Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com). © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 24 September 2018

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter looks at the relevance of the concept of ‘differentiation’ for the study of religion. Differentiation plays a major part in most explanations of secularization, but it is important to distinguish two different senses of the term. Social differentiation—social division resulting primarily from the division of labor in modernizing nations—is normally secularizing due to the fragmentation of overarching religious institutions into competing sects and denominations. This is correlated with increased religious pluralism, which is generally secularizing, due to decreasing dogmatism. Functional (or structural) differentiation has important implication for religion: as religion becomes separated off as a discrete subsystem, it loses power and influence. The creation of secular alternatives leads to a decline in the popularity of religious services. The chapter argues that claims that modernization is characterized by de-differentiation—as advanced by rational choice theory/supply-side approaches—are unconvincing.

Keywords: functional differentiation, modernization, rational choice theory, religious pluralism, secularization, social differentiation

Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.