AbstractsPolitical Science

Managing God: Religion and the post-secular in UK and US foreign policy

by Vivien Jane Lindsay

Institution: University of Leeds
Year: 2015
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2132811
Full text PDF: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/11558/


The relationship between religion and foreign policy has emerged as a priority for Western governments in recent years, yet scholarly analysis of the religion-foreign policy relationship, particularly in the UK, remains scarce. Seeking to contribute to this - still nascent - conversation, in this thesis, I ask the question ‘what are policy makers doing in the context of so-called religious resurgence or ‘post-secularism’? In doing so, I challenge conventional wisdom about the secularism of public policy, about the emergence of the post-secular, about the impacts of globalisation and about rational choice theories of religious vitality. Broadly speaking, I argue that policy makers are finding new ways to ‘manage’ religion by drawing on both domestic policy and domestic constitutional settlements. As a result, I argue, there are constitutive differences in the way the United States and the United Kingdom pursue religion-related foreign policy. However, contrary to many sociological accounts which emphasise the outlier status of the United States in the otherwise overwhelmingly secular West (see e.g Berger et al, 2008), I demonstrate the ways in which Britain and America - when it comes to religion-related foreign policy - are religious and secular respectively. Furthermore, this thesis offers a different account than that presented by, increasingly numerous, post-secular narratives. Where they emphasise religious change at the international level, I demonstrate that religion-related foreign policy, on both sides of the Atlantic, is characterised by continuity at the national level. Finally, I make suggestions about how a more religion-attentive UK foreign policy could be developed in ways which are consistent with this story of continuity in the national management of religion.