Religion in Modern Societies as Challenge for Critical Theory: Remarks on Habermas’ approach to Religion

By Samuel F. Mueller

In recent years, a number of scholars have noticed an increasing relevance of religion in a broad variety of political settings and world regions.1 In light of this development, it is worth asking what critical theory can contribute to debates and social processes related to this phenomenon and what conceptual difficulties confront critical theory as it deals with the role of religion in contemporary societies. In this context, I will focus on Jürgen Habermas’ recent work, which is especially concerned with “the political revitalization of religion”2 in Western societies, especially within the United States. This development, as he states, is especially surprising in the West, where “the dynamics of modernization unfolded most successfully.”3

I argue that Habermas’ current approach to religion conflicts with his earlier notion of modernity in relation to the idea of rationalization and the uncoupling of lifeworld and system, as fundamental aspects of his theory. The “religious citizen”4 as part of the “postsecular society,”5 both phenomena Habermas identifies today, stand in stark contrast to what Habermas conceptualized as modern society in his Theory of Communicative Action. I show this dissonance in Habermas’ work by (1) discussing his notion of modernization as rationalization process. This discussion concerns Habermas’ perception of Max Weber’s idea of rationalization, which Weber saw as a destructive process for society, and Habermas’ solution to Weber’s dialectic of rationalization. The subsequent discussion of Habermas’ approach to the resurgence of religion will (2) not only make the mentioned dissonances evident but also bring to light a major shift from critical theory to liberal theory in Habermas’ work on religion. This shift is especially indicated by the disappearance of the thematization of the tensions between lifeworld and systemic aspects of society. Instead, Habermas is especially concerned about the idea of mutual learning among citizens and the neutrality of the state, which has to be guarded against non-secular influences. Analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of Habermas’ current approach to religion from this perspective will lead me to (3) suggestions of how to develop and strengthen a critical theory approach to religion in contemporary societies. In this connection, with regards to religion, I argue, it is necessary to reconsider the state as target of our critique, which not only derives from actual problems, but also might help us to employ Habermas’ idea of system and lifeworld in a critical manner.

Modernization as Rationalization
In his Theory of Communicative Action Habermas develops an idea of modern society, conceptualized as lifeworld and system, with strong reference to Weber’s theory of rationalization. According to both Weber and Habermas, Religion disappears from modern societies through a process of rationalization. On Habermas’ account, the social functions of religion are taken over by communicative action.

According to Habermas, Weber sees the modernization of society as a process in which men develop a modern consciousness through a universal process of religious rationalization, which is in turn constitutive for the differentiation of society.6 This rationalization process becomes evident through a variety of phenomena which Weber observed and which Habermas splits into the three divisions of culture and personality, concerning the level of consciousness, worldviews and actions, as well as society. Concerning the division of culture, Weber recognizes the emergences of modern science or scientific reasoning, modern arts, as well as modern law and morality. Habermas describes these three realms within the division of culture as value spheres.7 Thereby rationalization in relation to scientific reasoning paradigmatically expresses what Weber called Entzauberung (disenchantment) of religion.8 In this process, scientific reasoning, based in the primacy of empirical knowledge and causality over time replaces the idea “that the world is a divinely ordered, that is, somehow ethically meaningful cosmos.”9 Concerning the value sphere of law and morality, Habermas explains, “From the perspective of a formal ethic based on general principles, legal norms… that appeal to magic, sacred traditions, revelation, and the like are devalued. Norms now count as mere conventions that can be considered hypothetically and enacted positively.”10 Furthermore, concerning the division of personality, according to Weber a “methodical conduct of life” becomes evident.11 In relation to the rationalization on the level of personality, new forms of action emerge. In this connection, Weber finds a shift from value-rational actions to purpose-rational actions.12 These two kinds of actions become important for what Habermas later calls communicative and strategic actions. Finally, as mentioned above, religious rationalization of the value spheres within the division of cultural as well as on the level of personality, supposedly causes the rationalization of society, what means the emergence of the modern administrative state and a capitalist economic order.13

