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Alexander Nagel

Alexander-Kenneth Nagel

Abstract

Are religious institutions gaining new strength in the modern welfare state? The concept of "Charitable Choice" is part of a comprehensive welfare reform under the Clinton-Government in 1996. It aims at the formal inclusion of religious organizations ("Faith-Based-Organizations") into the public welfare system. The new relevance of religious organizations as social service providers goes along with a shift of ideas of social inequality and deviant behaviour in terms of having not only structural and economic but also behavioural and moral reasons. The question arises, what is so productive about Faith-Based-Organizations, and, are religious institutions perhaps even more efficient than "secular" agencies? In this essay, I will discuss these questions from a theoretical and methodological point of view, arguing that religious studies have to adjust their analytical framework to the new situation. Religion has by no means lost its collective and material dimension. Therefore, I shall present neo-institutional- and neo-capital-theories as more appropriate approaches than the outdated remains of secularization theory or postmodern etherealism.

Alexander-Kenneth Nagel

Abstract

Modern nation states appear to be under siege: economic transactions and environmental pressures come along in global dimensions and along with transnational mass communication and religious communities call into question the paradigm of secular nationalism. While political scientists have supplied useful heuristics to examine the transformation of modern states under these conditions, they have widely disparaged the religious factor as a premodern atavism. Scholars of religious studies, on the other hand, have celebrated the 'new' publicity of religion, but established an overtly antagonistic concept of religion and the state. In this article I try to connect the two debates by arguing that the role of public religion for state transformation can be understood in institutionalist terms of public-private partnerships rather than as a zero-sum game.

Alexander-Kenneth Nagel

Global competition and demographic change have put modern welfare states under pressure. To ensure budget consolidation without too harsh a retrenchment of benefits, privatization and competition have become white hopes in the social-political debate. As states are courting civil society to take over responsibility in the realm of social welfare, they create opportunity structures for religious communities to re-enter the public sphere. While it has become fashionable to announce the resurgence of religion in heroic diagnoses of the world order, little attention has been given to what is going on below on the meso-level of public-private collaboration between religious and non-religious organizations. In this article I will examine US welfare reform as a strong case of privatization and communalization of welfare responsibility, which involves an explicit invitation to religious communities to join in as public social service providers. I will argue for a religious studies perspective to religion and social politics that focuses on the semantic patterns of the political discourse and explore the guiding semantics of public-private partnerships from the initial Charitable Choice legislation under the Clinton government to George W. Bush’s Faith-based Initiative and finally to the New Era of Partnerships announced by Barack Obama.

Hans G. Kippenberg, Karsten Lehmann and Alexander-Kenneth Nagel