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Title City of gods: the rationalization of spiritual thought in America and the erosion of the foundations of democratic liberalism
Publication Date
Degree PhD
Discipline/Department Political Science
Degree Level doctoral
University/Publisher Rutgers University

This project focuses on the potential for American liberalism to enable the undermining of its own political foundations. Further, this project investigates the role that different approaches to knowledge, religious and otherwise, play in the formation of political knowledge that may exploit this instability in the American democratic project. Many Americans assume a salutary influence on the part of religion on American political life. I argue that the assumption of this benefit without regard to religion's specific effect on political knowledge formation may exacerbate the ability of various sorts of belief to destabilize political democracy in America. Insofar as that is the case, an ironic tension develops in the American system of liberalism whereby the liberty enacted by American politics enables and may even encourage the development of approaches to political knowledge that eats away at the political premises upon which the liberty that allowed the development of said beliefs was in the first place premised. To conclude, I consider what lessons this insight holds for our beliefs, for liberty, and if the insight does not itself suggest an appropriate approach to political democracy. To this end, I first develop an understanding of Locke's theory of liberalism and the role for religion therein. Next, I explain how the liberal political system of the American founding deviates from Locke's theorized system and what potential that holds for the role of religion in an historical developmental context. To further such an investigation, I look at the operation of American democracy and the function of religion as observed and theorized by Tocqueville, and then consider the subsequent theological developments in mainline American Protestantism growing out of the Second Great Awakening. By looking at the social Darwinists and the Social Gospel movement, I then illustrate how new epistemological developments in American thought, as manifested by the cross-pollination and melding of scientific rationality and normative spiritual thinking, come to validate a new ontological conception of the individual's relationship to society. Finally, I consider the ramifications of the acceptability in American public discourse of a rationally individuated spiritual approach to the world for democratic politics.

Subjects/Keywords Liberalism – United States; Democracy – Religious aspects; Religion and politics – United States
Contributors Mastrangelo, James Elliot Ficker (author); Tichenor, Daniel (chair); Schochet, Gordon (internal member); Bathory, Dennis (internal member); Murphy, Andrew (internal member); Morone, James (outside member)
Language en
Country of Publication us
Format xii, 324 p.
Record ID oai:example.org:rutgers-lib:25597
Other Identifiers rutgers-lib:25597; ETD_1447; doi:10.7282/T3NP24NT
Repository rutgers
Date Indexed 2019-08-21

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