In this context, what Habermas refers to as Weber’s dialectic of rationalization concerns Weber’s notion that this described process leads to a loss of meaning among modern men and finally objectification and repression of the individual, for whom society now becomes an “iron cage.”14 According to Weber’s critique of modernity, the process of Entzauberung of religion does not signify progress but rather deprives modern society of religion, seen as a guarantor of meaning, solidarity, and normative order. Indeed, Karsten Fischer appropriately describes Weber’s critique of modernity as a “sociological dialectic of enlightenment.”15 Hereby Habermas emphasizes that it is not the cognitive potential or rational unfolding of each sphere as such that causes the dialectic of rationalization. Instead, Weber “locates the seeds of destruction… in the very differentiation of independent cultural value spheres.”16 This leads to the splitting of reason, which loses its universal power and is substituted for by a new polytheism of competitive creeds and convictions.17

As we can see from here, the key for the emergence of modern society is the disappearance of religion, understood as an irrational instance. According to Weber, “The general result of the modern form of thoroughly rationalizing our conception of the world and our way of life – theoretically and practically, intellectually and purposively – has been that religion has been shifted into the realm of what is – from the standpoint of the intellectual articulation of a worldview – the irrational.”18

Habermas, however, overcomes Weber’s pessimistic view on modern society by developing his own model of society, constituted by lifeworld and system. Though Habermas adheres to Weber’s basic idea of rationalization, modern society does not necessarily suffer from a loss of meaning and solidarity. Most intriguingly, the process of social rationalization in Habermas’ theory enables rational argumentation and therefore communicative action, as a modern resource of meaning. Religion, understood as irrational, thereby indeed fades from the modern world, as in Weber’s rationalization theory.

Besides Habermas’ notion that religion disappears from modern society, his supposed division of lifeworld and system is equally important for my argument, since this two-tiered concept of society enables Habermas to critique current processes within our world, which makes his project a critical one. Herby the system is the realm of modern society in which material reproduction and system integration take place, and money and power, as non-linguistic media of the market and the administrative state respectively, are at work. In distinction, the lifeworld is the realm where symbolic reproduction and social integration through the medium of language take place, involving both the public and the private sphere.19

Habermas thereby describes the lifeworld as a “culturally transmitted and linguistically organized stock of interpretive patterns.”20 It is the context or horizon, constituted by a shared culture and language, in which norms are negotiated through communicative action and consensus might be achieved.21 Human language therefore becomes the acme of lifeworld, understood as a half-transcendent medium, towards which “the speaker cannot take up an extramundane position”22 and in which the telos of consensus is inherent.23

However, for the notion of communicative action, as a form of communication that aims on the achievement of consensus and is necessary for the preservation of the symbolic structures of the lifeworld, (communicative) rationality is fundamentally necessary. For only a rational argument can be part of a deliberative process, since it refers to facts and therefore can be evaluated and questioned from a third-person perspective. Religious reason, referring to a realm in which belief supersedes knowledge, cannot take part in these negotiations. Hereby consensus as the result of successful communication becomes a new, secular, source of meaning.

In this context, Habermas assumes a “linguistification of the sacred.”23 He explains that “the further the structural components of the lifeworld and the processes that contribute to maintaining them get differentiated, the more interaction contexts come under conditions of rationally motivated mutual understanding, that is, of consensus formation that rests in the end on the authority of the better argument.”25 A rationalized lifeworld would not mean, as Habermas explains, that disagreements would be absent from rational communication, but that conflicts would be seen for what they really are. For the “constraints of material reproduction [would] no longer hide behind the… authority of the sacred.”26

