Illiberal Secularism: A Critical Approach to the Study of Social and Religious Governance in Liberal Democracies

Guzzo Falci, Paula (2018) Illiberal Secularism: A Critical Approach to the Study of Social and Religious Governance in Liberal Democracies. PhD thesis, University of Trento.

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Taking note of the emergence of illiberal forms of governance across Western Europe, a liberal and democratic region, this thesis endeavors to unravel one particular manifestation of this tendency, illiberal secularism. Specifically, it asks how secularism has been discursively (trans)formed in political contexts so as to allow for the emergence of illiberal forms of social and religious governance. To address this question, this thesis analyzes the discursive enactment of ideological secularism by Italian state actors in three cases—the Crucifix, the Burqa, and the Charter cases. Building on critical and discursive perspectives, this thesis argues that secularism is an ideology that shapes thinking and action and provides a conceptualization of, and an answer to, the problem of diversity. Thus, it proposes to study secularism as a political category that works as a stake in, and as a means through which contemporary contests over religion and diversity are conducted. In methodological terms, these considerations lead to a combined analytical endeavor, which focuses on both the conceptual grammar of secularism and the discursive practices through which state actors (re)construct this ideological formation. Conducting conceptual and critical discourse analyses, this thesis reveals the argumentative structures and the main ideational and relational assumptions of Italian state actors’ discourses. It demonstrates that, in all three cases, these actors revise secular–religious demarcations in ways that expand the secular power of the state over the religious realm and, moreover, allow for the revision of liberal entitlements and for the resetting of the boundaries that define the political community. Notably, this thesis finds that it is through the secularization of Christianity, the culturalization of liberalism, and the othering of Muslims that some state actors reconcile secularism and illiberalism, thereby promoting practices that restrict and violate important liberal values and achievements, such as religious freedom and political unity.

Item Type:Doctoral Thesis (PhD)
Doctoral School:International Studies
PhD Cycle:28
Subjects:Area 14 - Scienze politiche e sociali > SPS/04 SCIENZA POLITICA
Area 14 - Scienze politiche e sociali > SPS/01 FILOSOFIA POLITICA
Repository Staff approval on:07 Dec 2018 10:39

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