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date: 19 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This article surveys trajectories of religious inquiry whose antecedents commonly stem from the classical sociological tradition, but whose outcomes vary with respect to the way they deal with reductive tendencies in the social sciences. To whatever extent contemporary studies of religion remain divided, as has been suggested by Russell T. McCutcheon, between essentialist theories and social-constructivist theories, the discussion argues that the key contribution of cultural analyses of religion consists in the way it has problematised this well-worn impasse by positing the possibility of a non-reductive yet thoroughly sociological study of religion. It examines the thinking of Durkheim, Marx, Foucault, and Derrida on culture and religion. The article also provides a historical and sociological critique of the notion of religion as a state of affairs, rather than a state of mind, a debate that in the social sciences goes back to Durkheim and Marx.

Keywords: religious inquiry, social sciences, Durkheim, Marx, Foucault, Derrida, Russell T. McCutcheon

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