Modern societies, however, are not only constituted by the lifeworld, but also by the system. According to Habermas, through a process of social evolution, a development which he explains by comparing traditional, tribal communities and modern societies, society underwent a process of structural differentiation by which lifeworld and system were differentiated from each other and, at the same time, became more complex (in the case of the system) and more rational (in the case of the lifeworld).27 This understanding of modern societies enables Habermas to raise his fundamental critique, since he can now detect a development in which systemic aspects of society corrupt the lifeworld. Today, explains Habermas, “systemic mechanisms suppress forms of social integration even in those areas where a consensus-dependent coordination of action cannot be replaced, that is, where the symbolic reproduction of the lifeworld is at stake. In these areas, the mediatization of the lifeworld assumes the form of a colonization.”28

Concerning the disappearance of religion, Habermas states that “with the development of modern societies, the sacred domain has largely disintegrated, or at least has lost its structure-forming significance”. In this connection, Habermas supposes a “secularization [‘profanization,’ according to the German edition] of bourgeois culture.”29 He explains, “At the level of completely differentiated validity spheres, art sheds its cultic background, just as morality and law detach themselves from their religious and metaphysical background.30 Hence, Habermas’ tow-tired model of modern society, which enables his critique as well as provides us with means to counter the system, requires that religion fades; it belongs to the irrational.

Religiosity in Modern Societies
In Habermas’ current work on religion, however, we find aspects which seem to oppose his notion of the rationalized modern society. Apparently, we can realize a shift in his perspective on society, which now appears rather as a liberal perspective than as a critical. Furthermore, in his current essays on religion, it is significant that Habermas leaves aside those criticisms, which relates what is called the resurgence of religion to a misguided modernity. What are Habermas’ major arguments concerning religion today and to what position do they lead him, especially with respect to his previous assumptions concerning the rationalization of society and concerning his overall aspiration to critique fatal processes and developments in our world.

Habermas’ overall approach to religion and the postsecular society can be found in his essays ‘Pre-political Foundations of the Democratic Constitutional State?’ and ‘Religion in the Public Sphere.’31 In these essays, Habermas acknowledges the resurgence of religion in contemporary Western societies. This resurgence consists, according to Habermas, in a strengthening of religious communities and fellowships. In this connection, he states that “something can remain intact in the communal life of the religious fellowships – provided of course they avoid dogmatism and the coercion of people’s consciences – something that has been lost elsewhere and that cannot be restored by the professional knowledge of experts alone.”32 He explains, “I am referring to adequately differentiated possibilities of expression and to sensitivities with regard to lives that have gone astray, with regards to societal pathologies, with regard to the failure of individuals’ plans for their lives, and with regard to deformation and disfigurement of the lives that people share with one another.”33 Furthermore, Habermas adds that the constitutional state, which relies on the solidarity of its citizens, might want to “deal carefully with all cultural sources that nourish its citizens’ consciousness of norms and their solidarity.”34

How can we understand these notions of religion and religious communities? What is this “something” which “can remain intact in the communal life of religious fellowships” and can not be substituted for by “professional knowledge,” and what does Habermas mean by “societal pathologies”? Can there suddenly be a source of common norms which is not grounded in rational discourse? Perhaps it is overzealous to interpret this notion of religion as a concession, as if to say that irrational (religious) reasoning in the postsecular societies substitutes for rational (professional) knowledge in order to overcome extensive societal pathologies, a term which sounds close to what Habermas called “pathologies in the lifeworld”35 in his earlier work. But Habermas, who does not answer those questions explicitly in his current essays, might rather have in mind the individual, who gains orientation through pastoral care, and not forms of communicative action paradoxically grounded in religious reason.

Yet if we consider Habermas’ notion of the religious citizen as a counterpart to the secular citizen, as it appears in his recent work on religion, the idea that religion in modern societies is problematic for Weber’s notion of Entzauberung as well as for Habermas’ notion of the rationalization of the lifeworld gains strength. Habermas explains that religion for the religious citizen is not “about something other than their social and political existence.”36 True belief, as he argues, “is not only a doctrine, believed content, but a source of energy that the person who has a faith taps performatively and thus nurtures his or her entire life. This totalizing trait of a mode of believing that infuses the very pores of daily life runs counter… to any flimsy switchover of religiously rooted political convictions onto a different cognitive basis.”37 As it appears here, a religious and therefore (seen from the perspective of a rationalized lifeworld) irrational cognitive basis becomes highly relevant in modern society.

