James A Beckford


From the beginning of sociology in the mid-19th century, the dominant concern was with the emergence of industrial society. Early sociologists had a lot to say about the significance of religion to this development and vice versa. They laid down a pattern of concepts and theoretical arguments which have tended to highlight a very limited number of reasons for regarding religion as an interesting topic for sociologists. The pattern is dominated by the theme of religion’s eclipse by industrial society. In various ways, and with a bewildering variety of embellishments, social scientists have overwhelmingly framed religion as a topic of marginal and declining significance. Explanations for the downward trajectory of religion have taken many forms, but the ground-bass refers monotonously to aspects of industrialization and modernization. This leads an air of inevitability to the process which is conventionally called ‘secularization’. 


Sociology; Religion; Religion’s eclipse; Industrial society; Secularization

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ISSN 2305-445X (online); ISSN 0254-1807 (print)

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