Laïcité, or the Politics of Republican Secularism

Yolande Jansen

in Political Theologies

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print November 2006 | ISBN: 9780823226443
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823237043 | DOI:
Laïcité, or the Politics of Republican               Secularism

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This chapter revisits the historical context of the concept of laïcité, France's version of secularism, in the conflict between Republicanism and Catholicism in the Third Republic. It explores the use of both laïcité and secularism as a frame within which to conceptualize contemporary questions concerning ethno-religious diversity and, in particular, the presence of Islam. It draws two important conclusions: First, a revolution-based conception of history, implied in its schematic antithesis of before and after, blocks our view of the interweaving of tradition and modernity, belonging and freedom. Second, important differences are identified between the 19th-century conflict and the state's present dealing with a religious minority that, at least in France, has no history of political domination, as Catholicism did. In other words, what the older controversy reveals is that we should not transpose the imaginary structure of the struggle between church and state into an abstract opposition between politics and religion, then translate it into a concern about the role of political religion in contemporary society.

Keywords: France; Republicanism; Third Republic; Catholicism; religion; politics; secularism; laïcité; Islam; church and state

Chapter.  8405 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: East Asian Religions

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