Considering these different arguments, it seems to be the case that “the sacred domain,” which was supposed to dissolve in modern societies, does not fully lose its “structure-forming significance.”38 Hence, Habermas’ notion of the religious citizen, together with the observed strengthening of religious fellowships, stand in stark contrast to his notion of modern societies in which rational discourse supposedly substitutes for religious reasoning as a source of meaning, solidarity, and order. This at least takes effect for the religious parts of modern societies, where religion continues to exist. What consequences for his critical theory derive from this shift in Habermas’ argumentation?

In this context, it is important to mention that Habermas arrives at his conception of the religious citizen while discussing John Rawls’ notion of ‘public reasoning’ in relation to the question of how and to what extent religious citizens and communities within civil society and the political public in liberal constitutional states might participate in political opinion and will formation.39 In this connection, Habermas criticises Rawls’ notion of ‘public reasoning’ as too narrow and exclusive. If all citizens are supposed to participate in the democratic process of deliberation, Habermas argues, the public arena has to be open to every kind of argument and cannot be predetermined through already existing interpretations of the constitution, what would exclude religious citizens.40 In opposition to Rawls, he suggests that religious and secular citizens in the postsecular society should engage in processes of “complementary learning.”41 Religious as well as secular arguments must thereby be translated into a language of common understanding.42 This position is only consequent, since the religious citizen, as Habermas is convinced, lives his live according to ‘a different cognitive basis’ which she cannot simply change or momentarily adjust to a secular political discourse.43

However, this does not mean that the neutrality of the state can be touched. In both of the above mentioned essays, Habermas defends the neutral constitutional state against any revisionist attempts which might jeopardize its neutrality in favour of religious objections. In this connection, Habermas is concerned with the question of whether the constitutional state is “reliant on normative presuppositions that it cannot itself guarantee;”44 presuppositions which might root in religious traditions which, on one hand, might unite the political community and, on the other, legitimate the state and its constitution on a primordial, external level.45

Habermas negates this question. According to him, religion is not necessary for the state’s legitimacy. He explains, “Political liberalism (which I defend in the specific form of a Kantian republicanism) understands itself as a nonreligious and nonmetaphysical justification of the normative basis of the democratic constitutional state.”46 This form of political liberalism or Kantian republicanism includes the understanding that citizens are not alien to the authority of the state, which has to be domesticated by a constitution. Instead, state power is fully coherent with constitutional law and the people’s will.47 Hence, the constitution and the state have no need of any presuppositions. As Habermas explains, “the constitution of the liberal state can satisfy its own need for legitimacy in a self-sufficient manner, that is, on the basis of the cognitive elements of a stock of arguments that are independent of religious and metaphysical traditions.”48 Thereby it is necessary that all citizens must agree and (potentially) participate in the making of the constitution. Consequently, Habermas’ procedural understanding of democracy demands that citizens be capable of rational communication. As Habermas explains, the autonomous constitution relies on legitimizing reasons which have to be “rationally acceptable” by all citizens.49

Religion is also unnecessary for the motivation of the citizens to participate politically and to maintain solidarity. The interest in mutual support and political involvement, according to Habermas, derives from the appreciation of the liberal constitution and the democratic process of deliberation, which unfolds in its own, non-metaphysical, dynamic. In other words, the citizens are united through what Habermas calls ‘constitutional patriotism,’ as a sufficient normative basis for the liberal state and society.50 Hence, though society has to accommodate the religious citizens by enabling mutual learning, the state must be secured from any form of religious/irrational argument. “Every citizen must know and accept,” Habermas states, “that only secular reasons count beyond the institutional threshold that divides the informal public sphere from parliaments, courts, ministries and administrations.”51

