Prospects for a Post-Secular Sociology: Bauman and Habermas in Perspective
Department of Social Studies University of Warmia and Mazury Olsztyn, Poland
In Auguste Comte's vision, humanity progressed from theological to metaphysical to positive phase. This transition was to be mirrored by the replacement of theology and metaphysics by a new science of society - sociology. Comte's prophecy was quickly fulfilled - within a century the new discipline gained a near monopoly on expert knowledge about human society by successfully undermining the credentials of other systems - like philosophy and theology - to provide valid interpretations of social reality. This article analyzes sociology's secularist origin and foundation and asks whether a post-secular sociology is possible. While I reject radical views (such as John Milbank's) that call for the abolition of sociology, I claim that the discipline itself provides tools which can help re-formulate its scope, recognize its own limits and enter into a more fruitful dialogue with other discourses, such as theology. Recent turn in Habermas' approach to religion, as well as Bauman's work are considered briefly as explorations in such post-secular sociology: Bauman, in his larger project of a post-modern sociology, blurs the boundaries between sociology and theology, while Habermas separates them, simultaneously fostering communication between the two. Insisting that the religious needs to be translated into the secular, however, he preserves the hegemony of the secularist social science. This article tries to explore a third way out towards a post-secular sociology.