinctiveness of social
yet Christian movements have historically been able to mobilize effectively spaces-especially the legitimate space for religion. In Formations of the
in support of important policies (antislavery, Prohibition, anti-abortion, Secular I ended the chapter that began with Casanova's reformulated the-
pro-Israel, etc.). Conversely, the federal courts are fi-equently required to sis by saying that in modern society the law finds itseIfcontinually having
decide whether particular forms of public behavior deserve to be protected to redefine the space that religion may properly occupy because the repro-
under the principle of fi-eedom of religion; in this way, the legal appara- duction ofsecular life ceaselessly disturbs the clarityofits boundaries. I ob-
tus of rhe state lnusr continually define what is truly religion. In France, served that "the unceasing pursuit of the new in productive effort, aesthet-
where the populal-ion is mostly nonreligious, the aggressively antireligious ic experience, and claims ro knowledge, as well as the unending struggle
state owns all church property built before 1908, except in Alsace and Lor- to extend individual self-creation, undermines the stability of established
raine (which were at that time a pal-t of Germany), where allcliurcli prop- boundaries." The point that interests me, therefore, is not that we need to
erty is now stal-e property and where priests, ministers, and rabbis are statr be careful in drawing analytical distinctions-I take that for granted as a
employees. A state that maintains the basic conditions for the practice ol' general requirement for clear thinking. My concern is with the process by
religion in society is itself religious. Thus in these two societies the sratc which houndaries are established and by which they come to be defined
tesponds very differenl-ly LO religious institutions and nonns, although i l l RS modern. Thus in the United Srates the courts have a tendency to define
neither case are stal-e and religion completely separate. Right through thr "religion" in terms of systems of belief in order to determine whether some
nineteenth and twentieth centuries, American religiosity fed into feder:~l local administrarive constrainr substantially burdens the "free exercise of
policy-making in ways quite ullparalleled in France; the French state, ,711 religion." In France i t appears that rhe state is primarily concerned with
the other hand, controls religious property in ways unl-hinliahle in Amcr "the ostentatious display of religious symbols in public schools" regardless
ica. And yer both the United States and France are in theory and practii,. of belief. I simplify, of course, but what kinds of authorized memory and
secular states. I'm sure Casanova is aware of these facts, but my point i r pesentiment go into these contrasting definitions of religion in "secular"
that his core theoly of secularization impedes their full investigation hc at~cietieslMy impressior~is that such questions do not interest Casanova.
cause it avoids exa~niningthe complicated prejudgments on which relit I endorse Casanova's call to scholars "to abandon the eurocenttic
tions between religion and state appear to rest in constiturional law. vicw that modern Western Eutopean developments, including the secu-
This brings me to my final difficulty with Casanova's thesis: if ''IIII. larization of European Christianity, are general universal processes." but I
deprivatization of religion" is compatible with "modernity," doesn'l- t l ~ i r curious as to why the kind of global developments to which he I-efers
jeopardize the "core of the theory of secularization," according to w h i ~ l ~ nplvovingly in contemporary non-Christian religions seem largely to be
the structural differentiation of modern society requires that distinctive 51) linked (for good or for ill) to Western Iiberal conceptions of person and
cia1 activities belong to appropriate social spaces? I think Casanova sell\<.,. ~~'lirics. Liberalism is of course a complex tradirion: Locke is not Constant
111111 C011stant is not Mill and Mill is not Rawk, rhe history of liberalism
Respo17ses 211

in North America is not the same as rhat in Eutope-or, for that matter, I do not have space here to deal with every one of Caton's cou~~tercriticis~ns
in parts of theThird World, where it can be said to have a substantial pur- in defence of Geertz, so 1will confine myself to the larger argument.
chase. But as a value-space, liberalism today provides its advocates with a To begiu with, chapter I of Gel7ealogics is not about how a religion
common political and moral language (whose ambiguities and aporias al- acquires its authority in a particular society. It is about how religion is con-
low i t to evolve) in which to identify problems and with which to dispute. structed as an anthropological category. My argument is that the vely pro-
Such ideas as individual sovereignty, freedom, limitation of state power, cess of offering definitions of religion as a universal category has roots in a
toleration, airdsecukzrism are central to that space, not least when they are Christian history, a modern Christian history in which "belief" is given a
debated, In referring to religion as liberal, I refer to its adjustmellt to these unique place, and which is at the same time a history of comparative reli-
(often incompatible) ideas, but unfortunately this questio~~ is one that Ca- gion as an intellecrual subject. It is in this context that I speak of "autho-
sanova does not investigate. rizing discourses" in the first chapter-the ways in which various elements
More generally, I tried 7706 to describe l~istoricaldevelopment here are included or excluded historically to create the concept of religion. My
in terms of a lineal- sequence of ideas, as Casanova and other sociologisis concern is with the conditions of possibility of "religion" rather than with
often do ("Protesrant Reformatio~i'as a cause and "secular modemity" as its substance. I refer primarily to a col7stitutiue process (that which makes
an effect), because a gellealogical investigation presupposes a more com- the concept "religion") and secondarily to a r e p l t i t ~ cone (that which en-
plicated web of connections and recursivities than the notion of a causal o be properly "religious"). There is a complicated relation-
chain does. When I referred to the Renaissance doctrine of humanism, thi. e rwo that certainly involves coercive force, but not always
Enlightenment concept of nature, and Hegel's philosophy of history, I wah
talking not about causes but about doctrinal cle~nentsthat are part of thr Caton's Yemeni ethnography (his analysis of rain prayers) is intended
genealogy of seculatism. It's odd rhat Casanova should represent my re11 prove that my notion of religious authority is an impoverished one be-
erence to them as "triumphalist." because that implies I have an essential- use it is "external": the question Caton asked his informants-"Whose
ist view- of secularism. I wish that he had not confined himself to the onc ords (or what text) authorized these prayers?"-could not be answered
chapter of Formatiol7s i n \r~llichI ~nentionhis book hut instead had real ecause no utterance or text did. Caton wants to say that the authority of
it all, because then I think he would have been better able to understancl IC prayers he describes derived not from an external, textual source but
what my genealogical efforts were aimed at. 'om the semantic structure of the language of the rain prayer itself. The
nrhority of that discourse, he tells us, depends on the recursive character
self-citation. Caton is right to seek an inrritrsic structuration, but the
Response to Caton lgualism he defends in Geertz is precisely what prevents him from seeing
c embodied character of authoritative discourse, its articulation of the
Caton is an excellent ethnographer and a fine linguist, so I find it .I
~rsorium.I n accounting for authority in terms of a determining linguis-
matter of regret that he hasn't grasped the basic point of Genefilogiesof HI.
c structure, Caton ~rproducesGrertz's questionable assumption about
ligion. The chapter in which I deal with Geertz is followed by a number (11
te :lutonomy of signs. It will be recalled that according to the latter's defi-
studies that are integral to its argument, yet Caton ignores them. Had 111
iun of religion as a irrltural system, it is precisely the given character of a
read the entire book, he might have realized that it was not a critique 01
letn of symbols rhat determines observable "religious" behavior, a sys-
Geertz (although I am critical of his influential approach to religion) h o ~
1 that the anthropoIogist is asked to specify and interpret. The idea that
an attempt, through an engagement with an essentialist definition of rrli
s dcrects in Geertz-the self-authorization of religious symbols-is pre-
gion, to create a conceptual space in which "the construction of religio~l.I,.
I#cly a reflectiou of the latter's textualism.
an anthropological category" (the title of my first chapter) can be avoidccl