What conclusions can one draw from Habermas’ arguments and observations in his essays on religion? The first problem, concerning the irreconcilability of Habermas’ concept of modern society with religion, was already approached from different perspectives, e.g. by scholars of political theology as well as religious studies, especially concerning religion in regions outside the West. Anthropologist Peter van der Veer in his article on ‘Religion in South Asia’ (2002) criticizes Habermas for the exclusion of “religious public opinion [from public discourse] because it cannot be regarded as rational and critical.”52 From the perspective of ‘critical political theology,’53 Edmund Arens (already in 1991) points to the dissonances between religion and communicative action as well. He asks “if and to what extent Christian faith represents a communicative praxis,”54 and if the rationality of theology conflicts with the idea of communicative rationality.55 The coexistence of religion and communicative action, which Habermas, according to Arens, acknowledged to religion until religious instances have found a way to express their demands in a secular manner (in Habermas’ work on post-metaphysical thinking in 1988) is certainly insufficient for Arens.56 Religion, according to Arens, is, as a vital aspect of the lifeworld, not opposed to communicative reasoning, but an “element and dimension of communicative rationality.”57 However, neither Arens nor van der Veer asks the question how we can approach religion in modern societies from a particular critical theory perspective, especially in the light of actual developments and Habermas’ current work.

Keeping Arens’ reception of Habermas in mind, with his current notion of mutual learning, Habermas indeed goes beyond his earlier, one-sided notion of translation (of 1988, as just mentioned), which reminds one of the Rawlsian idea of ‘public reasoning.’ However, if one tries to get a conclusive view of Habermas’ current approach to the return of religion in the postsecular society, his perspective on society appears to shift. The discussion of mutual learning and translation with his strong defence of the neutral constitutional state appears as a (admittedly convincing) contribution to liberal theory. Craig Calhoun, for example, mentions that Habermas helps advance the “discussion of religion as source and resource of democratic politics, from within a revised conception of liberalism.”58 The systemic aspects of society which Habermas brought up in Theory of Communicative Action as the prime target of critique, only appear implicitly, if at all, in his current discussion of religion. The administrative state, for example, which we might understand as the systemic equivalent to the constitutional state, with power as its non-lingual medium of communication, is absent from his current work on religion.

On the other hand, Habermas does mention the problem of a misguided or derailing modernity, if it comes to the question of the motivational basis of the constitutional state. Very closely to his original critique, he argues: “Markets, which cannot be democratized like the administration of the state, are taking over an increasing number of regulatory functions in areas of life that hitherto were held together in a normative manner… This means not only that private spheres increasingly adopt an orientation to trade mechanisms that aim at profit and realization of individual preferences; at the same time, the sphere where public legitimation is necessary is shrinking. The reduction of the citizens’ field of action to the private realm is intensified by the discouraging processes whereby the democratic formation of a common opinion and will loses its functional relevance.”59

Tendencies to “depoliticize the citizens”60 and the associated lifeworld pathologies might, according to Habermas, indeed jeopardize the solidarity of the citizens. However, Habermas does not yet see those crises as “the logical outcome of the program of a self-destructive intellectual and societal rationalization,”61 which some consider responsible or at least supportive of the resurgence of religion. Furthermore, Habermas argues against the idea that religion might present opportunities to overcome those crises,62 but for communicative reason as the answer to crises: “I myself think it better not to push too far the question of whether an ambivalent modern age will stabilize itself exclusively on the basis of the secular forces of communicative reason. Rather let us treat this undramatically, as an open empirical question.”63 Hence, critique of modernity as self-destructive societal rationalization, brought up anew in the course of the debate on the resurgence of religion,64 is seemingly paralyzing for Habermas. Since rationality belongs to the lifeworld, it by definition cannot contribute to a destructive process. Would an approximation of those forms of critique mean a reversal of his Theory of Communicative Action, back to the stage of Weber’s ‘sociological dialectic of enlightenment’? If this alley for a more critical approach to religion in modern societies is closed, or not yet open, in what other ways might critical theory approach religion? Does the critical project apply at all to the resurgence of religion?

