Christian SMITH, Editor, The Secular Revolution: Power, Interests, and Conflict in the Secularization of American Public Life. University of California Press, 2003. pp. 484. ISBN 0-520-23561-4.
Reviewed by Kafkazli Seyyed Javad M.M., University of Bristol, Department of Sociology, BS8 1UQ, Bristol, England.

The book is a lucid editorial work, composed of nine chapters and an eloquent introduction where the whole thesis of the book is presented in a nutshell. The overarching theoretical frame of reference of this work is that modernity was not just an accident of history where the forces of a structural kind transformed the landscape of American Public Life. What could best capture the nature of modernity is the political concept of 'Revolution'. Yes, modernity is a revolution of a secular kind, and like all other revolutions it has its own leaders, revolutionaries, agents, guards, ideology, and institutions, which guard the spirit of revolution to the letter.

In the mainstream of social theoretical discourses, the belief is that the frame, which envelops the very tissues of modern civilization is that of a Zeitgeist. No matter what resistance one puts up, it will inevitably be crushed. This is so because the very structures of modern public life are in accordance to the natural (read divine) motions of History that has, in a Hegelian fashion, come to shape the modern self, based on the exclusion of transcendental values from social arena. But once the problem of public life is studied in an empirical fashion and those who have 'acted' in the very process of sustaining such grand narratives in various fields of cultural life such as science, education, politics, media, press, and etc. are brought under the sociological burning-glass, then it becomes evident that secularisation is a process of conflict.

Christian Smith (2003. 1), Kraig Beyerlein (2003. 162), Eva Marie Garroutte (2003. 199), P. G. Kemeny (2003. 260), Keith G. Meador (2003. 303), David Sikkink (2003. 350), George M. Thomas and et. al. (2003. 385), Richard W. Flory (2003. 428-29), and finally John H. Evans (2003. 458) all argue, in relation to different fields and contexts, that secularisation was a strategic achievement of interested activists. It was certainly not an automatic, natural process of differentiation or rationalization.

The demise of religion within the public life of America was surely the result of a secular revolution. Its actors were people with power, who cherished specific interests; by committing themselves to the set-goals of their own, they did attempt to recruit as many 'soldiers' as possible to win the conflict. By looking, as does John H. Evans (2003. 458), at particular cases one could easily discern that the forces of secularisation do not sweep through society, transforming all in their path. On the contrary, like-minded people who have a common strategy plan the incessant coup d'étatto inscribe the first principles of the secular revolution in the heart of the great agent of modernity, i.e. the State.

Although resistance is not impossible, those who attempt to deconstruct the question of secularisation as a Zeitgeist and re-present it within the framework of sociological analysis will realize how hard it is for mainstream secular social theorists to conceive that the struggle between religion and the secular forces was about contending groups with conflicting interests.

The book is a great contribution for those who seek to understand the very sociological meanings of the Death-of-God discourse at the level of praxis, and aspire to find out the best strategy for the re-sacralization of public life.

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