Reviewed by William H. SWATOS, Jr., Executive Officer, Association for the Sociology of Religion and of the Religious Research Association, 3520 Wiltshire Drive, HOLIDAY, FL 34691.
This is a collection of essays, the majority in English, some in French (with only the book's introduction available in both languages), that examines the relationship between sociology and various organized religions, predominantly Christian, over the past century, principally with respect to Europe. There is one very worthwhile and exquisitely translated chapter by Susumu Shimazono on new religions in Japan, movements that both in appearance and as subject matter for sociology antedate the New Religious Movements focus as it is known in the West. There is a chapter on Islam by Constant Hamès, which begins with Ibn Khaldûn, but restricts itself fairly quickly to European scholarship about Islam and to the various issues surrounding Muslims in Europe today. Perhaps the most balanced chapter is that by Régine Azria, who looks at Judaism in France, the United States, and Israel. In terms of new material, Azria is the only author to give scholarship in the United States serious consideration. I say "new material," because Karel Dobbelaere's 1989 Sociological Analysis article comparing the CISR and the American Catholic Sociological Society (now the Association for the Sociology of Religion) is reprinted here. (There is also a reprint of Emile Poulat's article tracing the history of CISR itself and a new article by Dobbelaere covering the CISR in the decade since he wrote his SA piece.)
The book is certainly a "must have" piece for all libraries of institutions that take the social scientific study of religion seriously. It places the European situation into perspective and provides especially insightful material that does not exist elsewhere. Eileen Barker renders an especially valuable service in elaborating the processes by which she and others first encountered the post-war NRMs in the United States and England. Her chapter is deserving of special praise because the principal actors remain alive; hence the history can be corrected and subjected to reflection in ways that are not true for the others. The articles in French will likely be overlooked by the bulk of US scholars, as the Francophones tend to overlook the US. For example, Roland Campiche does a great interpretive service with regard to the relationship between sociology and Protestantism in Europe, but says not a word about the US, other than to mention Tillich a time or two (but even then in the European setting). A more balanced approach would have looked at the very ambiguous relations between "Christian sociology" and "sociology" from the 1880s until at least the 1920s, and explicated this with care in relation to the Protestant institutional contexts that were affected by various postures within these movements. On the other hand, Campiche's simple absence of consideration of things American is to be preferred to Jean Remy's attempt to tip his hat to American Catholic sociology, wherein he packs more misinformation about the ACSS/ASR into a single paragraph (p. 103) than I could imagine humanly possible. How he could get so many things so wrong in such a short space boggles my mind.
In addition to the Azria and Shimazono pieces, Vasilios Makrides's contribution on sociology and religion in the world of Eastern Orthodoxy offers a signal contribution. Many Americans act as if Orthodoxy did not exist. Indeed, one could read Robert Wuthnow's highly acclaimed Restructuring of Religion in America (1988) and not know there was a single Orthodox in the United States. Makrides's chapter also virtually ignores the US, but it does provide an outstanding beginning point to understanding the "Orthodox mind" on the social sciences, and why it may well be that sociology of religion will have a hard time making inroads into the Eastern Church for at least another generation, hence why perhaps even in the US the Orthodox have appeared invisible to sociologists.
While it is always the case that "you can't include everything" in a collection, it nevertheless seems to me unfortunate that something more substantive on the certainly ambiguous relationships that have existed between sociology and the religions in the United States was not more explicitly presented. The history of sociology in the United States is wrapped up with the history of religion in the US along many different trajectories. Dobbelaere is most attuned to this in his piece, but the Catholic side is only one part of the story.