Possibility of Criticism
In the last chapter of the second volume of his Theory of Communicative Action, Habermas emphasises that the persuasiveness and relevance of social theory lies in its “Anschlussfähigkeit.”65 Whether a theory is anschlussfähig, in other words able to explain and, more importantly, critique social processes and developments over time, has to be proven. Anschlussfähigkeit of critical theory, however, cannot mean a random flexibility. If a core task of critical theory is to support emancipation from domination, then critical theory needs to ask who or what structures dominate us. In Habermas’ approach to religion, we are left with an overall picture in which secular and religious citizens must find ways to achieve a common understanding, and in which the neutrality of the democratic state is essential. This discussion is indeed crucial for our society and, as Calhoun mentions, Habermas’ position is indeed helpful to advance this aspects of the debate.66 However, a critique of dominant forces is absent from Habermas’ current discussion. The resurgence of religion, which is highly problematic for Habermas’ general theory, apparently nudges him away from his innovative concept of society as constituted of lifeworld and system. However, this concept of society, so I want to suggest, does not need to be set aside for questions of religion, though the focus certainly must be adjusted.

The experience of living in a country, where we write ‘In God We Trust’ on our money and in which a recent president could make a strong impression on his constituency by framing his political aims and action in a extensive religious language67 might bring us back to the idea that religion is indeed “the opium of the people.”68 This is the phrase of Karl Marx, whose wish it was “to establish the truth of this world,”69 the worldly truth, independent from the sacred. Habermas goal to support rational discourse and a neutral constitutional state, works well with this Marxian intent. However, Habermas’ emphasis on the neutrality of the constitutional state in his current work on religion, whereby he apparently wants to guard the state from irrational influences which he sees emerging from society, together with his focus on mutual learning processes within society, leads him away from his critical project. Instead, since the state is an inherently systemic institution, with its non-linguistic medium of power, applied to wage war over other world regions, beyond all diplomacy, and which thereby boldly employs a religious argumentative frame to justify its action, needs to be analyzed and criticized.

Habermas’ theory of communicative action enables us to criticise power on a rational basis. The “structural force,” he states, “of system imperatives intervening in the forms of social integration can no longer hide behind the rationality differential between sacred and profane domains.”70 Hence, if we take Habermas’ notion of rationalization serious, and if we agree with him that the religious citizen can be integrated in a rational public discourse, then it is the task of critical theory to shift its focus from the religious citizen to the religious administrative state as powerful systemic complex, which has to be exposed to critical inquiry. Otherwise, Habermas’ conception of modernization becomes the righteous target of critique, whereby modernization might be seen as contradictory development or even exclusive Western paradigm.


Arens, Edmund (1991). ‘Kommunikative Rationalität und Religion, in: Edmund Arens, Ottmar John, Peter Rottländer. Erinnerung, Befreiung, Solidarität: Benjamin, Marcuse, Habermas und die politische Theologie, Düsseldorf: Patmos Verlag, 145-200.

Asad, Talal (2003). Formations of the Secular: Christianity, Islam, Modernity. Stanford, Cal.: Stanford University Press.

Calhoun, Craig (2008). ‘Religion in the Public Sphere: Recognizing Religion,’ online:

Calhoun, Craig (2008). ‘Religion in the Public Sphere: Translation and Transformation,’ online:

Casanova, Jose (1994). Public Religions in the Modern World, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Fischer, Karsten (1999). Verwilderte Selbsterhaltung: Zivilisationstheoretische Kulturkritik bei Nietzsche, Freud, Weber und Adorno, Berlin: Akademie Verlag.

Fraser, Nancy (1989). ‘What’s Critical about Critical Theory? The Case of Habermas and Gender,’ in: Nancy Fraser. Unruly Practices: Power, Discourse and Gender in Contemporary Social Theory, Minnesota: Polity Press, 113-143.

Habermas, Jürgen (1995) [1981]. Theorie des kommunikativen Handelns Bd. 1: Handlungsrationalität und gesellschaftliche Rationalisierung, Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp.

Habermas, Jürgen (1995) [1981]. Theorie des kommunikativen Handelns Bd. 2: Zur Kritik der funktionalistischen Vernunft, Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp.

Habermas, Jürgen (1984) [1981]. The Theory of Communicative Action Vol. 1: Reason and The Rationalization of Society, Boston Mass.: Beacon Press.

Habermas, Jürgen (1984 II) [1981]. The Theory of Communicative Action Vol. 2: Liveworld and System: A Critique of Functionalist Reason, Boston Mass.: Beacon Press.

Habermas, Jürgen (2005). Zwischen Naturalismus und Religion: Philosophische Aufsätze, Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp.

Habermas, Jürgen (2006). ‘Pre-Political Foundations of the Democratic Constitutional State,’ in: Jürgen Habermas, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Dialectics of Secularization: On Reason and Religion, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 19-52.

Habermas, Jürgen (2006). ‘Religion in the Public Sphere,’ European Journal of Philosophy, 14:1, 1-25.

Hurd, Elizabeth S. (2008). The Politics of Secularism in International Relations, Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press.

Marx, Karl (1844). A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher, 7 & 10, Paris. Online:

Reemtsma, Jan Philipp (2001). ‘Laudatio,’ in: Jürgen Habermas. Glauben und Wissen, Sonderausgabe Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels, Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp.

Riesebrodt, Martin (2003). ‘Religion in Global Perspective,’ in: Mark Juergensmeyer. Global Religions: An Introduction, New York: Oxford University Press, 95-110.

van der Veer, Peter (2002). ‘Religion in South Asia,’ Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 31, 173-187.

See, among others, Hurd, The Politics of Secularism, 134-147; Riesebrodt, ‘Religion in Global Perspective;’ see also Asad, Formations of the Secular, Casanova, Public Religions.

Habermas, ‘Religion in the Public Sphere,’ 1.


Ibid., 4.

K. Eder qtd. in Habermas, ‘Pre-Political Foundations,’ 46.

cf. Habermas, The Theory of Communicative Action Vol. I, 167-168, 178.

cf. Ibid., 157-185, esp. 159-164.

Ibid., 159.

Weber qtd. in Habermas, The Theory of Communicative Action Vol. I, 160.

Ibid., 162-163.

Ibid., 164-165. In this connection, Weber develops his idea of a “vacation” and the “‘man of vocation’ or ‘professional’.” Rationalization is hereby especially crucial for the unfolding of capitalism; see Habermas, The Theory of Communicative Action Vol. I, 165, 173, 164-165.

Value-rational actions are described as actions which are satisfied by normative rationality, which are guided by universal principles and creeds which determine the action, independent of its consequences. Purpose-rational actions are described as actions which are satisfied by a rationality of means and choice, which are guided by factual circumstances, affective planning, and the ends of the action. See Habermas, The Theory of Communicative Action Vol. I, 172, 171-174. 178.

Habermas, The Theory of Communicative Action Vol. I, 167-168, 178. See also Arens, ‘Kommunikative Rationalität und Religion,’ 151-153.

See Fischer, Verwilderte Selbsterhaltung, 91; own transl./common transl, orig.: “stahlhartes Gehäuse.”

Ibid., 88; own transl., orig.: “soziologische Dialektik der Aufklärung.”

Habermas, The Theory of Communicative Action Vol. I, 241, 183-184.

Arens, ‘Kommunikative Rationalität und Religion,’ 153.

Weber qtd. in Habermas, The Theory of Communicative Action Vol. I, 228-229.

A concise conclusion of this nexus in relation to gender aspects provides Fraser, ‘What’s Critical about Critical Theory?,’ 113-122.

Habermas, The Theory of Communicative Action Vol. II, 124.

cf. Ibid., 123-127.

Ibid., 125.

Habermas, The Theory of Communicative Action Vol. I, 287. See also Arens, ‘Kommunikative Rationalität und Religion,’ 164.

Habermas, The Theory of Communicative Action Vol. II, 145, 77-112.

Ibid., 145.


The process of uncoupling of these two spheres can be explained through a successive release of communication’s rationalization potential and, at the same time, an overworking of language as communication medium, what lead to the emergence of non-lingual media (money and power) and finally to the emergence of the system. See Habermas, The Theory of Communicative Action Vol. II, 153-155.

Habermas, The Theory of Communicative Action Vol. II, 196. The term mediatization refers here to a process in which the systemic media money and power overtake communication processes in complex modern societies, a process which ‘eases’ communication which the medium language alone cannot accomplish anymore.

Habermas, The Theory of Communicative Action Vol. II, 196. Concerning the German edition, see Habermas, Theorie des kommunikativen Handelns Bd. II, 292.

Habermas, The Theory of Communicative Action Vol. II, 196.

Both essays were collected in Habermas, Zwischen Naturalismus und Religion, 106-154. Preceding as well as subsequent quotes from these essays are taken from their English translations, which appeared in different media.

Habermas, ‘Pre-Political Foundations,’ 43.

Ibid., 43-44.

Ibid., 46.

Habermas, The Theory of Communicative Action Vol. II, 385.

Wolterstorff qtd. in Habermas, ‘Religion in the Public Sphere,’ 8.

Ibid., 8.

Habermas, The Theory of Communicative Action Vol. II, 196.

Habermas, ‘Religion in the Public Sphere,’ 3.

Ibid., 3-20.

Ibid., 4.

Ibid., 17, 10-11.

Ibid., 8.

Habermas, ‘Pre-Political Foundations,’21.

Ibid., 21-29.

Ibid., 24.

Ibid., 21-29.

Ibid., 29.

Habermas, ‘Religion in the Public Sphere,’ 5.

Habermas, ‘Pre-Political Foundations,’ 33, 29-35.

Habermas, ‘Religion in the Public Sphere,’ 9.

van der Veer, ‘Religion in South Asia,’ 177.

Arens, ‘Kommunikative Rationalität und Religion,’ 145.

Ibid., 181.


Ibid., 190.

Ibid., 191.

Calhoun, ‘Religion in the Public Sphere: Recognizing Religion,’ online; also Calhoun, Calhoun, ‘Religion in the Public Sphere: Translation and Transformation,’ online.

Habermas, ‘Pre-Political Foundations,’ 36.


Ibid., 37.

Ibid., 37-38.

Ibid., 38.

Habermas defended his theory against forms of modernity critique already in his Theory of Communicative Action, where he strongly disagrees with a conservative and backward-looking enlightenment critique, based in anti-enlightenment thinking that emerged after the French Revolution. See Habermas, The Theory of Communicative Action Vol. II, 147-148.

Habermas, Theorie des kommunikativen Handelns Bd. II, 562. The English translation of “Anschlussfähigkeit” reads “flexibility.” This translation is however not precise enough. See Habermas, The Theory of Communicative Action Vol. II, 383. Concerning Habermas’ notion of “Anschlussfähigkeit” see also Reemtsma, ‘Laudatio,’ 36-37.

Calhoun, ‘Religion in the Public Sphere: Recognizing Religion,’ online; also Calhoun, Calhoun, ‘Religion in the Public Sphere: Translation and Transformation,’ online.

Hurd, The Politics of Secularism, 37-38.

Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, online.


Habermas, The Theory of Communicative Action Vol. II, 196.